Listings and Reviews - Account Lead Perspective
By Kiley Skadburg on October 18, 2017 in Digital Marketing
Do Listings & Reviews Matter To My Business?
A client of ours asked us the other day, "How important is it to have updated business listings and online reviews? Should we be paying attention to these?" It's a common topic among businesses today, and the short answer is "ABSOLUTELY." The long answer is a bit more complicated, but bear with us. In this post, I will tackle the question “Why your business should care about listings and reviews.” And in part 2 of this series, Spinutech Digital Strategist and SEO expert, Britt, will tackle the “How it works.”
Should I care about online listings and reviews?
Local search - including listings, citations and reviews - is a critical component of a successful digital presence, and is vital for gaining exposure in search engine results. Google alone handles more than 3.5 billion searches per day around the world.
Think about the thought process you go through when you are in need of a particular good or service - let’s take a credit union for example. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new town and need to find a bank or credit union in close proximity to you so you can run over there during the day to cash checks, get cash or fill out any loan-related paperwork.
You’re going to start by going to Google and typing a search query that looks like this:
In March 2009, Google began showing local results for generic queries. While it isn’t this algorithm alone that powers local search results for location and proximity, it soon became the norm for people to start excluding any city or geographic terms in their search to be shown results that are local to their location.
Mobile search and local search with IP recognition has made the idea of search localization mainstream. It has completely changed the way Google and other SERPs display the results you see. If we go back to my example, as a consumer looking for a credit union near you, what's the first thing you look at? According to Google’s insights on consumers’ local search behavior, four out of five people use search engines to conduct local searches as they’re looking for business hours, directions to a local store, product availability, or the local store address, according to this study. So, while search engines were once merely a list of websites and descriptions, today you see this:
The three listings you see under the map are what's known as Google’s “Local 3-Pack." Around August or September of 2016, Google’s algorithm update started showing the 3-pack more, in specific situations. The purpose of the update was to diversify local results and prevent spam from ranking. These business listings are Google Map listings tied to a business’ Google My Business account. Now here's a secret - those aren't driven solely by proximity. Local search results are driven by relevance (that's the #1) which is measured by:
- your location
- network (if you're signed in)
- what you've rated before (organic retargeting)
- if you've searched and/or visited their site before
- where you've physically visited before
- what you've searched before regarding this search
- topical relevance to your search
According to Google, “local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.” Snippets can actually help you get attention from potential customers. (Britt will cover more about that in the technical part of this post!)
How important are online reviews?
There’s probably another thing you're looking at in these search results: reviews. Those little orange stars mean a lot to customers. Keep in mind, the average customer reads about 6 reviews or less before they make a decision (the average customer being about 67% of BrightLocal's survey respondents). So, you’re not totally out of luck if you’re not being displayed in the “Local 3-Pack,” but the reviews play a powerful role in consumer decision making. According to a survey done by Dimensional Research, 90% of survey respondents said that positive reviews of a business had influence on their decision, while 86% said negative reviews influenced that decision. In addition, BrightLocal’s latest survey has some really interesting points to make about the importance of online reviews:
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal connection
- 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to
- 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
- 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews
- 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
- 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important
What contributes to local search rankings?
There are a lot of factors that contribute to local search rankings - like, A LOT. But first, it’s important to mention that you can’t totally separate local and organic search rankings because organic search factors are still important and apply - you can’t do well in local search if you’re not doing well in organic search. The local ranking factors just add more layers (as if it wasn’t complicated enough). Google doesn’t tell us how they rank or how their algorithms work. But we generally know the factors:
2017 Local Search Ranking Factors
And we know that the importance of reviews is growing, as illustrated by this chart from Moz showing the rise in reviews displayed in search results:
So what does this mean for your business?
Google wants to provide the most helpful, relevant information as possible, and uses reviews and directory listings as a way to further validate what their algorithms are deeming as relevant and helpful. Your online reputation is something that won’t simply go away, and you can’t afford to ignore it.
In a follow-up blog post, Britt will be covering listings and reviews from a more technical standpoint...stay tuned!