Do Google Reviews Help SEO Ranking for Local Businesses in 2021?

The importance of online reviews is massive. Most business owners however are not aware of how customer reviews affect local SEO rankings. Read on to learn more.

How do we know reviews matter?

There are many great articles on the internet about how reviews increase brand awareness, build trust and improve GMB interactions that lead to more business. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense. The more efforts a local business puts into their high quality work and customer service, the more chances they have to attract potential customers. 

I don’t want to provide another general perspective about the obvious. As a professional Chicago SEO consultant specializing in local SEO services for small businesses with hands-on experience working with local search marketing, I want to focus on the actual search engine signals. Do reviews help SEO? Yes, they do matter but there’s much, much more to it.

Why do Google reviews help local SEO?

Let’s be honest. We all like to read reviews and want to check out if the new restaurant on the block has great ratings. We want to believe that will correspond with a great customer service and dining experience, it’s only natural. But do 5 star ratings really matter in terms of rising in local search rankings? Since when do they matter?

Online reviews have been around since the first GIF images ruled over the internet around 1999. The first sites that offered writing reviews were product review sites such as eBay. The only business reviews you could find were on the Better Business Bureau website.

Google reviews have been with us since 2007 and many things have changed on the internet since that time. 

A study in 2016 demonstrated that customer reviews combined for 8% of local signals. 

According to a recent, comprehensive study of local search ranking factors, online reviews in 2020 are now the second most important factor for local pack rankings – overtaking links – at a whopping 16%

How do Google reviews affect local SEO?

Local search results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. Customer reviews benefit local SEO and they have been impacting local signals for many years now. 

It’s not just about the sheer amount of reviews. The devil is in the details. What really matters is the prominent keywords, partial and exact keyword density, freshness and velocity, reply ratio, local guides writing the reviews — all relative to your direct competitors.  That’s a lot to take in, isn’t it!

keyword usage

Does responding to reviews help SEO?

According to the Google My Business support page, companies should “interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your company. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your company.”  

Google then also claims that “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”

How to respond to positive and negative reviews?

Positive customer feedback is great for every business owner. However, sometimes bad experiences happen and your company receives a negative review. When this occurs, review management is crucial. Both SEO specialists and reputation experts advise to always respond to every negative feedback. This demonstrates that you as the company listens to the client and follows standard business practices. Worst case scenario, you have a chance to prove your wrongdoing. Best case scenario, the client hears you out and deletes the negative rating. 

How can I get more Google reviews?

There’s no way around it, you have to be proactive about it. Unless you are running a popular restaurant in Lakeview, Chicago — clients typically don’t go out of their way to leave you a five star rating. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Ask your customer for a Google review

Everyone is busy, but even busy people will respond if you simply ask politely. There’s nothing awkward about asking for an online review, it’s normal and expected! You just have to do it, especially if you have just opened your company and created your GMB profile and have no stars to show for. In fact, this is the time when you have to desperately ask any of your customers for feedback! Trust me, it will pay off down the road.

2. Show how to leave a review

Not everyone will know how to do it. There is a way to make the process for them very smoothLog in to your Google My Business profile and look for the “get more reviews” tab. Click on the button “share review form”.

Copy the link and send it to your clients. Make it as easy as possible for them.

request reviews form

3. Remind your customer to review you

It’s important to remember that we all get busy and sometimes our client simply forgets to leave us a rating. Make sure to follow up within two weeks and remind them about leaving a review if they liked the service.

Final thoughts

Google reviews affect your local SEO efforts. While there are other review platforms and search engines such as Bing, Yelp, Facebook or Amazon, we believe that every business should focus first and foremost on optimizing their search rankings for Google. Let’s not forget that including reviews on your website makes searchers see the business as more trustworthy and provides a great user experience. If you have a WordPress website, your SEO efforts will even benefit from posting a link to your GMB profile.

About the author: Chris Granat is the founder of Flamingo Agency, a Chicago based SEO agency specializing in local search engine optimization services. Ready to take control of your reviews and local ranking search results? Contact us for a no pressure consultation and a free search engine optimization audit.