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At this point in time, everyone who knows how to use a computer understands just how important online reviews are to a business. Moreover, there are all kinds of intimidating review-related statistics out there – like 94% of people say that a negative online review has convinced them to avoid a business altogether.
Unfortunately, figures like this cause many businesses to resort to desperate moves, such as forging their own glowing reviews, paying other people to do it, or trying to delete the bad ones. When this happens, the true essence of customer reviews is lost – which is to provide unbiased feedback to give potential customers authentic insight into a product or service.
It’s impossible to please everyone, plain and simple. Yet reviews – whether they are positive or negative – can be a real asset for your SEO strategy.
Business owners need to stop viewing bad reviews as the grim reaper. Negative reviews won’t sink your company ship; the way you handle them can. If managed correctly, they can actually be valuable assets to your SEO strategy and your overall brand perception. Let’s talk about how.
Have you noticed when you search for a business online that Google typically shows the ones with the most total reviews near the top?
From an overview perspective, and in the eyes of Google, the total number of reviews you have means there is more social proof about your business. In turn, this contributes to your local search ranking factors.
Now, no one really knows exactly how reviews help your SEO. However, when a business has a lot of reviews, it usually generates more clicks which means higher rankings. Also, more reviews can give your business website access to a more visible snippet which can help you to improve your click-through rate.
A common thread noticed is that more customer reviews featuring diverse opinions come off as more credible – both to Google and users.
The most important thing a large number of reviews shows is that you have an engaged following.
A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that most consumers like to see a healthy mix of good, moderate, and bad customer reviews. This helps them see the 360-degree picture of what you offer. In other words, having nothing but glowing 5-star reviews will likely generate some skepticism. While you definitely shouldn’t strive for bad reviews, a few here and there can be beneficial for authenticity.
The bottom line is you are going to get a bad review sooner or later. The fear of negative feedback shouldn’t deter you from sending out review invitations or actively seeking out reviews. Always remember, the search engines are trying to become more like the everyday user. A higher number of mixed reviews is going to come off as much more genuine than a small handful of stellar ones.
To reiterate, bad reviews aren’t going to bury your business. The way you handle them says a lot about your values and commitment to deliver good customer experiences.
In terms of the search engines, Google actually confirmed that responding to reviews improves your local SEO. According to the support page on Google My Business, businesses need to:
“interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.”
With this in mind, your ability to meaningfully respond to poor customer feedback is a key ingredient in building trust – with both your customers and Google. The tough part is nailing down a good review response strategy. The name of the game is responding quickly and in a way that shows you truly care about customers’ experiences. Keep in mind, these interactions are public. When it comes to responding to negative reviews, there are several rules to live by:
1. Start by thanking them for their honest feedback.
2. Apologize for the negative experience.
3. Stick to your brand persona.
4. Craft the response in your brand persona.
5. Provide direct contact information for further details.
Think of every bad review as an opportunity to engage with customers and turn their negative experience into a positive. If you can do this successfully, Google will notice.
One of the biggest, lesser known advantages of customer reviews is they can be packed with keywords. More specifically, negative reviews can shed a great deal of light on the keywords related to common customer pain points. These can do a lot to help you craft more optimized product pages and content to rank on the SERPs.
Now, reviews come in all shapes and sizes. Some are short and sweet, while others can dive deep into specific details. Obviously, the longer reviews are going to give you a better chance of ranking for certain keywords. A study on local SEO ranking factors crawled hundreds of websites looking for specific data points that translated to rankings. One factor that revealed itself was the percentage of reviews that contained the specific keyword they were searching for. For example, if you offer web design services, getting a lot of reviews that contain relevant terms like “front-end development” or “database management” can help a lot in ranking for those keywords.
With this in mind, you need to think deeply about structured data and reviews. Again, a major goal of your review management operation should be to encourage in-depth customer reviews that discuss both the good and bad aspects of your business – as these tend to prompt industry-specific keywords.
Moreover, you should look into a review management software that allows you to display these reviews directly on your website.
To improve your SEO value, the key factors you need to look for in a third-party review management platform are:
1. It is a Google Verified Review Partner.
2. It allows you to embed and showcase reviews (with keywords) on your website.
Ideally, the third party review platform will have a plugin that allows you to update reviews on your website directly. Google Reviews makes this process easy.
Depending on the platform, you can set up your account in a way that reviews potentially earn your webpages Rich Snippet stars. These show up in the organic search results and are extremely helpful in getting noticed on the web.
Keep in mind, Google is very strict about the webpages that receive Rich Snippet Stars. No online review management platform will guarantee you get them; they can only help.
Generally speaking, reviews (both good and bad) are potential keyword-rich pieces of content that you don’t have to pay for. The more you get them to talk, the more keywords you can potentially rank with.
The stigma behind negative reviews needs to end. True, they can certainly be discouraging and cause some issues in the short term. However, any bad review can potentially have positive impacts.
Given the obvious downside of a scathing review, there are plenty of upsides. In regards to your SEO strategy, poor customer feedback is helpful for building a genuine search presence, provides opportunities to engage with customers publically, and can help you rank for industry keywords.
Bad reviews should be motivation to provide a better customer experience. Ultimately, if you can deliver this, the search engines and public perception will work in your favor.