Genuine Customer Reviews Drive Local Search Traffic

By Erin Sparks
April 30, 2013

Remember when links were the latest and greatest thing?  Companies were building links at a fever pitch to get their site to the top of search engine results pages.  Didn’t matter if the links were relevant, didn’t matter if they were legitimate… you just need links and a whole lot of them.   The strategy worked well for many until the release of Google Penguin.  When the Penguin algorithm was released sites participating in link schemes fell off the map.

Fast forward to 2013.  Local Search is the new latest and greatest and customer reviews appear to be THE factor leading to a successful campaign.  As it has been said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”    While Google hasn’t yet released an algorithm directed at black hat customer reviews, it’s only a matter of time.

Developing a customer review strategy without gaming the system

Let’s first look at why reviews are important.  Primarily reviews provide potential customers insight into how you conduct your business.   More and more consumers are making purchase decisions on the experiences of previous customers.   Beyond, the obvious consumer decision factors, reviews are important because Google says they’re important.  If you want to rank well in local SEO, you need reviews on sites such as Google Plus Local, Foursquare and Yelp!

Ok, so reviews are important.  Without the aid of Google’s local search algorithm manual, how do I start building a successful and genuine review strategy?  The key is developing a natural strategy that gives consumers information they need to make an informed decision.

  • Quality is more important than quantity.   It’s valuable to have a fair amount of reviews so potential clients are able to learn more about your business.  How many reviews constitute a fair amount?  10-20 reviews as a minimum is a reasonable expectation.   What you really need is a natural progression of reviews appearing on your site.  If you go from zero to 100 reviews in a week, Google will probably assume you’re gaming the system and chances are they’ll be right.
  • Make it easy for consumers to review your business.  Provide them a link at the point of sale and encourage them to provide a review.   Be very clear in conveying that their opinion is valuable and appreciated.
  • Forced or faked reviews aren’t worth it.  Customers can spot a fake review and sooner or later so will Google.   Just like link schemes in the past, review schemes will eventually sink your site.   Seek out genuine customers with valuable things to say about your business.
  • Help your customers understand what would be valuable in a review.  While you want the review to be their thoughts and opinions, it certainly doesn’t hurt to give them some areas of your business on which to speak.   For example, if the cleanliness of your store is an area you would like to be advertised, ask them if they can comment on the condition of your facility.  Giving guidance can help provide a more detailed review as well as develop keywords as Google searches for relevant information.

If you’re not soliciting reviews, chances are your competition is.  Rich content that will benefit potential consumers will never fall out of favor with search engines., but gaming the system will bite you the end.

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