If you run an online retail business, your search engine rankings can make or break your company. There are all sorts of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that you’re probably already using, but reviews also need to be part of that strategy. Online reviews directly impact where your site appears on the search engine results page (SERP), how current customers feel about your business and how potential customers can feel about your business.
Here’s what you need to understand about the connection between reviews and SERP rankings, along with a few tips on how to optimize the role of reviews in your online strategy.
- Reputation is everything
In a lot of ways, the internet is like a small town. If someone says something negative about your business, “everyone” will hear about it. That can directly impact your company and the number of people who go to your site. As fewer people visit the site, the SERP ranking is likely to fall.
Managing your small business effectively means that you have to manage your online reputation. To do that, start by setting up alerts. Google allows you to set alerts for the keywords of your choice so make sure you’ve got alerts for your name, your company name and similar terms. Google will send an email anytime something is posted online with those keywords, and if the review is damaging, you can reach out to the poster or mitigate the situation as needed.
- Reviews create backlinks
Whether online reviews are negative or positive, they all have the potential to create backlinks. To put it simply, a backlink is a link to your site from another site. It positions you as part of the online network, and they help to drive up your ranking in the search engine results.
To create as many backlinks as possible, you may even want to ask customers to post reviews online. They can use a range of sites, but if you want to optimize your ranking in local search results in particular, you may want to focus on sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau or similar ones with a local focus.
Also, make sure that your company is indexed on as many of these sites as possible. This is especially critical if you have a brick-and-mortar location because in those cases, you want to be at the top of the results page if someone is searching for your type of store in your area.
Remember to verify your company’s information on Google My Business. When Google knows where you are, your site is more likely to appear in the results. In most cases, Google doesn’t allow you to set up a Google My Business account if you only have an online presence. If this is the case for you, make yourself known by creating a Brand Account on Google.
- Social media reviews affect exposure
In a lot of cases, people post reviews of companies online. Even if you don’t have an account on a certain social media platform, a customer can still mention you. Let’s say a Twitter user posts something along the lines of “I love this new shirt from Betty’s Boutique”. The next time a potential customer searches “Betty’s Boutique”, that post may come up in the search engine results. Public social media posts are indexed by the search engines.
If it’s a negative review, that can do an untold amount of harm to your small business. However, if it’s a positive review, it can do the opposite. To make the most of these reviews, make profiles on as many social media accounts as possible. That way, when someone makes a post, they can tag your page. People who see the review can follow the link to your social media home page, and from there, they can navigate to your online retail site. That boosts visitors and increases backlinks, both of which help to improve your SERP rankings.
Also, when your small business has social media profiles, you can showcase positive reviews in your profile as well as feature customers who happily share their experiences with your products on their own social pages. Depending on the site, you can share or retweet the review, or you can pin the post to the top of your page so everyone sees it.
- Online reviews create legitimacy
According to a recent Shopify survey, 79 percent of consumers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. If you have positive product reviews on your site, customers can read them, and they instantly increase the chance that a customer will buy. That, obviously, directly boosts your incoming revenue, but it also affects the search engine rankings.
Here’s why. When a site has high conversion rates, search engines reward that with better rankings on the SERPs. If people are clicking from Google ads to your site, clicking from products to buy things or clicking from one page to another, that all drives up your conversation rates.
- On-site reviews add content to your site
In addition to all the benefits listed above, reviews can also up your content game. Generally, the more quality content your site has, the more traffic you are likely to get. To put it in very simple terms, content adds keywords to your site, and when people search for those keywords, your site is likely to appear in the results.
If someone posts reviews about a certain product on your site, that increases the chances that the search engines will notice that your site has information about that product, and that in turn, will help to increase your search engine rankings.
Online reviews are critical, and most customers will post reviews if you ask them to. You may also want to make it easier by emailing customers after they buy a product and providing a link that they can click to easily enter a review. Online reviews help guide customers and potential customers to specific products as well as how to feel about your small business in general. Be sure to keep a close watch on them to ensure you don’t lose potential sales or rankings on Google.