In our previous article about optimising your Google My Business (GMB) listing, we briefly touched on its ranking factors of the local search algorithm. The three most prominent ranking factors are Relevance, Distance and Prominence. Let’s break it down one by one. To improve Relevance, we can conduct a thorough keywords research surrounding your business niche. Research the keywords used by your competitors and your customers. Distance is a ranking factor which you can’t really control because it depends on the fixed physical location of your business. This leaves us with the remaining and final ranking factor, Prominence. Here, we’re going to explore the relationship between Prominence and online reviews of a local business.
What Is Prominence Factor Anyway?
According to Google, “Prominence is based on information that Google has about a business from across the web, such as links, articles and directories. Google review count and score are also factored into the local search ranking”. In other words, your position in regular organic search results will contribute to Prominence, the higher the better. This also implies that businesses with a greater number of reviews and positive ratings will most likely outperform their lesser competitors when it comes to local search ranking.
With all else being equal, businesses with higher Prominence factor also have:
- High organic search ranking (often within the top 30)
- Greater number of quality backlinks to the associated business website
- Greater number of quality GMB reviews
- Greater frequency and recency of reviews on GMB
- Greater number of photos in GMB
- Greater frequency of GMB posts
- Consistent business name, address and phone number across the web and GMB
- Strong brand presence across the web, including social network, business directories, landing pages and brand parasites
The Importance Of Online Reviews
The key takeaway from above is that your brand and business must first establish a solid online presence in order to rank locally. Therefore, incorporating a comprehensive On-page and Off-page SEO strategy is a must for your website and business brand. At the same time, take a moment to notice how GMB holds the central piece of the puzzle: The way you represent your business on GMB and the reviews you receive on GMB is more important than you thought. The number of reviews, the quality of reviews, the credibility of the reviewer, the frequency of reviews and the date of the most recent reviews all play a crucial part to determine how well you rank for local search.
Consumers Trust Online Reviews
Google likes it when business owners ethically ask their customers to leave an online review for their business. On average, up to 68% of consumers will leave a review for local businesses when asked. Such reviews will be prominently displayed next to your GMB listing in Google Maps and Knowledge Panel when someone searches for your business. A string of positive and recent reviews might just tip the scales in your favour when users were presented with hundreds of search results for a specific product or services that you can provide. Additionally, a 2017 consumer review survey by BrightLocal reveals that positive online ratings can positively influence consumer trust, search result rankings and click-through rates. According to the study:
- 97% consumers read online reviews for local businesses
- 85% consumers put their trust in online reviews
- 49% consumers will only engage businesses that are rated four stars and beyond
- 30% consumers look at how you respond to reviews to form an opinion of your business
How To Manage GMB Reviews
By now, it should be clear that online reviews can essentially make or break your business’s local SEO. You can begin by proactively asking your customers for online reviews. Whenever a customer leaves reviews for you on GMB, be sure to write a professional yet friendly response to it. Respond quickly and express your gratitude for their time. Put some thought into your replies to show just how much you appreciate their feedback. Such a simple gesture goes a long way for your local business. They will paint a positive picture of your business before your future prospects set foot into your physical premise.
How To Handle Negative Online Reviews
Every business will have its fair share of good and bad days. When you do receive a negative review that speaks the truth, be sure to acknowledge it quickly, and take this as an opportunity to improve your business. Offer an apology if you were truly at fault. Do not take it personally or retaliate even if the review is full of nasty and harsh remarks. Depending on the situation, see if you can get a chance to serve the customer again and make it right this time. If you handle it well, a difficult or unhappy customer can often transform into your most loyal customer!
Too many people have overlooked the power of online reviews on local businesses. While technical optimisations are still important, online reviews can often be the deciding factor in ranking your business for local search. Make it a habit to ask customers for online reviews, and make sure to follow up on those reviews promptly and professionally. Keeps your existing customers happy, gain your potential customers’ trust, and also rank higher in local-oriented search on Google.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your local search, read my post on how to optimise your Google My Business listing.