We have all seen the growth of the number of sites that give their readers the ability to rate and comment on businesses.  But these sites don’t just have an impact on your customers purchasing decisions.  These reviews impact your local SEO too.

Managing and developing a strong online reputation is an important part of building the brand for any business.  New, young, and established businesses alike.  In this post I’m going to discuss both the SEO impact and the customer impact that ratings and reviews have on small businesses.

Do Readers Actually Read Online Reviews

In 2014, Bright Local conducted a survey that looked at the use, importance and impact of online reviews on consumer decision making.  The results illustrate the importance of Online Reviews on consumers.

Hopefully you have doubts that people are using search to find the businesses they wish to do business with.  The survey found that in almost every industry, more people utilized online searches to find a business.  This has only increased since the survey was conducted.

Customers search for businesses online.

In all but two cases, more people are using the internet to find businesses.

Online reviews aren’t replacing personal recommendations and referrals.  But readers trust them more and more when they believe the source and the review.

online readers trust online reviews

Over time, the trust and influence of online reviews have grown.

Online reviews influence consumer decisions.

Not only do people trust online reviews, but they influence decisions.

The evidence holds that online reviews are growing in importance and in their influence of your customers.  It’s not just hipster wannabes that leave reviews and read reviews.  Every day more and more people use them and rely on them to help make informed decisions when it comes to choosing a business and its not just limited to restaurants and retail.  The importance of reviews to the service and commercial sector will continue to grow too.

How do these reviews impact SEO?

The impact of reviews isn’t  just limited to customers with eyeballs.  The search engines rely on these reviews more and more every day.  Last year, when MOZ released the results of its ranking of the factors for SEO, Review Signals were listed as the 5th most important signal group, out of the 8 they tracked.

Obviously, better reviews have more of a positive impact.  But its more than just the star ranking that is taken into account.  Rating Volume, the recency of the review, the authority of the review site, the number of sources that reviews are found on, and much more all come in to play.

Volume of reviews is important.  Just as with people, search engines are looking for a quantity of good reviews.  Search Engines are probably even more picky than people in many ways.  They want recent reviews because the Search Engines know that things can change over time.  Search Engines can look across multiple sources for consistency.  They can even tell to a certain extent when the system is being gamed for good or bad.

Businesses Should Manage their Online Reputation As a Part of their Brand

While reviews will probably never overtake the importance of links and traffic to search engines just as it will probably never replace personal recommendations.   As the number of sources for review data continues to grow, so does its influence over consumers.  As long as it is a relevant to the decision making process for consumers it will remain relevant to search engines.

A business’ online reputation is an extension of its brand.  It needs to be an active part of the marketing plan.  Not only to protect the brand from bad reviews, but to grow its reputation and its strength in front of online customers.

If you are a business looking for ways to make the most of your online reputation, contact MS Digital Solutions for a FREE Digital Footprint Analysis.  Learn where and how your customers see your business online and what impact this has on your business.

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