There have been several studies that show the importance of solicitation of Google reviews to your “Google My Business” listing, these studies illustrating a concept that is already well documented and well known as they apply to other testimonial and review websites like Yelp. These studies illustrate the importance of creating and maintaining a listing for your business, and connecting that listing to your existing website. From within that listing, you have options to include information about the business, photos and as a recent addition text posts. As Google attempts to push further into the section being used for legitimate direct interaction between businesses and customers, they have included these sections with mixed results. For example, earlier this year a section was added that would allow customers to ask the business questions directly through the listing in a public forum. The section has received little usage,a s customers rarely know it is there and businesses rarely know how to answer or how they are notified that a question has been asked. The posting section is receiving the same mixed results, as there seems to be few areas where the posts are actually shown publicly which discourages their usage by businesses. This being said, there have been a few consistent players within the Google Business sections and maps, mostly being that you need to maintain your listing for accurate information and you need to solicit reviews by your customers. But how important are these reviews to the process of SEO?
The studies that have been done regarding Google reviews by companies like BrightLocal have revealed data-backed reasons that your business should be soliciting reviews. These reasons include things like “most consumers read reviews before making a decision” and “people trust online reviews as much as personal reviews.” These reasons are completely valid, and will come into play to create larger conversion and clickthrough rates to your website when a potential customer has found you and is deciding between your business and a competitor. For these reasons you should be encouraging reviews on Google and Yelp and making it as easy for customers to provide them as possible, especially pushing for high tar ratings because of the increased visual presentation that star ratings provide. However for the purposes of SEO and figuring out how Google is positioning business listings within the maps section in order to influence it, this data really doesn’t provide much help. The question that everyone who does localized SEO wants to understand is what factors are being used within the maps sections, so that they can manipulate their client’s listings to higher positions (preferably in the top 3, so that they show on page one of SERPs.) Google reviews do play a role in deciding these positions, but it is far harder to manipulate than typical SEO programs will effect. Links that are driven directly to Google maps listings will not push your listing higher in general search, so how can you do SEO in a way that will provide higher maps rankings? Here is what you can do.
- Create and maintain your Google My Business listing. This means that the address, business name and description, photos and other information on the page should accurately reflect the same information that is on your website. Do not name your business something different on Google maps than your business name is listed on your website. If you have multiple locations, list them on your website and embed directional maps provided by Google in order to help Google understand that the locations are part of your business. Use the sections provided and do not be lazy. There is not a lot that you can put into your maps listing, so use it all.
- Do SEO on your website. The website that is connected to your Google maps listing provides information to Google about the business. This information about your products and services is used to help them position your maps listing in specific searches.
- Make sure that your service area is accurately reflected on your listing. If you only serve customers from Las Vegas, make sure that your listing reflects that fact. Maps is a way that Google helps customers find the physical location of a business, so assist them in providing this information accurately to customers.
- Solicit reviews. This is really what this article is about, so aside from the obvious ways that people use the reviews to make a decision between you and a competing business, we can state that Google does use the reviews themselves to decide rankings and position on the maps SERPs. Years ago, it was believed that simply getting a lot of reviews would get you to a number one position for generalized searches about your services (not just your name) however that is proving to not be the case any more. You will notice many businesses with hundreds of reviews being outranked by businesses with only one or two. As Google has grown more savvy with regards to identifying good links vs bad links, they have applied this same logic to reviews. This means that a review from a profile that has developed a certain amount of trust by Google is worth more than a review from a profile that has not. Because the SEO strategy of developing as many reviews for customers as possible involved the creation of profiles specifically to provide a review for a business, Google is able to easily identify these profiles and discount them as far as value to rankings. A profile may have a long and well written review that uses the appropriate keywords and also talks about the business in depth, but this review may not have as much influence on rankings as a single line review from a profile that has been around a while and has been leaving reviews for many businesses over time. The concept of “developed profiles” is what is at play here, where a single review from a real person who has proven to Google over time that they are legitimate may be worth hundreds of reviews from people who have not proven themselves. Even if the person is real and simply has not used Google reviews for discussion of their experiences at different businesses, their reviews do not hold a lot of value in order to push the listing up in rankings. The review may be displayed, but it is not having a lot to do with the actual rankings that are being shown. If the review comes from a legitimate and proven profile that has reviewed other businesses that are not connected to this one, the review has weight. Even the verbiage that is used in the review may come into play as Google is now displaying snippets of reviews under the listings.
All in all, the solicitation of reviews on Google will influence your rankings for general search terms. For your business name it will probably not have much effect and you will probably have all locations displayed on the maps even if there are no reviews. However the more reviews that you can solicit with high star ratings, the more reviews will be noticed as coming from legitimate profiles by Google and used for their decisions. SEO for local maps listings involves both the standard types of SEO that are performed for your website as well as the verification that the data that is included in your maps listing matches that of the website, but also the additional factors of attempting to manipulate the volume and tone of reviews that are provided. By encouraging as many customers as possible to review your business using any one of a number of tactics, you should be able to move your business higher in the SERPs. While this will not be as straight forward as traditional SEO, the strategies can provide results that pay dividends.
If you are interested in localized SEO for your business either in Las Vegas or elsewhere, please contact us directly at 702-997-1252 for a free analysis of your project and proposal. We are physically located in Las Vegas, and provide both Las Vegas SEO as well as local SEO for any city.