Online business reviews serve to highlight, whether positively or negatively, various aspects of your business, including products, services and interactions.
Reviews can take the form of star ratings or comments and can appear on directory listings, review sites, social media or your business blog.
Review signals account for around 13 per cent of the total ranking factors of Google, which means managing your online reputation and reviews is an important component of SEO.
Hubdo co-founder Helen Nicholls, who leads a team to assist Hubspot consultants and partner agencies deliver SEO for their clients, says online business reviews can boost your SEO in numerous ways, including:
- Creating fresh user-generated content.
- Generating social conversation around your business or brand.
- Boosting your keyword strategy – these are the words of your customers.
- Google Star ratings.
- Reviews keep content fresh.
- The search-engines like content on sites which is updated and fresh, which is where business reviews are useful.
“Reviews provide relevant and local content while also keeping the conversation about your business flowing and active, which is important for SEO,” Helen says.
“User generated-content is also looked upon highly by Google.”
“Online business reviews generate social conversation about your brand and help keep this conversation active. When one person puts up a review about your brand, it can prompt others to write one. Reviews will keep discussions online flowing about your brand or business,” Helen says.
“By incorporating reviews into your social media strategy your further generating and prompting discussion about your brand.”
Business reviews boost keyword strategy
The language reviewers use, that is the actual voice of your clients, will be similar if not the same as your target audience.
“If you’re clever you can look carefully at your reviews, adapt and target your keyword strategy,” says Helen.
“A consistent flow of reviews will even help you target more traffic through various long-tail keywords created incidentally by your customers.”
Google star ratings
Have you ever noticed some sites have star ratings next to their listings, while most don’t? If a site shows up as 4 or 5-star, it’s likely to get more visitors than sites with no stars at all. Many SEO experts believe having good star ratings, and reviews can help you move up the search results, even if just through the higher click-through rates over time.
With Google’s recent update on star ratings, reviews with star ratings need to be visible on your website (via a plugin or similar) to allow a blog etc. to appear with a star rating. Google no longer takes these from review sites such as Yelp, Trustpilot or Google My Business. To ensure Google search bots see and recognise these reviews a piece of short coding called ‘Schema Markup’ must be added to your website. This code, when added to your website, helps the search engines to quickly identify important information for the search result pages (SERPs). Here’s an example of how a ‘star rating’ will appear:
Schema.org Markup language is also known as ‘structured data’ or ‘microdata’ so ensure you ask your developer or SEO specialist.
6 step review strategy
As we’ve seen reviews are important. Your organisation should have a review strategy to encourage and handle reviews including:
1. Encourage more reviews
Whether through your site, email campaigns or social media make it clear reviews are welcome.
2. Aim for better reviews
Consistently communicate with your clients or customers, looking for ways to improve and attract quality reviews.
3. Pick your moment to ask for reviews
You’ve heard the saying “time and place”. Make sure you target the right audience at the right time of their journey with your organisation for a review.
4. Reply to reviews and embrace negative ones
No one likes criticism but as the old saying goes ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’. Negative reviews at some stage are inevitable. Answer them politely and promptly.
5. Sign up with quality third-party review sites.
Google relies on third-party review sites to determine a site’s star rating so ensure you’re familiar with how they work and monitor them regularly.
6. Remember social media ratings
Your review strategy should not ignore reviews on social media, where many users will go to learn more about a brand.
Health professionals & reviews
While online business reviews can be great for SEO, unfortunately, care needs to be taken for health professions in Australia who must follow strict advertising guidelines. Under various regulations, including the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, known as the National Law, health professions as listed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) can’t have testimonials on sites they control.
APHRA Guidelines define testimonials or reviews as statements, stories and anecdotes about clinical care from past patients or clients about a health service or its quality. The guidelines list several reasons why testimonials aren’t allowed in medical marketing, mainly around being considered misleading, including:
- They’re personal opinions from former clients and have no scientific or objective basis as a recommendation of a health practitioner’s services.
- Outcomes experienced by one patient do not necessarily reflect the likely outcomes.
- They’re not usually a balanced source of information, as they typically include a narrow selection of positive comments from patients, and therefore don’t tell the whole story about a practitioner’s services (i.e. they can be misleading).
- Patients may place too much weight on testimonials because they do not have the expert knowledge to accurately assess their validity.
Marketing collateral, including websites or social media used to promote a business, such as a business Facebook page, is considered advertising and must therefore not include testimonials. However, a patient social media page, such as a bulletin board or Facebook group, where patients discuss their personal experiences, or other sites such as Rate MDs is not considered advertising.
A breach of advertising requirements for healthcare professionals is not to be taken lightly with consequences including hefty fines and even deregistration. Ensure you are familiar with all the rules around advertising for health professionals. For further clarification, contact us, your national professional body, APHRA or even professional indemnity provider.
Online business reviews are an important part of your local SEO strategy but also your overall marketing and public relations strategies. They provide your potential clients with a real account of what it is like to deal with your brand. Increasingly, in what has been termed ‘The Economy of Trust’ reviews are becoming as important as personal recommendations. All your reviews don’t have to be glowing, in fact, that can look more contrived. However, ensure you have a review strategy in place.