How Online Reviews Affect Your Local SEO

How Online Reviews Affect Your Local SEO

(& What This Means to Your Bottom Line)

As a small business owner, how would you feel if 9 out of 10 of your customers told you that they came to your business, practice or office because of a review they read online?

Shocked, I would imagine.

And then thrilled – ready to pat yourself on the back for building such a strong reputation and strategy for acquiring and managing online reviews.

Now, while the above data is absolutely true, the problem is that most of your new customers (or patients) never divulge this information. They simply make an appointment or buy a product from you and carry on with their day.

However, a study conducted by BrightLocal reveals that roughly 92% of consumers read online reviews and use them to decide who (and who not) to do business with. In 2014, the rate was roughly 88%. So the trend is not going away anytime soon.

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That is why in this post, I will be covering how online reviews affect your customer’s purchasing decisions, along with how capturing positive reviews (and combatting negative ones) will fit into your local SEO campaign.

Let’s get started.

How Your Customers Use Online Reviews

Before we get too deep into the data, let’s explore how online reviews are used by customers and where reviews fit into the purchasing cycle for a specific product or service.

Generally, by the time a customer starts looking at reviews, they already know what they need or want. They also have an idea of what business or provider can meet those needs, and they are in the process of narrowing down their list.

A critical point to note is that the time gap between reading a review and making a purchasing decision is incredibly small – it is often hours or even minutes.

Once the decision is made, it is an immediate yes/no decision that is rarely (if ever) reversed. As a small business owner, your online reputation has a strong, direct influence on your bottom line.

Consumers search for a new local business almost once a month (or 9 times per year).

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How many of those consumers are reading reviews when the search? A whopping 91%! And 17% are doing so more and more often.

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But does the survey reveal how many reviews consumers read before making up their mind? Luckily, the answer is yes!

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Meanwhile, another survey conducted by Dimensional Research shows that online reviews impact the purchasing decisions of 90% of consumers, with negative reviews keeping 86% of potential consumers from doing business with a certain vendor.

 

How Online Reviews Impact Your Local SEO

Search engines love online reviews. Why? Because consumers love them. And Google, Yahoo and Bing are in the business of making consumers happy by delivering up the results they truly want. The faster and more accurately they can provide consumers with relevant results, the more likely a consumer will keep using that search engine.

It’s no wonder Google is the search engine of choice for nearly 90% of all consumers worldwide.

But I digress. Back to reviews and how they affect how you rank online. Here’s an example. Below are screenshots of results for the search “dentists in Orlando, Florida.”

Notice what comes first? Alafaya Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, with 122 total reviews and an average 4.8 Star Rating. After that, University Dental Group with 23 reviews and the same rating, followed by Smile Dental with 14 reviews and an average 4.0 rating.

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Notice a trend here? Google, along with Yahoo and Bing, prioritize companies, businesses and vendors with the most reviews (or the highest average score) because they know those are the businesses customers will be most likely to visit.

Moz.com did a survey in 2015 that drives this point home even more. In their Local Search Rankings Factor Survey, they narrowed down 114 ranking factors (things that affect how high a local business appears in search results) to the top 20.

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Then, they narrow that list down to the top 7.  While things like location, citations in directories and use of the right keywords on your site are most important, the quality and quantity of local reviews came in at #6.

In other words, the amount and quality of your reviews from customers makes 8.4% of your total ranking score.

So, it’s clear you can’t ignore online reviews – instead you need to carefully manage and collect positive reviews to create a strong online reputation.

How to Create a Positive Review Strategy

Before you can even begin deciding on how to collect the most positive reviews, you need to decide which review platform works best for you and your business.

Is it Yelp? Foursquare? BBB.org? Manta? Or just plain Google?

Here’s a quick and easy way to find out which platform to focus on most. Simply do a Google search with your industry + the word “reviews”. For example, you would search “dentist reviews” if you are a dentist. You would get something like what you see below:

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Based on this search results page, I would focus on the following review platforms if I was a dentist:  Healthgrades, Yelp, Zocdoc and Angie’s List – in that order.

See how easy it is to find a starting point? However, it is important to keep in mind that each platform has their own review policy. For example, Yelp forbids businesses from soliciting reviews, and if they find a business that does, they will swiftly remove them from their platform.

While most other platforms have a less strict policy, you can read a few of their guidelines by clicking on the links below:

Don’t find your platform here?

Just Google your platform name + the words “review guidelines” or “review rules,” etc. You should find what you need.

Once you’re comfortable with these review guidelines and know exactly where you want to start gathering reviews, you need a review collection strategy.

Here are some ideas, but this is by no means an exhaustive strategy list! The sky is the limit, as long as you are giving people an incentive (even if it is just the feel-good vibe of helping out a small business).

  1. v8Get a “People Love Us on Yelp” sticker. Then, post it on your front desk, store window, check-out area or anywhere where your customers will see it AFTER their positive experience is done. Click here to request one now!
    1. Just ask!

    Train your staff to (politely) encourage customers, patients, etc. to leave a review. Read the “Art of the Ask” from Constant Contact to learn how to do this well.

  2. Create a promotion. v8Note: Only do this if it meets the review guidelines of your chosen platform. Everyone loves incentives after all, right?!Look at this creative review promotion from our friends over at Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing, Inc. for a great example on how to make review initiatives fun. Now that you understand the why and how of collecting and keeping online reviews, get out there and start! You might just get a few reviews that brighten your day and remind you why you do what you do in the first place! And when is a pat on the back ever a bad thing? If you want to know more about building a strong online local presence, give Virtual Stacks a call, or look at our Orlando SEO services page for more info on what we offer.

Whether you are a direct mail printing company, a primary doctor, or an Orlando botox provider, maintaining a good reputation with your customers is key to keeping your brand strong in the years to come.

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The BEST SEO Tools for 2017

With over 1.2 billion websites online grappling for the attention of consumers, it’s challenging enough to get noticed online. Every time Google updates their famous algorithm (you may have heard of Google Panda and Google Penguin) it adds even more confusion to the mix. Then to top it all off, unless your website reaches the 1st page of Google's search result, your chances of converting new customers decreases... this is where a proper SEO campaign comes in to play!

How do you reach the first page of Google search results?
Find out what strategies your competitors are using to rank. Then, backwards engineer the best approaches so you can outrank them. However, to achieve both goals, you need the right tools in hand.

So, we reached out to 25 leading SEO experts and asked them a simple question: “What are the best SEO tools you recommend in 2017?”

Here is what they had to say:

1. Sara Brown
TopSpot Internet Marketing
Recommended Tool: Screaming Frog Spider

“This tool creates .xml sitemaps with ease, helps create custom robots.txt files, and allows you to test your rewrites. It also has unique features like a SERP Snippet Emulator which allows you to see how elements like page titles and meta descriptions will show up on SERP pages.”

2. Mario Mirabella
MSM DesignZ
Recommended Tool: WooRank

“Woorank will be an essential SEO tool in 2017. Woorank is the ultimate tool for On-Site SEO. Woorank will let you know what needs to be fixed on your site to increase visibility. Woorank provides you with a complete website audit and offers problems that can be fixed in real time.”

3. Nick Rubright
Dozmia
Recommended Tool: Ahrefs

“I’ve tried nearly every tool available for analyzing backlinks, and Ahrefs seems to be the most up-to-date in this area, even more so than Google’s search console. In my experience, Ahrefs’ ability to quickly add backlink data to their index also makes it the best at assessing keyword competitiveness.”

4. Jessica Newland
Media Frenzy Global
Recommended Tool: SEO Site Checkup

“SEO Site Checkup provides an SEO score that changes based on your SEO results. This platform allows you to keep track of Meta titles, back links, broken links, site mobile responsiveness and site loading time all in a centralized location. The day-to-day SEO score is what makes this a go-to tool.”

5. Kameron Jenkins
Scorpion
Recommended Tool: Google Search Console

“One of the most undervalued SEO monitoring tools is Google’s own Search Analytics report in Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). This should be every SEO’s secret weapon. With it, you can get insight into top queries, organic click-through rate (CTR), SERP position, and more.”

6. Dmytro Spilka
Solvid
Recommended Tool: BuzzSumo

“I believe BuzzSumo, and its future potential, has the ability to revolutionize the market of SEO & Content Marketing software. Not only it can be used by content marketers to evaluate which content is being shared the most but can also be a great tool for analyzing backlinks.”

7. Tabitha Jean Naylor
TabithaNaylor.com
Recommended Tool: Spyfu

“I live and die by SpyFu, which is a keyword research service that really comes in handy when I’m developing content. SpyFu lets you type in keyword, and tells you which of those keywords are the most searched. SpyFu is probably the most important weapon in my SEO arsenal, and it’s one of the five tools I can’t live without.”

8. Jay Busa
The Classy Home
Recommended Tool: SEMrush

“SEMrush will be the tool of 2017. Why? Because of huge competition, Paid Marketing is increasing and SEMrush’s Advertising Research feature you can easily spy your competitors. With this feature, you can find out Ad Strategies and Budget, and Keywords in both Google and Bing.”

9. David Mitroff
Piedmont Avenue Consulting
Recommended Tool: Sprout Social

“When it comes to SEO it’s really about writing the right content or knowing the right keywords. I find that Sprout Social is the best social media management tool out there that helps businesses target their audience and grow their social media presence.”

10. Mark Churchill
Wealth Club
Recommended Tool: SEOmonitor

“Built by a search agency in eastern Europe, [SEO Monitor] has gone from “unheard of” to “essential tool” in just two years. Its core purpose is rank tracking, but with a difference. The killer feature is that it distills hundreds of rankings into a single Visibility Score that gives both search execs and management a reliable, easy-to-understand SEO health metric.”

11. Simon Jones
MiroMedia
Recommended Tool: Authoritas (formerly Analytics SEO)

“I know they are not new but I only started using them in the last couple of months and I think it’s easily one of the best SEO tools out there. [Authoritas] lets you check through so much stuff from keyword ranking to link analysis and technical aspects of the site. They leave no stone unturned.”

12. Samuel Lavoie
Montreal SEO Consultant
Recommended Tool: Mention.com

“My go-to monitoring tool is Mention.com, although it’s not cheap at 25$/month. Why? It is lightning fast at grabbing mention (domain, brand terms and competitors) across the entire Web including public forums. I’ve seen it pickup mentions in seconds. 2. It is powerful enough with Boolean rules to sort the irrelevant stuff.”

13. Brandon Hassler
Market Campus
Recommended Tool: Hotjar

“My favorite [Hotjar] feature is the ability to watch actual footage of users interacting with your website. This is so much more effective than trying to make decisions from a data table.”

14. Anthony De Guzman
AnthonyDeGuzman.com
Recommended Tool: Scrapebox

“Scrapebox can harvest search engine URLs to sort for guest blogging outreach, broken link building, etc. The build-in keyword scraper is perfect for generating a huge list of keyword ideas. It is not as well-known as Ahrefs or Moz, but it deserves its own mention since it is a swiss-army SEO tool of its own category.”

15. Rhys Wynne
Winwar Media
Recommended Tool: Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

“My SEO tool for 2017 is actually a new standard. AMP (or Accelerated Mobil Pages) seems to becoming more and more popular in Google Search Results, and 2017 is the year to get on it. Make sure your site is mobile ready, and AMP is quite an easy way to make sure with plugin with most Content Management Systems.”

16. Stephen Twomey
MasterMind Digital Branding Solutions
Recommended Tool: Majestic

“My go-to tool is Majestic. Their Clique Hunter tool allows me to see what the competition has in common and keep track of what type of link building they are all engaging on.”

17. Connor Lucey
Grasshopper
Recommended Tool: CognitiveSEO

“What’s great about CognitiveSEO, is that it gives the most comprehensive, accurate, and easy to interpret backlink profile. It offers a number of different, customizable data visualizations that are easy to navigate and interpret. Additionally, the tool allows you to add analysis of your competitors’ websites to create a full campaign for your website.”
Whether you are a plumber in Orlando, a restaurant in the Orlando Premium Outlets Mall or a landscape design specialist, optimizing your web presence is the only way to increase your profits in 2017.

Contact Virtual Stacks for Orlando SEO services, and get found online tomorrow.

Whether you sell dog shampoo for itchy skin, Adipex P, a DPC doctor or a printing services provider, we have the tools you need to help you expand your online presence.

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SEO: Going, Going, Not So Gone

SEO: Going, Going, Not So Gone

Finally figured out what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was only to hear that Search Marketing Integration (SMI) is the cool new “in-the-know” marketing tool? Don’t worry, the mastery of the commonly used SEO tactics is not a wasted venture. Rather, SEO knowledge is a great starting place when comprehending the bigger picture that is lately being referred to as Search Marketing Integration.

Out with the Old

‘Out with the old and in with the new’ is what the experts and critics alike say when discussing the rapid rate of change of current online marketing models. Search engines are still scouring the internet for spam, weak content and malicious activity. Yet now there is a greater emphasis on the engagement and social presence of a website. The days of simply making a site’s content stronger are long gone. There is no need to write a moving article when no one will ever find it unless they type in a specific keyword.

Simply Social

Search Marketing Integration incorporates more social networking and Web 2.0 activity. Search engines are now present for the individual social sites in addition to the main search engines we consumers use every day.

  • Content Concerns

    Where content is concerned, engaging material is no longer all it takes to get your business not only approved by those pesky algorithm spiders, but also positively affecting your ranking. Content needs to have engaged to the point of actual social activity.

    • How does your content look throughout the various social platforms?
    • Are there numerous meaningful up-to-date posts?
    • Does your company or organization have a Business page?

     

  • Search Success

    The search engines view Social Signals as how the online community reacts to the information present on your website or via your business social media accounts. How many ‘shares’ or ‘Likes’ says a lot about the quality and validity of your content and overall online presence. Incorporating practices like:

    • Social Bookmarking
    • Rapid responses to comments and reviews on your content and posts
    • Analyze the branding by association done by others. i.e. Retweets, Shares, re-pins…

     

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

    Get back what you put in. Studies show that the use of marketing on the actual search engines can be significantly beneficial. Campaigns that involve the use of these tactics improve traffic USUALLY.

    • Pay Per Click (PPC)
    • Paid Searches
    • Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM)
    • Cost Per Clicks (CPC)

     

  • Organic Marketing

    Don’t forget the importance of traditional marketing practices. These standard operating procedures will positively affect your digital presence in a multifaceted way. Like they say: There’s no school like the old school!

    • Public Relations (Interviews & Press Releases...)
    • Hardcopy & Physical Advertising Campaigns
    • Word of Mouth (which crosses you back over into SMI)

     

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