Author: Darren Shaw
Imagine that you’re looking for a new dentist. You go to Google, search “dentist,” and are presented with a map pack with three results for local dentists. Wanting to see more options, you click the “More places” link and get a list that looks something like this:
Take a quick scan through the dentists above and ask yourself:
Which business stands out?
Which business are you most compelled to click on and learn more about?
I’m guessing that you were drawn to Azarko Dental Group with 858 reviews and the extra information of “Best experience highly recommended.” It’s the obvious, stand-out business in this example.
When you click on Azarko Dental Group’s profile and read their reviews, you see hundreds of people sharing their excellent experiences with this dental clinic, and you notice that the business cares enough to respond to every patient that left a review. This looks like more than just a dental clinic, it looks like a community.
You are a busy person and don’t want to spend hours researching local dentists. This one quick Google search delivered an excellent option for a new dentist and you are sold. You pick up the phone and book an appointment. Perhaps you didn’t even have to visit their website.
This example demonstrates how powerful Google reviews are for driving new business, and why they are critically important for every business to work on. While it’s fairly obvious how reviews can have this impact on driving new leads from Google, there are many other benefits of Google reviews you might not know about.
More Google reviews = Better local rankings
According to local search experts, Google reviews play a significant role in the algorithm that ranks businesses in Google’s local results.
Each year, I survey the top experts in local SEO and ask a series of questions about what they see as having the most impact on Google’s local rankings. I publish the results as the Local Search Ranking Factors.
After signals from GBP (Google Business Profile, which Google renamed from GMB—Google My Business—in 2021), review signals come in as the second most important area to focus on to improve your local rankings.
And, the importance of reviews for rankings has been growing since 2015:
Digging into more specific ranking factors, we see that review-related factors play a significant role in the top 20 local search ranking factors:
While factors related to your reviews are not the only thing that will impact your rankings, getting more Google reviews will definitely help rank your business higher in the results. And, if you’re already the top result in your area, these reviews can help you maintain an advantage over your competitors. It’s a simple formula:
More Google reviews = better rankings = more visibility on Google = more leads coming into your business.
More Google reviews means more leads from Google
Ranking at the top of Google’s local results doesn’t always mean you’ll get the customer. You need to be able to draw people into your listing to learn more about your business, and the more reviews you have, the better you will be able to do that.
In the most recent Local Search Ranking Factors survey, local SEO experts were asked, “Which individual factors do you think have the biggest impact on conversions from Google?”
Five of the top seven conversion factors are related to reviews:
To fully take advantage of how compelling local reviews can be for your business, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Keep those reviews coming in
While it may seem obvious that having plenty of positive reviews will drive more clicks on your listing, “Recency of reviews” is a conversion factor that many businesses don’t think about.
You may be able to draw someone into your listing with your average review rating and number of reviews, but if the majority of your reviews are from years ago, then that could raise questions about whether the experience will still be the same. This is why it’s important to continue asking every customer for a review on an ongoing basis.
Note: Directly asking customers for reviews is fine on Google’s platform, but is prohibited on Yelp. If your local business has a presence on other platforms (i.e., Facebook, Tripadvisor, etc.), ensure that your local review strategy adheres to their respective policies.
Respond to all reviews
Another key, yet often overlooked, conversion factor is responding to all your reviews—even the positive ones. When searchers see that you take the time to respond to customer feedback, it puts a personal touch on your listing and shows them that you’re a business that cares.
Build your “sales team”
And finally, from a conversion perspective, what your customers say about your business is far more important than what you say about yourself. A Google Business Profile filled with glowing reviews can sell your business better than the best salesperson ever could.
Look good when potential customers Google your business
So, Google reviews will help your business rank better and convert more local searchers into customers, but perhaps you don’t care about local rankings. You might operate a national eCommerce business, or maybe you get all your business through referrals.
Well, you will still want to work on improving your Google reviews, because you can guarantee that many would-be customers will “creep your profile” before deciding to do business with you.
For instance, I might live down the street from an auto repair shop, so I could be inclined to take my car there for a tune-up because of their convenient location. But, when I look them up on Google and see their bad reviews, I would decide it’s worth looking a little further from home for my car maintenance needs:
If you aren’t asking all your customers for reviews, then it is much more likely that your reviews will skew towards the negative. People aren’t usually inclined to leave a review without prompting if they had a good experience, but frustrated customers that had a bad experience often try to warn others through online reviews.
So, even if you’re not concerned about local search rankings, it’s always valuable to put some effort into improving your reputation on Google so that your business looks good when people search your brand name.
Stand out and drive conversions with local justifications
Did you notice in the example above how Azarko Dental Group had that extra text on its search listing?
That’s called a “local justification,” and Google pulls that text in from reviews on its platform. There are many different types of justifications that Google will display in the search results, but the review justification is the most common.
One potentially beneficial thing about justifications is that they will change according to the search term. For example, a search for “wisdom teeth extraction” will pull a snippet from a review that mentions those terms (as shown below).
Here’s another example for the search term “root canal”:
Getting in and out in under an hour for a root canal is compelling, isn’t it?
When justifications speak directly to what searchers are looking for, they can really help to drive more clicks to your profile and, ultimately, more customers to your business.
The way to fuel these kinds of review justifications is—you guessed it—to get more Google reviews. Yet another reason why every business needs to spend time on a solid Google review strategy.
Boost sales by leveraging your reviews
Your Google reviews are valuable for attracting customers searching general keywords (such as your business’s industry) as well as branded searches (like your business name), but they can also benefit your business outside of Google’s ecosystem, too. They can be used as testimonials across all areas of your marketing.
Many businesses will ask for testimonials separately from Google reviews, but there is no need. You can complete two tasks in one effort just by asking for Google reviews.
Here are some examples of how you can leverage your reviews:
01. As testimonials on your website
Showcasing your Google reviews as customer testimonials on your site can help provide social proof. This can be especially valuable if customers are likely to discover your site before they discover your GBP listing.
02. In your emails
Within my email signature, I feature a customer review that is likely to be relevant to the leads that I’m exchanging emails with at that particular stage of the customer journey.
03. In your social media posts
Sharing fresh reviews as text within an image (as shown below) can help you increase your relevance on social media, keep your business top of mind, and nudge your followers towards conversion.
04. On signs around your business
Displaying your best reviews prominently in your business can provide social proof that customers made the right decision by choosing you. When people see that others are reviewing your business, it can encourage them to also write a review and provide some helpful inspiration for what to write about.
05. On the back of your business cards
Once a potential customer has your business card, they have all the details they need to contact you—all that remains is a compelling reason to do so. Adding a Google review to the back of your business card (as a testimonial) can help nudge potential customers to get in touch with you. It can also encourage existing customers to write a review and provide inspiration on what to write.
This tactic is especially useful if your existing customers or clients are likely to hand out your business card to people in their network as well.
Grow your business with Google reviews
Hopefully, I have convinced you that Google reviews are incredibly important and valuable for your business (for many different reasons), and worth investing your time in.
If you’re not already asking every customer for a review, start now—not only can they help improve your search visibility, they can also help you improve your offerings, which can ultimately mean better reviews and even greater visibility.
Darren is the founder of Whitespark and has been teaching business owners, marketers, and agencies how to rank at the top of Google’s local map-pack for over 14 years through his extensive research, writing, and speaking on all things Local SEO.