Reviews have always seemed to be a topic of discussion amongst Local SEOs because they have been considered a “local ranking factor” for business listings on Google+ Local (previously known as Google Places).
So as a Local SEO, you may be worrying about your clients’ online reviews. Some questions might come up like “How many reviews does it take to rank a listing?” or “How do I get more reviews?”. You may also be wondering how to ask for reviews or trying to find a good review management system.
When I created our Client Review Program it was solely for the purpose of impacting our clients rankings in the local search results. I advised clients that they needed at least 5 reviews on their business listing before they could rank in Googles local search results. As time went on I paid more attention to the actual search results rather than reading every blog post on ranking factors and Local SEO. I thought about how I would choose a restaurant or a dentist, and then I realized-
We Want More, We Want More!
As a Local SEO, I don’t think it is safe to quote a number of reviews that a business listing needs in order to rank and here are a few reasons why:
- Business owners will feel the pressure to go out and “get” reviews rather than letting it occur naturally, like it should.
- A client will say, “I have enough reviews, why am I not ranking?”
- Reviews slowly seem to be losing their importance as a “ranking factor” due to the fact that they can be easily manipulated.
- Google can (and will) make a liar out of you.
Take the term “Houston Electrician” for example.
4 out of 7 of the results for Google’s Local search results have less than 5 reviews AND the first result has NO REVIEWS, fancy that! Which electrician would you choose?
There are Bigger Fish to Fry
There are over 300 local algorithm factors and I believe that a Local SEO expert’s time is better spent focusing on repairing the clients’ current presence online by focusing on things like:
- Checking to make sure the same business name, address, and phone number are identical everywhere the business information is listed online.
- Choosing the best category to represent that business.
- Citation building- listing the client on well indexed/established directories like Yelp, Citysearch, Bing Places, Yahoo! Local, YP.com, etc.
- Making sure that the EXACT same business name, address, and phone number is listed on every page of the clients’ website.
By devoting more time to the factors above you are setting your client up to have a greater impact in Googles’ local search results.
So, instead of thinking of Google reviews as a way to rank higher than your competitor, think of them more as a tool to attract customers as a result of great services that your business provides.