Reputation management web e-reputation fame words tag cloud blue text. No matter what kind of business you’re in, your online reputation has a major impact on your bottom line. When we think of it from our own consumer perspective, it’s easy to see the importance of positive reviews appearing in search, since most of you pay particular attention to reviews when you look for something you need online.
What you might not think about is how important the number and quality of those reviews is to the search engines themselves.
The Conventional View of Online Reputation
Most of the time when you think about your online reputation, you’re thinking about the star rating. Someone says something nice about you on Google, you feel good, and your star rating goes up. Someone goes scorched earth over a perceived slight, and visions of that one-star rating follow you around for years like an ugly penny.
The worries of the past were all about: “What happens if someone writes a bad review about me and I don’t’ see it for weeks” or “How can I make sure I have more good than bad so that a consumer looking will choose me because of what other people say?”
These are still valid concerns, and you absolutely need to be paying attention to this. If you do not have a means in place to alert you when someone writes a review on any of the rating and review sites, you need to get one, preferably one that helps you share the good reviews on social media, and makes it easy for you to respond to the negative ones. (Don’t forget to respond to the positive ones as well.)
But did you know the strength of your reputation can be a major factor in whether or not you’re seen in the first place?
Reputation and Local Search
We’ve talked before in previous blogs about what Google is trying to accomplish. They want to ensure that every time you do a search on Google, the first result is the best result and the result you’ll be happiest with. When you don’t find what you’re looking for, or are unhappy, it increases the likelihood that then next time you search, you’ll look elsewhere. Every time you find exactly what you’re looking for, the more satisfied you feel with the result, the more likely it is you will google it the next time you need something similar. Simple, right? Note the words “happy” and “satisfied”. Don’t think Google doesn’t think about those words. Those words keep Google up at night.
At the end of the day, you’re not happy if the business you found on Google rips you off. In fact, you’re pretty UN-happy. You might think about that the next time you looked for a business and try to find a source that took a business’s reputation in mind before showing them to you.
Google’s algorithm is an ever-evolving multi-faceted equation designed to analyze thousands of factors, compare them, and score them in order to result in a ranking order. The factors it looks at can be broken down into four major groups: relevance, authority, user experience, and trust.
Reviews of any kind, on any rating and review site on the internet contribute to Google’s estimation of what kind of experience a user will have if he visits your site. Another factor is how trustworthy you and the information the user will find on your website are.
This has a major impact on visibility, especially when it comes to Local Search. The SEO Tool creator MOZ in their most recent Local Search Ranking Factor Report estimated that review signals make up 15% of the ranking factors Google is using to decide where to put your map listing and 7% of the signals used to place your webpage in the organic results. To understand how important that is it might help to see that the category of factors with the biggest impact on your map listing’s rank, “My Business Signals” accounts for only 4% more of the entire picture.
It gets even more important when you look at a little thing called “Behavioral Signals”
Increasing your Click Through Rate with a Good Reputation
Looking at local organic ranking factors, Moz ranks review factors 7th out of the categories of factors Google takes into account when ranking you organically for local search. They rank behavioral signals 3rd. What are behavioral signals? Oh, little things like click through rate, mobile clicks to call, and check-ins. Wait. Did you just say click through rate? Yes. Yes I did. Click through Rate is the number of times you show up on a results page divided by the number of times the user clicks on you. Makes sense doesn’t it? A great way for the cold heartless algorithm to take human factors into account. What does the human do when he sees this page in his search results? If he clicks it more frequently than a similar page in the same position, it must be a better result.
Suddenly your reputation just got a whole lot more important to your overall visibility!
So, review factors are things like quantity of resident Google reviews, quality of those reviews, diversity of the reviews, and how fast or often or steadily do they come in? Quantity and quality of reviews on 3rd party review sites, etc. Understand that, and you see how important it is to get consumers to review you, and do whatever you can to ensure the vast majority of those are positive.
But how can your reputation affect your click through rate in the organic results?
The answer here would be much easier if we were talking about the map listing. The map listing shows your star rating on it, and it’s very clear that as star rating and number of reviews on the map listing increases, so does the click through rate. We’re not though, and Moz rates behavioral signals on the map listing much lower than organic. So how can your reputation help you in the Organic results? They don’t show reviews there do they?
The answer is not without your code telling them to.
Did you notice that in organic rankings directory sites like Yelp show the star ratings of all the reviews on their page? This is done with proper schema markup of the review aggregate, and yes, you can do it too! Your Reputation Management Software should have plugins that can be installed and do all the work for you. It should help you collect 3rd party reviews, sort them, and place them on the most appropriate page of your website. Also, it should automatically mark them up with the right schema text to point out to the search engines that these are not random blocks of text. These are reviews, and moreover, here is how many there are, and here is the average star rating of the aggregate out of five.
Suddenly, when your local city page shows up in search, it stands out on the page just like those big directory sites do, and what happens? Your click through rate skyrockets.
Native Google Reviews vs. Third Party Reviews
It’s important to understand the difference between native Google reviews and third party reviews. Both are ranking factors, but they are definitely not equal. Out of 50 total factors believed to affect your rank in the local map pack, number of native Google reviews appears at #18. The star rating of those reviews is ranked #24. A factor that takes 3rd party reviews into account doesn’t’ show up on the list until #46.
The most important takeaway from that is that your Google resident reviews are MUCH more important to your visibility than reviews on 3rd party sites, both in quantity and quality.
Taking that into account, strategies that help you separate good reviews from bad, channel the good reviews to Google and the bad reviews to a 3rd party site that impacts you less is a great idea. The secret is making it convenient and seamless to the customer. Any communication you send to a customer asking for a review, be it email or text, should have one simple initial question: “Would you recommend this business to a friend or family member?” If the answer is yes, they should be automatically redirected to your Google review page. If they answer No, they can be directed somewhere they can vent their frustration, but that will have less impact on the factors that help you be seen and may impact a consumer’s decision to do business with you. Several good Reputation Management solutions like Link Right Local exist to help you do that seamlessly.
Thinking Big Picture With Your Online Reputation
As you can see, every little review helps. Or hurts. And not just in the way that potential consumers view you. Overall, think big picture. Take everything into account, not just how to get more. Think about how to get better, how to manage what reviews go where, and how to make sure consumers can see what a great business you are to work with. But don’t forget about helping that cold, unfeeling math equation understand why you’re the guy that’s going to make its user happiest when he clicks through.