Online reviews have become indispensable sources of information for consumers. In fact, more than 90% of people say online reviews help them make decisions about what products and services to buy and from what businesses. And, when it comes to responses to online reviews, more than half of consumers expect a business to reply to a review of their product or service.
In the modern era, it’s actually become rare to find a business that doesn’t have online reviews. So, while it’s clear that online reviews are useful for consumers, what about their usefulness for businesses? Moreover, does responding to reviews help SEO?
To answer this question, it helps to understand what motivates the big search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo, here in the US) when they’re ranking different websites in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). In this article, we’re exploring the nuanced relationships between search engines, online customer reviews, and search engine optimization for your website.
Why Search Engines Care about Review Responses
Let’s be honest for a minute about what really matters to the big search providers.
Truth be told, Google and Bing are really only interested in one thing: getting as many people as possible to use their search engine. That’s really it. The more eyes they can get on their search sites, the more opportunity they have to deliver ads, get PPC revenue, harvest user data, and so forth.
So, what is going to bring more and more people back to conduct their searches? High-quality search results. When a search engine user actually finds what they’re looking for (or when they find something useful during a web search), they’re more likely to return again and again, which is precisely what the search engine wants.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo! have made a science out of delivering the highest-quality search results, and part of this science involves the use of an ever-evolving ranking algorithm. Without diving into too much detail, this ranking algorithm incorporates information from potentially dozens of different sources—all in a fraction of a second—when processing a search request.
One of these sources is, you guessed it, online reviews and online review responses.
Search engines know that a search result showing a business with numerous recent, relevant, and ‘replied-to’ consumer reviews is going to be more helpful for a consumer than a business with little or no reviews or review responses.
For this reason, responding to online reviews absolutely does help with SEO.
Let’s dig a little deeper into exactly how.
The Power of Local SEO
For the moment, let’s focus on the biggest internet search provider in the world: Google.
For local businesses, Google has developed a platform called Google My Business, which allows business owners to curate their online business profiles specifically for customers local to them. They’ve made it incredibly easy to get found online, and they’ve even included some tips for how to do so.
On their support page, Google specifically addresses the topic of responding to online reviews. In their words, they advise business owners to:
“…respond to reviews that users leave about your business. When you reply to reviews, it shows that you value your customers and their feedback. High-quality, positive reviews from your customers can improve your business visibility and increase the likelihood that a shopper will visit your location.”
Don’t forget: Google is only interested in having search users continue to use Google. So, when you reply to online reviews, you’re helping Google help search users, which, in turn, helps you.
It’s a win-win-win.
Tips for Responding to Positive and Negative Reviews
It can be tempting to highlight the positive reviews by only responding to them while ignoring the negative reviews. However, this isn’t a very good practice, as it would show potential customers that you’re not concerned about total customer satisfaction.
Make it a point to reply to all of your reviews, no matter how accusatory, bitter, or defamatory they might be.
When replying to positive reviews:
- Go beyond saying ‘thank you’ by being specific in your response. Make it clear you heard the customer by parroting back what was said using your own words.
- Give the customer a reason to return. Mention a special offer or promotion you have coming up.
- Let them know you appreciate their business. A simple ‘We appreciate your business!’ can do the trick.
When replying to negative reviews:
- Do not fight fire with fire. Avoid using insults or making accusations, even if the customer picked the fight.
- Make an offer to right the situation. “Would a full refund resolve this issue for you?” can work wonders.
- Apologize and give them a way to contact you directly. This might be the most difficult thing to do, but it will go a long way in showing potential customers that you’re genuinely interested in doing right by them.
- Read our related blog post on How to Respond to a Negative Review Online.
If you need help navigating the complexities of being successful online, don’t forget that the Sympler team is here to help. Contact us today, and let’s collaborate to make digital marketing work for you.