There’s no denying that reviews & reputation management is key to effective local search optimization.
Having lots of positive online reviews helps not only with conversion of searchers into leads, but also improves ranking within local search results. Review Signals make up 9.8% of the Local Search Ranking Factors (Review quantity, Review velocity, Review diversity, etc.) so it’s of little surprise that there is an incentive to boost the power of those which you already have.
In our latest weekly poll we wanted to find out which methods are commonly used by SEOs to boost their client’s online reviews. We asked one simple question:
‘Do you ever participate in any of the following actions to boost online reviews?‘
We compiled results from 227 BrightLocal users over the last week. All individual responses are anonymous, but our typical users are SEO agencies and consultants who provide local search services. Of the responses 81% came from the US, 8% from the UK, 6% from Canada, 3% from Australia, and 2% from the rest of the world.
Do you ever participate in any of the following actions to boost online reviews?
- 61% say that they ask customers for a review
- 14% say that they reward customers for a review
- 10% say that they duplicate reviews on their own website
- 5% say they get customers to review from ‘in the store’
Asking for online Reviews
61% say that they ask customers for a review. It’s the simplest way of generating reviews & as long as it’s done with respect and good timing then it can be a valuable part of any review strategy. As Thomas Ballantyne pointed out in the best practices for earning 5 star reviews, a well timed request can work wonders.
It should be noted that Yelp is one company that prohibits businesses from soliciting reviews and enforces it vigilantly.
Nearly 9 in 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39% do so on a regular basis. As the process of reading reviews before purchasing becomes more commonplace, so too does the practice of writing reviews or rating a company / service. The 2014 Consumer Review Survey shows that people are more regularly reading online reviews, which highlights the growing need for local businesses to not only attract more reviews but also to actively manage their online reputation.
Rewarding customers for online reviews
A relatively low 14% said that they reward or incentivize customers for online reviews. This practice may be tempting, but Google forbids giving incentives for reviews. From Google’s perspective, if a customer is being incentivized to leave a review then it is likely to skew the results & leave a false impression. There is the danger that the ‘reward’ offered by a company means more to a consumer than the credibility of leaving a ‘real’ review.
Duplicating review content
10% said they duplicate reviews on their own site, whilst 3% said they have syndicated reviews to multiple sites.
Duplicate content is obviously not good practice in SEO, but how does this apply to short bursts of content such as reviews? Well, reviews are intended to be original content and re-showing them from elsewhere violates Google’s guidelines.
As Phil Rozek pointed out, Yelp and Google are two sites that aggressively filter content against other review sites. Phil concedes that there are numerous occasions where business owners have duplicated reviews onto their own website rather than another review site, and whilst there doesn’t appear to be an aggressive counter to this tactic, it doesn’t mean that Google or Yelp won’t crack down on this in the future.
5% said they get customers to review in-store. This practice is essentially an extension of asking for a review, except you are putting the customer on the spot there and then, rather than in follow-up. This may of course work but only perhaps if the customer is especially happy or a regular. It’s probably not advisable to do so for every customer.
Finally, fake reviews & publishing reviews under a fake profile are essentially bad practice & not advisable.