Online reviews have taken on greater and greater significance over the past few years for local business. Yelp was founded nearly a decade ago, and since it’s emergence on the scene has grown to make and break businesses all over the US. In 2001, Google purchased Zagat in 2011, and since then the importance of online reviews has never been greater.
Many business owners know that it is important to obtain positive reviews for the purposes of reputation management. However what many local business owners still may not realize is the effect the quantity and quality of reviews have on local SEO. As Moz pointed out in its 2013 analysis of local search ranking factors, review quantity, quality and diversity make up over 10% of the factors that affect local search results. It is very important to note the quality and diversity aspects of this study, as we have found that sheer quantity of reviews that lack quality and diversity can be filtered out, as well as any reviews that do not adhere to the quality guidelines set by Google.
Your Google+ Business page is the most important place to collect reviews to affect your local search ranking on Google. However it is important to keep the other search engines out there on your radar, and note that as of March 12, 2014 Yelp reviews have become an integrated part of the Yahoo interface and that Yelp has powered Bing’s local search engine as well as providing integrated information with Apple Maps, since 2012. In other words, if you want your business to be found by anyone searching on a Windows Phone or iPhone, it is critical to foster and curate your Yelp reviews.
Google recently made its new maps interface universal in February, eliminating the hierarchal left-hand-sidebar of listings that businesses have become accustomed to focusing on, and providing a more location oriented search experience. Whereas previously the businesses with the greatest quantity, quality, and diversity of reviews would be floating at the A, B, or C position at the top of listings (and this still applied to listings found in the local search 7-pack that appears on certain SERPs) the orientation has changed to the size of the dot that appears on Google Maps. Therefore, for businesses with no reviews, the size of the dot is tiny, or often doesn’t even exist. Businesses with fostered review structures appear sizably larger on the map, and often with their business name. Paid listings appear as purple dots. It’s a veritable chicken pox of search results. I have illustrated my point below in a search for the never-elusive “bacon sandwiches in San Diego”.
As the eye of search steadily swings towards mobile, the curation of local listings and reviews becomes increasingly important and online customer interaction with your business page is something that businesses can no longer afford to ignore.