Back in February, we took a look at the sometimes complex world of online reviews and how collating, utilising, and managing them carefully – even the negative ones – can pay dividends for the reputation of your professional services business.
This month we’re taking a deep dive into how incorporating online reviews into your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy can boost your search engine results page (SERP) ranking, show Google that you’re a trustworthy, experienced business, support your keyword research, and increase traffic to your website.
Climb the ranks
The local pack (sometimes known as the map pack) refers to the prominent SERP section featuring the top-ranking, most relevant results for a particular search term – see below for an example based on ‘family solicitors midlands’.
Within the local pack, search engines will offer relevant, local results alongside contact details, location, website links and (importantly) average review scores and snippets.
According to a Moz article on local search ranking factors, in a list of the factors that have the most impact on search engine results, reviews are seen to be key, with the following types taken into account by Google:
- Google-based reviews – reviews left directly on your Google Business Profile (GBP)
- Third-party reviews – those left on external sites such as TrustPilot or Yell.co.uk, and industry-specific sites such as ReviewSolicitors or Carehome.co.uk
- First-party reviews – those posted directly on your site, such as those on your testimonials page
Asking for, collating, and most importantly responding to all such reviews tells search engines that your professional services business is responsive, active, and real, criteria which are used to rank your business above competitors in the results page.
It is also important to note that Google reviews form part of your Google Business Profile (GBP), another important ranking factor according to Moz; the more complete your GBP, the more positively Google will view your content. Therefore, if you haven’t already, make sure you claim your GBP listing and start responding to reviews (even the bad ones)!
Trust is key
This might seem like an odd statement, but certainly, for Google, trust plays a huge role in a business or website’s search quality rating, and the search engine recently emphasised this in its upgraded quality guidelines. This doesn’t mean ‘Can this company keep a secret?’, but more accurately, ‘Is this company doing what it says it does?’ or ‘Are the claims this company is making verified?’.
Formerly known as E-A-T (expertise, authority, trust), in 2022, Google updated its guidelines to include ‘experience’ within the acronym, now E-E-A-T, highlighting the impact of first-hand experience on Google Search ranking criteria. What better way to demonstrate first-hand experience than curating a bank of quality, genuine service reviews from real customers, particularly on your GBP?
However, the old adage, ‘trust is hard to earn and easy to lose,’ is more than relevant when it comes to SEO, and Google will pick up on inauthentic reviews or underhand review practices. So, whilst it may seem tempting to cheat your way into thousands of reviews by writing them yourself, incentivising or paying for them, or only posting the positive ones (a.k.a. review gating), this will quickly and negatively impact your SERP rank.
And by responding to all reviews, you can build trust not only with search engines but with potential customers as well. Google itself reported that businesses that respond to reviews are viewed as 1.7x more trustworthy than those that don’t.
Make your clients work for you
Have you ever wanted to get inside the head of your ideal customer? Have you spent time and effort on laborious keyword research strategies? The answer to both could lie in your latest online review.
Provided that your reviews are coming from genuine current or former clients, they can provide a wealth of information about client pain points and your business’ strengths (and weaknesses) and can even save you time on copywriting. Analysing the language used in reviews could uncover some great quality, high-value keywords to use in the copy on your website, in videos, on social media channels and when speaking to customers offline. We discussed the importance of repurposing user-generated content (UGC) in our 2023 marketing trends blog.
If your content says what your customers want to hear and solves the problem they want to solve, search engines will view it as more relevant and serve it more frequently for those keywords.
Build your reputation
An important factor in any SEO strategy is to curate quality, trustworthy backlinks from other third-party sites, signalling to search engines that your content is high quality and trustworthy, as well as driving further traffic to your own site.
And while around 57.5% of online reviews are written on Google, utilising the right, most relevant third-party review sites can play a valuable role in your backlink strategy and can be a relatively low-effort exercise. Simply using the search term for which you want your site to rank e.g. ‘family solicitors midlands’, can reveal the best third-party results for your keywords, and some of these sites have a strong search engine authority of their own, ranking first page (see below).
Finding and claiming your profile on one or two of the highest-ranking review platforms and even adding a widget to your website to encourage submissions could prove a low-cost, low-effort boost to your overall backlink and SEO strategy.
How to start collecting reviews and boosting your SEO
At Cal Partners, we have a wide range of experience supporting professional services clients with collecting and curating quality reviews and incorporating them into their overall SEO and marketing strategy.
Get in touch today to find out how we can work with you to boost your marketing efforts.
Cal Partners is a professional services marketing agency based in Newcastle upon Tyne.
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