In the new online landscape, the line has blurred between the importance of inbound links to your website (even great ones), and reviews from real people on sites that the search engines recognize as real.
Now, in addition to the links that point to your site using your best keywords, you’d better have reviews about your products or services coming in from real people in very different locations and they’d better be honest.
Google+ Local now comes up for an amazing number of searches sandwiched between the paid ads and the organic results. Even ranking reports blur the local ranks with organic ranks. This is bad news if you only do SEO and ignore your local listing because it pushes you down in many cases. The solution is to kick butt at optimizing your local listing. One component of local optimization is getting reviews. They help you rank in Google+ Local and Yelp. Yelp pages rank in Google and you can rank in both Yelp and Google, but beware, as the road is fraught with peril. On the one hand, you need reviews, but on the other hand, I have to mention that Yelp despises people encouraging reviews and Google prefers that you let people naturally give them. If you are getting too many reviews or you try to do the reviews via proxy, they will be removed. This has annoyed many people and rightfully so, at least with Yelp. If I had a dime for every client that said Yelp is screwing them, I would be rich.
One example is a wonderful dentist in Los Angeles. She has tons of reviews online and a great reputation. She was getting huge business through Yelp, and when a couple of negative reviews were posted that she felt were clearly beyond unfair and maybe created by a competitor, Yelp filtered her good reviews and tanked her reputation. Now she is losing loads of business. A search on Google for “Yelp is corrupt” brings you to sites like yelpiscorrupt.org. It claims that the Yelp folks are “extortionists” and that the sales staff has repeatedly advised that if “we only advertise with them, they could ‘help us.’” While I have no idea whether Yelp is really corrupt or if it’s just a flawed system, the fact remains how reviews are handled will affect businesses that rely on Yelp. Be aware of this and follow the results of the lawsuits filed against Yelp, and find a reasonably natural way to encourage your actual customers to give you reviews.
Google+ is Only Going to get Stronger
The reason that Google+ Local puts so much emphasis on reviews is that the search engines have made the determination that reviews (good or bad) from real men and women should be more important than anything you could ever say about yourself (through linking).
That makes total sense here.
So the question is, if you are running a great business, what are you doing to capture real reviews?
It’s important to go about review solicitation according to Google’s guidelines. Definitely read their documentation at support.google.com.
I personally believe it is okay to ask your customers to leave you a review, but it is not okay to ask them to leave you a positive review.
Here are three ways to get reviews:
- Give customers who come into your physical locations little cards asking them to review you.
- Send satisfied customers emails asking for a review.
- Use incentives on QR codes to build them.
Do You Have a Plan in Place to Get This New Currency Online?
Perhaps more than 90% of all online businesses never take the time to do this one thing that is now paramount in the eyes of the search engines. That is losing you more money than you know.
Keep in mind it is safer to get reviews a few at a time, rather than in large batches at the same time. This helps to avoid them being taken down.
Getting lots of great reviews can shoot your most competitive local keywords through the roof.
Google and Yelp both have the ability to severely filter reviews that come in, so it’s important to get good reviews in a variety of places on the web.