How online customer reviews impact your SEO efforts

Customer reviews, or online testimonials, have been a major component of websites since the 1990s. It’s true that the makeup of customer reviews have drastically changed — from social media to photo testimonials — the fundamentals of this proven tactic remain strong.

User reviews have proven time and time again that they are important sales drivers and a feature that most customers want to see before they buy something from your company. In fact, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of customers read online testimonials before they make a purchase.

In simpler terms: customer reviews are essential for ecommerce websites.

Still not sold? Here are a few statistics about online reviews:

  • 63 percent of customers are more likely to buy a site’s products with user reviews.
  • A minimum of 50 reviews per produce often leads to a 4.6 percent jump in conversions.
  • Consumer reviews area 12 times more trusted than product descriptions.
  • Online reviews create about an 18 percent increase in sales.
  • 90 percent of customers’ buying decisions are based on online reviews.

You may be wondering if customers trust online testimonials. For the last couple of years, there have been numerous scandals highlighting the problem of fake reviews to either balloon the reputation of a brand or hurt a competitor’s reputation. So, do customers still trust user reviews?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes as a 2014 Bright Local study discovered that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) trust a brand more if they have positive reviews.

Are you convinced yet? Good. Now, there’s one extra tidbit of information that you may not have thoughts: customer reviews’ impact on search engine optimization.

The Impact of User Reviews on SEO Campaigns

Yep. Your SEO efforts can be affected by your customer reviews. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing! There are many SEO benefits you can witness from having user reviews indexed on your website.

Everything from higher click-through rates (CTR) to improved search engine rankings, customer reviews are proving to be quite the asset to SEO campaigns, and marketers are paying attention.

Now that you think this is the easy way to a successful SEO endeavor, you may want to plaster user reviews all over your website or completely abandon the hard part of SEO. Think again.

Distilled’s User Generated Content for SEO white paper noted that ecommerce websites have to consider four things:

  • Non-Duplication: Online reviews should have their own one-page and single URL.
  • Breadth of Content: Customer reviews should be featured on several webpages (categories or homepage).
  • Indexation: User-generated content must appear in HTML form as opposed to JavaScript, Flash or cookies.
  • Review Signals: These are signals that provide various aspects of a company’s profile online.

A great number of customer reviews is certainly valuable. However, it’s still crucial to ensure they’re easily and quickly understood by consumers. This can be accomplished by summarizations of review ratings or only highlighting the best positive and negative reviews.

With that out of the way, here are five ways user reviews impact your SEO efforts:

  • Spiders Love Unique Content
  • Product Name Plus Review Equals Higher Rankings
  • CTRs Spike on Results Pages
  • Online Reviews Even Better for Local SEO
  • The Benefits of Long Tail Targeting

Spiders Love Unique Content

Content is king, and search engine spiders understand this concept. Spiders adore unique content, especially if it’s regularly updated. Reviews from customers are a proven technique to generate more content. Although marketing affiliate and ecommerce websites will often insert standard product descriptions, these customer reviews, which are user-generated, can make a product page stand out.

Online reviews are a lot more beneficial to customers. As the studies show, without customer testimonials then your brand won’t see soaring conversion rates. Moreover, without a sufficient number of customer reviews, you won’t see a higher ranking in the search engine ranking pages (SERPs).

The question that may be rummaging through your mind is this: how can I get my customers to post reviews of my products? Here are a few tips to try out:

  • Facebook Reviews: Since your Facebook page is set up as a business, your page automatically becomes a reviews tab.
  • Review Websites: If your business is in a specific industry niche then perhaps you can focus your attention on these kinds of review websites (think Expedia or Yelp).
  • Customer Rewards: One sure fire way of getting your customers to review your products or services is to provide an incentive. From discounts to promotions, offer your clients something for writing a review.
  • Email Follow-ups: A day or a week later, send up a follow-up email to ask them to rate or review the product they purchased. Add that it’ll only take a minute or two. One platform who realized how important is to send this follow-up mail is Yotpo. Their MAP (mail after purchase) technology is a data driven mobile first email that generates reviews automatically and easily.
  • Borrow a Reviewer: There are professional or amateur reviewers out there. These are people who take the time to review products objectively. You can find them on a website like Amazon. They will have a profile that includes hundreds of reviews.

Or, you know, you could just ask your clients to review your product upon purchase.

Product Name Plus Review Equals Higher Rankings

As we previously noted, customer reviews play an important role throughout buying experience. The data suggest most consumers read online reviews when buying a product. Therefore, consumers will head on over to their preferred search engine, type in the name of the product plus the term(s) “review” or “ratings.”

CTRs, Conversions Spike on Results Pages

Customer reviews can serve as a precious tool to give your click-through rates (CTRs) in the SERPs a shot in the arm.

Reevoo, a firm that took a look at 2.5 million customer reviews, found that after a business received 30 user reviews, they started experiencing higher conversion rates (anything less than 30 was negligible). Meanwhile, as soon as websites paste online reviews they noticed a CTR increase as high as 20 percent.

Online Reviews Even Better for Local SEO

When it comes to local search engines, they appreciate online reviews because consumers do, too. Local search engines exist because consumers need information when they’re out on the town or at home to make a purchase decision. When it’s fast and accurate, the local search engine will be used repeatedly.

A MOZ Local Search Ranking Factors Survey found that online reviews help make up 10 percent of a search engine’s placement ranks. That’s how imperative user reviews have become.

User reviews impact your local SEO efforts like citations and on-site optimization do.

Chart courtesy of MOZ.

The Benefits of Long Tail Targeting

Websites want to rank well for long tail searches or keywords — those three keywords that are specific to the product or service you’re selling. The best way to ensure you succeed in this task is to have additional content that is created from user reviews. Words and phrases used by customers who post reviews are usually the very same words and phrases utilized by searches. This is what helps you increase your odds of ranking well for such long tail searches.

What About Bad Reviews? They’re Valuable as Well

Before we finish up, you’re probably wondering about bad reviews affecting SEO. Well, negative reviews can prove to be valuable as well. No kidding!

Customers are more likely to trust a brand if they see negative comments as well.

For instance, if a product has received 49 five-star ratings and reviews and just one one-star rating and review then the consumer is less likely to feel comfortable purchasing the item. Interestingly enough, 30 percent of consumers suspect faked reviews or censorship if there are too many bad reviews.

As consumers search for good and bad reviews, it suggests they are very committed to buying a product or ordering a service.

Of course, too many bad reviews isn’t good for a business either. It’s how you respond to bad reviews that matter. According to Wasp Buzz, here are ways to handle negative user reviews:

  • Wait until you’re calm before responding to a bad review.
  • Determine if there is any validity to a negative review.
  • Respond to the review, and, if possible, contact the customer offline.
  • Draft a written response and then proofread/edit it.

Final Thoughts

The power of user reviews is great. It’s impact on search engine optimization is even greater.

Small businesses have either flourished or perished by word-of-mouth. Online reviews have become the 21st century version of people showering brands with praise or bad mouthing the company endlessly to their friends, family, colleagues and people on the street.

Today, good and bad reviews can positively impact your business (too many bad reviews, as previously noted, can hurt your brand’s reputation severely, and on SEO).

In the end, do not overlook or neglect just how important user reviews can function for your SEO campaign. Whether it’s good or bad, your customers’ comments can assist in awareness and reach.

Feature image curtsey of Jimmy BaBa

Originally published at on February 19, 2016.

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