For many years, companies believed black hat techniques and high volumes of content that can be viewed as spammy and low quality was the best approach for improving organic search performance.
However, Google and other search engines have now evolved to such an extent that they now understand the impact they have on individuals and society. This has led to a renewed focus on trustworthy sources and, more importantly, what signals are used to determine the relative legitimacy of a site.
One of the main signals search engines have called on is customer reviews. They have fast become an integral part of E-A-T. If you are not yet collecting them, here are five reasons why you should.
1. Search Engines Trust Reviews
The advancement of search engines has led to them being able to understand and distinguish the intent behind reviews.
It’s no secret Google shows businesses with high volumes of positive reviews first. The more quality positive reviews your site has will signal to search engines that the site is trustworthy and high-quality.
Think of a positive review in the same way you might think of a link to your site from another high-quality website. This is crucial from a user perspective as it can confirm to them that the product or service is of high quality and the provider is trustworthy.
Focus on creating a wonderful experience for your customers and have a robust review collecting process in place to capitalize on the hard work. This should then benefit your performance.
2. Outperform Your Competitors
While your competitors may focus on site architecture, schema, and page experience, which are all useful areas of SEO, they may be missing out on the impact customer reviews can have.
Collecting reviews allows you to leverage rich snippets on your site. This can be vital if you work in the E–Com space. Product listings will now have an additional functionality where collated reviews will show up as golden stars under a listing.
This can set your listings apart from competitors as it gives your site an independent verification of the quality of your offering. This is much harder to challenge than claims made by the brand itself.
This could also have an impact on click-through rate (CTR). Users will more likely trust a site with positive reviews than competitor ones that may not leverage reviews as effectively. With CTR being an important performance metric, any improvement to it will only be positive.
3. Responding to Reviews Increases Transparency
One of the most challenging parts of SEO is the fact that Google is intentionally vague when it comes to explaining ranking factors and their relative impact. However, we know Google publicly encourages collection and response to reviews.
By being robust with your review process you increase transparency and signal to both users that your site is trustworthy. This is vitally important from a user’s perspective.
If your business gets a negative review, responding to it will show you are transparent and happy to engage with customers. This may in the end persuade the user to change or delete a negative review which will only help performance.
The impact on crawlers cannot be understated though, as reviews and the response to them is new content uploaded to the site. This will signal to crawlers that the site is frequently updated, which may impact how frequently your site is crawled which should have a positive effect on rankings.
4. Reviews Provide Extra Content and Context
While it may be difficult to comprehend, customers can be leveraged as content creators. Reviews are a valuable tool to gain feedback on your business and are a type of content.
As outlined above, reviews are fresh content added to the site. The reviews will include relevant keywords to your business, which will help crawlers gain more context around what your business offers due to the greater keyword density and diversity.
In turn, this will allow search engines to provide a better user intent match which, from a business perspective, is crucial for driving conversions due to the site experiencing more relevant traffic.
SEO is a fast-moving industry that is constantly adapting to both the needs of search engines and users. This makes harnessing the power of customer reviews important as it is one of the few areas that will cater to the needs of both.
Crucially, they also transcend your vertical. Whether that is product or service-focused, customer reviews can have a profound influence on the way users interact with your offering. This will in turn directly and indirectly affect your performance positively.