As most of my readers and clients will know already, I’m a huge proponent of online reputation management. If potential customers and referrals don’t see good things written about you when they look you up on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, they’re less likely to visit your store or pick up the phone.

Recently, though, I’ve come across another more pressing reason to gather and promote online reviews: Google is using positive first-party feedback as a strong search signal. Let’s take a look at what that means, and how you can start putting customer feedback to work for your business…

The Power of First-Party Reviews

It used to be that businesses would have testimonials from their clients pasted on their websites and brochures. Now, smart marketers are using plugins and scripts to let buyers submit their feedback directly and have it indexed by Google. In other words, you can build review capability straight into your website and then encourage customers to use it. Feedback on your website is considered first-party; second-party reviews are the ones pasted to sites like Facebook or TripAdvisor.

First-party reviews work a bit differently than a traditional testimonial would. That’s because Google can identify the review as a special kind of content, and will show it next to your website preview within the search results. So, if numerous customers have left you five star feedback, for example, a prospect will see that before they actually click through to your page. At the same time, Google will bump your site up in the search rankings simply because you have those positive reviews in the first place.

Lots of marketers obsess over page titles, anchor links, local keywords, and other SEO factors. These are still important to search visibility, but Google’s artificial intelligence is getting smarter. It wants to give searchers the results they’re looking for, and factoring reviews into the equation is a good way to separate the best websites from the rest. That’s why positive feedback is being weighed more heavily into search listings.

This is especially true at the local level. Many of today’s searchers are using phrases like “best tacos near me,” or “good bakery in my neighborhood.” Google actually takes both parts of these search strings into account. In other words, it will factor location into the mix, but also star ratings left through direct reviews. If you don’t have at least four-star feedback, your website won’t appear in those searches. Or to put it another way, if you have great reviews and your competitors don’t, you can leapfrog ahead of them within the search rankings.

So, just by getting a few reviews you gain valuable, search-friendly content, a better reputation, and a good reason for potential customers to visit your website. Why wouldn’t you want to add that capability to your page for those benefits?

How to Make Reviews Work

If the value of online reviews is easy to grasp, then the formula for putting them to work isn’t necessarily so straightforward. Most small business owners either don’t realize how valuable direct feedback is, or they feel like they have to pay thousands of dollars to expense of search engine optimization consultants who will help them make the most of customer-generated content.

Luckily there is a better, more cost-effective solution. Recently, my company rolled out a new review management system that allows us to:

  • Install the necessary coding on your website to accept first-party reviews and have them recognized by Google
  • Import second-party reviews from Facebook, Yelp, and other platforms onto your website (while excluding reviews from sites you don’t want)
  • Encourage reviews from customers through text and email so they can comment when they’re already thinking about your business (see below)
  • View and manage your online review platform to see what kind of progress you’re making in your campaigns

Online reviews are becoming a bigger and bigger part of search engine optimization and the buying process as a whole. Why ignore their importance, or blow your marketing budget attracting and displaying reviews?

Contact the Web Services team in Peoria today to learn more about our review management service and see how quick and affordable it is to grow the kind of online reputation you need to get more business!