Have you heard that online reviews and in particular, Google reviews impact your local SEO? But, what are your other options?
Generally speaking, there are three main pillars that drive local online marketing performance:
- Local Citations (including GMB)
- On-Page Content (including long tail keywords)
- Reviews (including a slow and steady flow)
To help digest these primary SEO pillars, the following tackles the impact of reviews, along with other local SEO options and how to evaluate your results. This is the final part of a three part series examining and unpacking local SEO. The initial post shared the impact of local citations and hyperlocal marketing. The second post reviewed how on-page SEO drives local performance.
Ultimately, upon reading and digesting the series, you’ll understand the strengths and weaknesses of your current local SEO efforts. But, more importantly, you’ll know where to start your local online marketing efforts or how to evaluate potential consultants.
Reviews Remain a Primary Local SEO Solution
Finally, reviews. Reviews are critical to local SEO success because Google only lists companies with at least 4 stars in MAP pack results. Additionally, a slow and steady approach with a constant flow of reviews creates a sustainable operation. For example, sending a mass email asking for reviews might increase the number of reviews and jump the company rating, but it looks spammy. In particular, if no reviews follow over the next few months, then Google will likely flag the bulk reviews.
As a result, generally incorporating reviews solicitation into the operations helps generate a steady flow of high quality reviews. Although Google prohibits incentives for leaving reviews, general solicitation works. Fortunately, some software solutions like Podium help request reviews in real time sent to customer’s phones. We all know that review requests tend to languish in our inbox, so asking in the moment via text improves the amount of reviews over time. The impact of positive reviews is a true differentiator in a crowded industry and offer the following benefits:
- reviews are a primary driver of local SEO efforts.
- GMB listing will not show up for “best”-type keywords unless your listing has a 4.0+ star rating.
- reputational monitoring services help notify businesses of positive/negative reviews.
- responding to reviews shows responsiveness to customer reviews and helps increase the number of reviews.
Additionally, potential customers look at Google reviews!
“In a recent report (via BrightLocal) analyzing current customer online interactions, 97% of survey respondents declared they looked online for a local business. Not only does virtually every potential customer start online, but the survey found that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”
If your company lacks a game plan for generating reviews, then your company is falling behind the competition. Additionally, consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business. This number is up from the previous year and only looks to grow over time.
This means Google reviews make a huge impact on your local SEO playbook.
Reviews in Action
To help showcase how reviews help empower employees and educate customers, our agency (All Points Digital) wants to share some client results.
In August 2019, we started working with a water pump company that wanted to stand out from the competition. The company wanted to expand outside of their local area and needed more customers (and more high quality customers). Upon discussion, a software program was implemented that allowed technicians to request a review immediately following a service job to generate more reviews. The results, particularly on Google, mean the company now shows up in MAP pack results!
Additionally, the company leveraged the software to inform customers when the technician would arrive. The techs realized that they could text their next customer when leaving a job, so customers were well prepared for the impending visit. With customers in a good mood, then positive reviews are sure to follow!
An important note is driving 4 and 5 star reviews remains critical to long term success. Not only from a digital perspective, but from a business and operational point of view as well. A recent study by Go Fish Digital highlights the dramatic drop in customer trust from 4 or 5 stars (roughly 95%) to 3 stars (28.7%)! Driving high quality reviews remains pivotal in appearing in SERPs and demonstrating trust to prospective clients.
Other Local SEO Solutions
If done correctly, then the three pillars of local SEO will show improvements in search rankings in time. Although the tactics are straightforward, some of them take time to deploy correctly. For example, reviews take time. In particular, depending on your local business you may not see a lot of customers every month. Additionally, all on-page SEO efforts take at least a couple of months to be picked up by Google. However, GMB optimizations should be done ASAP and generally show pretty quick improvements.
These local SEO solutions work and have worked in a variety of industries. But, for more local SEO solutions, companies have a few more options.
Don’t Forget About Analytics in Your Local SEO Efforts
The beauty of digital marketing is understanding what drives traffic, conversions and ultimately, sales. Through installation of Google Analytics (GA) at a minimum, companies can start tracking actions on their site. Although standard digital marketers expect new clients to lack GA on their company site, many local companies aren’t aware of the importance of analytics. Additionally, if they do have GA, there are issues. For example, many sites do not track actions like phone calls or form fills. As a result, owners will not have the critical information to evaluate if the local online marketing efforts are working.
Frequently, local businesses have tested the conventional marketing activities like radio ads, mailers and perhaps even billboards. While these initiatives may or may not be effective, it is very difficult to really understand how effective they might be because there is not a direct one-to-one result. Along those lines, similar initiatives that promise the world, but lack details in tracking are pitched to local business owners. In general, if a salesperson lacks information or becomes vague when asked how to track success, then watch out!
Additional Local SEO Options
Every small business knows the difficulties competing against the big guys. But, now, with Google local service ads, the neighborhood repair man or HVAC company and more can leverage the power of Google to compete against the heavy hitters.
Google local service ads challenge service industry giants like HomeAdvisor, by returning ads for home service work. The local service ads appear like product ads when shopping for handbags, golf clubs or any other retail product. However, consumers can click and connect with your business. Plus, the setup is very manual, so large brands cannot gain any advantages while signing up. Of course, this is an ad network, so large brands may have more budget.
Local service ads are not available for every industry, but any service-based business that wants to take a proactive approach to generating new business, then learn more about how local service ads work.
For local services and other businesses such as small retail businesses, the standard online advertising options remain a possible local SEO solution as well. Depending on the industry and marketing budget, conventional paid search might be simply too cost prohibitive. For example, local financial advisors end up competing for the core keywords with large financial conglomerates like Fidelity, Charles Schwab and the other big names. Likewise, local retail companies compete with large retail players and even Amazon. However, seasoned paid search operatives can find nuggets to test and track results. Alternatively, some newer types of ads, like SmartCall campaigns, tend to yield a more effective lead generation tool that many larger players are not leveraging.
Finally, there are many options to review while working on your local SEO playbook. Local business owners looking to learn more about their SEO options, should focus on a few key takeaways:
- local SEO solutions are not necessarily cost prohibitive.
- basic optimizations can (and should) be done internally.
- track your site to measure your local SEO (and all marketing initiatives).
At the end of the day, if you are interested in exploring online advertising to generate more quality leads, then simply start. Inaction means your competitors are learning more, so start with GMB and a plan to generate reviews. From there, you’ll quickly learn the next action to improve your hyperlocal marketing efforts (like additional citations or on-page SEO updates). If you don’t have time to implement, then you’ll be more knowledgeable to ask the right questions to digital marketing agencies or consultants.
And, if all of this seems great, but overwhelming, then simply reach out to a local SEO agency that stands by their work. Feel free to contact All Points Digital to see what local SEO solutions will help your firm grow.