So just how important are reviews on Google Local Business Center Listings? Short Answer: Very. Now for the long winded answer.
There is a general consensus that reviews are very important. According to David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors 2009 Report in which 26 Industry Veterans were surveyed the following results were reported:
The scale was from -5 (can hurt your rankings / lead to a penalty) to 5 (very important to ranking well) with 0 (not having an impact on your rankings).
- General Importance of Customer Reviews 3.27 (high importance)
- Volume of Customer Reviews: 3.34 (high importance)
- Customer Reviews on 3rd Party Websites: 2.30 (moderate importance)
- Positive Ratings Associated with Reviews: 3.34 (low importance)
These results are not at all surprising especially if you have been in the Local SEO world for any given length of time. However, since I live in a relatively SEO virgin town of Janesville, WI the local SEO I provide tends to have an immediate and influential effect on the search engine result pages.
A Little Local SEO Backstory:
One of my current projects has been developing and marketing a website on a shoestring (read Free) budget for my Mother-In-Law who lives here in Janesville. She had absolutely no presence online so its been quite the adventure for me. I literally built the entire website and launched it over a single weekend and it has been live for about 5 months. The reason I took this task on was that she runs a local daycare here in town and had some openings coming up. Normally she advertises in the paper and puts up fliers, but she was not getting any response plus the fliers were being taken down. And in case you are wondering, she has obtained new business because of the website, which is pretty fantastic since its only been a few months.
So why am I telling you all this? Simply because of the following Search Engine Result Page: Best Daycare in Janesville WI
In just a few short months, I have helped Google deliver her website up as the most relevant for that search term. I had no intention of having that happen. I was not even gunning for that term, since there is little to no search volume. But to me it exemplifies the importance of having reviews within Google Local Business Center. She is the top organic result shown for this term, she is the only one with a map result which commands most of the above the fold real estate, and she also shows up again further down the page.
How did this happen?
Well there are few factors that went into obtaining this result. The first one was rather obvious; the review on the local business center listing itself. If you haven’t figured it out yet, that review was put there by me. I put it there because my son does attend her daycare so it is a truthful review. But you will notice more importantly that the first line of the review says “By far this is the best daycare in Janesville” So it is safe to assume that the text in the review itself is playing a role in ranking for this keyword.
Another factor that played into this is the content on the site itself. She, under my advise, has started to obtain testimonials of parents who have had children in her daycare. To start things off, my wife and I provided the first testimonial. It is featured on the homepage as well as the testimonials page. That testimonial says “Care-A-Lot Family Daycare is by far the best and most affordable daycare available in Janesville.”
Lastly the other item that may have played a role into rankings could have been that the review on the local business center was found “helpful by 1 out of 1 people”. So this helped to give affirmation that it is truthful and correct.
How can you use this to your benefit?
If you live in a virgin SEO town like me, then you can quite easily implement the same strategy as I haphazardly stumbled across. But what if you live in a larger more competitive town? Then you just need to attack it and obtain more of everything that I outlined above. I can only imagine what other terms you could implement and rank well for that include a map result. This could be, if used correctly, a way to dominate and control search engine result page real estate. Imagine having 20, 30, or more different results that obtain a 1 pack result. This could be quite powerful especially on local branding. And if you are evil you could possibly do the opposite and get 1 pack results for “worst <blank> in <city> <state>”. I don’t advise doing that, but i can imagine it happening.
Last Local SEO Thought
As I was writing this one thought that came to mind that I am pretty sure is being used in some fashion but was not talked about in the 2009 Local SEO guide was the geolocation of the reviewer to the review. I can certainly imagine Google using the location of the reviewer as a factor in the validity of the review. If you were to review a business that was hyper local in its service nature and/or did not provide service in the area from which the reviewer wrote the review it would most certainly not seem to be a credible review. As an example lets say someone wrote a review from Florida about buying a house from a real estate agent in California. While that can certainly happen, it doesn’t seem as real / honest as if it came from the same city that the real estate agent was located in.