How Google Reviews Punch You Right in the Search Rankings
Google reviews can directly impact your search engine rankings. I did the research to prove it. I personally analyzed over 22,000 local listings on Google to find out how reviews and search engine visibility are connected.
I’ll happily share my results with you, but first– why did I spend countless hours poring over search results?
For many small business owners, like myself, online reviews are a source of frustration and anxiety. If you run any sort of brick and mortar business, you’ve probably lost a little bit of sleep thanks to reviews on Google, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. If it’s not negative reviews stressing you out, it’s a lack of reviews.
I’ve had this conversation with many of my digital marketing clients. Even ethical business owners, with talented employees, experience the pain of online reviews; and you’ve probably felt that pain, too.
I’ve seen my clients light up because of online reviews, too. It goes without saying, a good review goes a long way. Even the most hardened business owners can’t help but smile when they make a customer happy enough to tell the whole world about their product or service. It’s a joy you’ve probably shared, at some time or another.
A recent survey I conducted showed 54% of people read online reviews before buying from a local business. I think that’s a fairly reasonable and conservative number. Online reviews are important. It’s a fact of life.
Online reviews are increasing visible in Google’s search engine results, as well. Local listings with reviews and star ratings stand out among local listings with zero reviews. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other niche review sites hold serious weight in the search engines, too.
I wanted to know more about how small businesses rank in Google’s local 3-pack results, and how Google reviews affect those results, so I embarked upon a big research project.
I manually researched 22,032 local listings in 107 cities and 29 business categories, encompassing a whopping 101,741 individual reviews. It was a lot of work, but I knew my findings would help my clients. And they’d also help you, the small business owner. I’m a small business owner, too, after all. We need to help each other out when we can.
Here’s what I found.
I didn’t use any super-advanced tools or interesting technology to get my results. Instead, I recorded the numbers by hand, with the help of two of my sons. The more local listings I analyzed, the more interesting it became. Manually recording search engine results and data entry are never fun, but I kept going deeper. It was like I found buried treasure!
Now, keep in mind, this research is for Google reviews only. I didn’t analyze Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, Facebook or any other sites. I figured Google’s own review system had to factor into its search engine results somehow.
What I found might surprise you because it sure as heck surprised me. You can read my full report here.
The important numbers:
- The top 3 listings in Google’s local search results have an average of 472% more reviews than listings 4-6 – It turns out there’s a big difference between those results you see in the 3-pack versus the results you see when you click “more places.”
- The top 3 Google local search results have more Google reviews, nearly twice as often as the next 3 results – The first results you see when you search for a product or service in your area are much more likely to have more Google reviews.
- 63% of the time, Google’s local 3-pack contains the listing with the most reviews – I only foresee this number increasing as Google’s search algorithms continue to change. The trend is already there.
- A listing in the top 3 Google local results has an average of 7.62 reviews, compared to just 1.61 reviews in results 4-6 – 8 reviews is hardly a huge number and businesses can attain 8 reviews if they work at it. The difference between where 8 reviews and where 2 reviews land you, in the search results, is huge.
Clearly, we’re seeing a pattern here.
What Does it Mean for Your Search Rankings?
Local SEO for local businesses can be competitive. Even if you have rock-solid on-site SEO, a handful of relevant links, and a steady flow of engaging content, your competitors might still outrank you, no matter what you do.
Or, at least, that’s what we thought.
From what my research shows, Google reviews might give you the edge you need in their local search results. It’s not 100% foolproof, as my numbers show, but it’s a safe bet that something as simple as eight positive Google reviews will give you a leg up on your competitors in the search results.
Your customers are already seeking out online reviews and your online reviews are displayed in the search results before a prospect even reaches your website or picks up the phone.
Your online reviews are a big part of your life anyway. You can’t opt out, even when they frustrate you, so why not take advantage of them? Good reviews mean positive proof of happy customers.
As it turns out, they probably mean better search rankings for local businesses, too and Google is absolutely fine with you asking for reviews. As long as you don’t set up a review kiosk or anything shady, there’s no harm in asking for reviews.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. This is a very real way to outrank your competitors. Let reviews give you the edge. Let them empower you to punch your search rankings in a good way.
It’s up to you to turn one of your biggest frustrations into one of your biggest successes. Embrace Google reviews and the search engine will embrace you right back.
Brodie Tyler is an Amazon best-selling author, public speaker, serial entrepreneur, and marketer based in the Boise, ID area. For over 15 years, Brodie has helped small business clients achieve success through digital and offline marketing. He’s the founder and president of Inbound Systems and ReviewJump, a reputation management software startup. Brodie lives with his wife and four children.