Conflicting messages abound with regards to how reviews impact your local search rankings. Google review count and the rate at which a business generates new reviews can vary from industry to industry. There are many assumptions and myths regarding reviews:
- Does the number of Google reviews impact your rankings?
- Does the text of a Google review impact your rankings?
- Does the review recency impact your rankings?
The truth is, we don’t really know but we do have case studies to help prove that our assumptions are relevant. For more information on why reviews matter on your Google Business Profile visit The Ultimate Guide to Google Business Profiles.
Does the Number of Google Reviews Impact Your Local Search Rankings?
For many years now we have been led to believe that the more reviews you have, the better your ranking should be. I see that many of our clients have accumulated a large number of reviews but are somehow getting outranked by competitors with less reviews. I began to wonder if their Google reviews were really as significant as I was led to believe. Joy Hawkins from Sterling SKY lays out a nice case study which illustrates how jumping from 3 reviews to 16 helped to increase the business local ranking significantly. However, after the business received 31 reviews, the ranking boost was not as significant.
While the results are not nearly as significant when exceeding 10 reviews, I do find that continuing to generate more reviews still helped edge this business up a few more notches–maybe not at the rate one would want, yet with visible improvement. It is important to also recognize that a business with 300 reviews can be outranked by a business with 50 reviews. This can lead us to conclude that the number of reviews does not help you outrank your competitors; it’s just one piece of our SEO puzzle.
Does the Text of a Review Impact Your Local Search Rankings?
Joy Hawkins from Sterling SKY did a case study in which she found that the text within a Google review did not affect Map Pack Rankings. In the image below, you can see that the search term “Christmas trees” did not improve. The business accumulated six new reviews over a period of a few months. They made sure that the review contained the word “Christmas trees,” but the results showed no significant ranking increase.
This blog actually led many local SEO experts to question the legitimacy of the study. However, it’s important to remember that Google’s algorithms change and what may appear to have significant results one year or month may not be the same the following year or month. It is also important to remember that there are hundreds of other factors that may not be considered. So, while the study did not show significant results in keywords within the review for ranking, we shall see over time what other experts conclude. Joy did a nice job proving that correlation does not indicate causation. She was able to demonstrate that when tested, the review text did not improve this business’ ranking.
Does Review Recency Impact Your Local Search Rankings?
Review recency refers to how recently the review was left. Moz recently published a blog on The Habits of Review Readers that revealed the following statistics
- 98% of people read reviews.
- 79% spend the most time reading Google reviews.
- 36% use star rating as the basis for deciding between local businesses.
- 39% use the most recent filter when looking at reviews
- 68% trust what customers say about a business over what a business says about itself.
Interestingly, 39% of users filter the most recently posted items when looking at reviews. If that is truly the case, then it would be wise for Google to rank a business that consistently generates new reviews. However, it is important to recognize that recency is not the same as quantity. So, while Google wants businesses to consistently generate new reviews, it’s not the volume that matters. Every industry is different and the best way to determine how often you should generate new reviews is by looking at your competitors.
Joy Hawkins did another study on review recency where she found that rankings improved as the business went from no reviews or a period of time in which the reviews went stale, to steadily generating new reviews.
This finding is very significant as you can see from the image Sterling SKY shared.
The Key Takeaway!
Businesses need to focus on generating new reviews in the most organic way possible. The best way to do that is to engage the help of a platform like Reputation Arm that allows you to consistently ask your customers for new reviews. Reviews matter and are relevant for your local search rankings, but more importantly for building trust with your customers. Google searches are looking at your reviews and in order for your business to successfully convert a new customer, they need to showcase themselves through the reviews. As Moz helpfully points out in their article, 98% of people read reviews. If your business is lacking in reviews, then chances are you are not capturing as much business as you could.
Using tools like the Reputation Arm dashboard allows you to organically dispatch review requests to all your customers. Our dashboard allows you to integrate your system’s API so that we can set up an automated review campaign that will have your business generating new reviews organically with no effort on your part. Contact us today for a free demo.