Reviews have helped me make lots of purchasing decisions and going-out decisions. I’ve looked at what people have said about food, restaurants, toys, cameras, books, and on and on. Oftentimes, I learn more about a product or service from reviews than I do from the official product writeup!

I bet you’ve gone to Amazon before you’ve purchased things, too. I bet you’ve looked at ratings when at Best Buy, or Target, or at a Game Stop. And once you saw the reviews, you were able to quickly make your decision.

And I bet you’ve written a few choice critiques as well. For a restaurant you love, a gadget you didn’t love, and for a friend’s business who could just use a little boost. We’ve all done it, so we all know the drill. But have you ever wondered how those reviews are used by search engines like Google?

Because our society has become so dependent on crowd-sourced decision making, our friends at Google have begun placing greater importance on reviews for services. Have you noticed that? That sites that have more reviews come up higher in search results? They do, or rather, they do now.

Why does Google use reviews to decide site rank?

Google’s goal with their search service is to offer a great customer experience. They want their search results to be the best, and the most pertinent to what the searcher needs. Google therefore needs to use whatever factors they have at their disposal, and to be honest, reviews are one (just one) of many things they look at.

And really, from a practical viewpoint, it makes sense to look at reviews when deciding position in search results. Would you recommend to a friend a company that has poor (or no) reviews? Would you suggest a company to provide a service when their reviews don’t even mention the service you want them to perform? And would you propose them at all if their last review was posted in June of 2016? I hope not.

From a user’s point of view, Google is working for you here. As far as reviews go, they’re looking at them for you and deciding which site provides the best possible result. They’re acting as your friend, who only wants to help but doesn’t want you to get slimed by a spammy site. This is just the practical thing to do. Google, in this instance, is your New Best Friend.

What aspects of reviews does Google look at?

I recently took a deeper look inside Moz’s study of the things Google looks at, the ranking factors, for websites. I was surprised to see that in a page with many, many factors listed, “reviews” came up 65 times. This means that the professionals noted 65 separate times that Google uses business reviews to create a rank for a site. That’s amazing, isn’t it?

The most important factors I found are:

1. Quality Google reviews (ie, placement of reviews on Google Business listings, then on Yelp, Facebook, etc.)
2. Presence of keywords (if you’re known for dog walking, is that mentioned in your reviews?)
3. Positive sentiment (do folks say nice things? do they like you?)
4. Overall velocity (are the reviews received consistently?)

While I could write about these individually, they’re pretty self-explanatory. Google wants to see reviews on their own platform first, they want to see the services or products you want to be known for mentioned, they want to see a positive tone, and they want to see those reviews arrive in a steady stream (not all in a bunch). To be honest, I think this is pretty fair of Google. These seem pretty logical to me, especially from a user viewpoint.

How can a site use them to rise in search results?

The first thing to do is request reviews from your happy clients, but ON your Google Business listing. While they maybe polite and post on Yelp or Facebook, also direct them to your Google Business listing, which we now know is where Google looks first. To make that easy for your clients, I suggest using a link generator like this one or this one to make it easier for your clients. (Note: remember that for these tools to work, you need to have your street address entered and visible on your listing.)

And when asking them for a review, as much as possible, remind them to use specifics (“I love that they arrive one time, and Sparky loves his dog walker Janet”) (“This company is friendly and works with my busy schedule, and best of all, my cats love their pet sitter”).

Also, be consistent when asking for a review, because as mentioned, Google doesn’t like to see tons of reviews arriving in a clump; they like to see consistency (they’re much less likely to be spam this way).

I would also make sure to copy and paste great reviews onto your website. Some folks (especially those in a hurry) won’t bother to read individual critiques, but once they get to your site, that “Reviews” tab just might pull them in. Buy your careful placement, you maybe able to make the conversion by this page alone!

Bottom Line

Reviews are a new staple in our digital society. They are ever-present, and we make good use of them. Because of this, Google crawls them and uses their content to help decide where a site comes up in search results. The sites with fresh, legitimate, content- and keyword-filled reviews, that arrive in a consistent pattern, are the ones that benefit most. Site owners can help themselves by requesting reviews from their happy clients, and posting those them on their sites.

** If you need help with your Google My Business listing, or adding your reviews to your site, or for any other services, please contact me at [email protected] or call me at 732 820-0103.