Do Google reviews help with SEO?
Google reviews help with SEO rankings in the following ways:
Online reviews—and especially Google reviews—are the #3 most important ranking factor for Google’s coveted local 3-pack, after Google My Business profile and backlinks.
And most local businesses find it difficult and time consuming to get high-quality backlinks from high-authority websites. So although backlinks are still the #2 ranking factor, they’re also a very difficult and expensive ranking factor to control. Many local businesses must pay a local SEO expert to help them with backlinks, which can get pricey.
But Google reviews are the simplest, easiest, lowest-cost way to continually boost your rankings. And no specialized SEO expertise is required, so businesses can save by taking a DIY approach to local SEO.
That’s why we consider Google reviews the #1 most effective way for you to improve your local SEO. Reviews offer the perfect mix of high impact on rankings with low cost, low time requirement, and no need for special SEO expertise.
From the earliest days of Google’s search algorithm, backlinks were used to tell which web pages are better than the rest. The web pages that got more “votes” (in the form of backlinks) were far more likely to rank high in search results.
But not all backlinks are equal. Some websites get a lot more than just one “vote” when they link to another site.
For example, if your website gets a backlink from a high-authority site like Wikipedia or a major news website, then Google is going to treat that like 1,000 votes compared to just the 1 vote you get from a backlink that comes from your mom’s personal blog site.
But backlinks have two major problems.
First problem: The only people “voting” on your site are other content producers like you—people who are trying to serve content to Google’s searchers. While Google cares about what content producers think, because they’re often experts in your field, Google cares a lot more about what the searchers think.
Second problem: Backlinks are votes for web pages. They’re not votes for your business.
Google reviews have a major advantage over backlinks in both of these problem areas.
First, Google reviews are written by your customers, and the people searching for your business are also your past, current, and future customers. So Google fundamentally cares far more about what reviewers have to say than what content producers have to say.
Second, reviews are not “votes” for a web page. They’re “votes” for your actual business. And Google knows that when a searcher searches for “florists near me” they’re not looking for great web pages. They’re looking for the best business in their area.
For these reasons, we expect online reviews to eclipse backlinks as a ranking factor for local businesses at some point in the future. Already, we’ve seen customer reviews rise in Moz’s list of local SEO ranking factors from #5 to #3 in just the past couple of years. We expect that trend to continue.
So if reviews are a better ranking signal than backlinks, why don’t reviews already beat backlinks as a ranking factor?
Simple: It’s a lot harder (technologically speaking) for Google to use reviews as a ranking factor than to use backlinks.
Google can measure the overall authority of an entire website based on all its content, so it knows how much authority to assign to each link the website gives to another website.
It’s much harder to do the same for each reviewer who leaves a review for a business.
But Google has been hard at work building more and more advanced machine learning into the Google algorithm to solve this problem.
And the more progress they make, the more reviews will overtake backlinks as a ranking factor for local businesses.
Google “reads” reviews to rank your business
Google’s algorithms actually “read” the reviews written about your business.
As Google’s machine learning algorithms have gotten better and better, Google has gotten better at understanding the meaning of the language in each review.
Google performs “sentiment analysis” to determine the emotional “mood” of the person writing the review.
When reviewers use a lot of positive language in a 5-star review, showing that the reviewer was excited, then Google treats that like a signal that the review is accurate.
But when reviewers use a lot of negative language in a 5-star review, or positive language in a 1-star review, Google’s confidence that the review is positive or negative may be affected by the mismatch between the language sentiment and the star rating.
Google also has algorithms to detect the “semantic meaning” of the language in a review. In other words, if your business is a flower shop and the reviewer writes a review about auto parts, Google’s algorithm just might be smart enough to suspect that the review is not really about your business, and discard the review from the ranking calculation altogether.
So if you want Google reviews to help with SEO, you should get as many reviews as you can, and make sure you get as many 5-star ratings as you can, but also try to encourage customers to write reviews that are well written, detailed, and highly relevant.
In other words, local businesses should think of reviews the same way they think of website content.
Just as the goal of website content is to help searchers get the information they’re searching for, the goal of each review should be to give the most helpful information possible for people searching Google for a business like yours in your local area.
Reviews increase click-through rates (and Google rankings)
When your business gets a lot of positive reviews, you can get your star rating on Google results.
And when your star rating shows up in the local 3-pack, other organic search results, or Google Ads, those stars tend to make more searchers click your link, increasing your click-through rate (CTR).
First, star ratings attract a searcher’s eye so that your link stands out on the search results page.
Then high star ratings give searchers the confidence they need that your link is high quality, so it may be the best option to click in the search results.
Between the visual appeal of the stars attracting searcher attention and the confidence boost of a high star rating, your CTR gets a healthy boost.
And when CTR increases, that sparks a virtuous cycle.
CTR is an important ranking signal for SEO. So when your web page gets a higher CTR in Google’s organic search results, that sends a signal to Google that the web page is useful to searchers. That then causes Google’s algorithm to rank the web page even higher.
The same is true for Google Ads. CTR is one of the most important metrics for Quality Score in Google Ads. So when your ad gets a higher CTR, your Quality Score increases and so you don’t have to bid as much to win better ad placements. So your overall cost-per-click (CPC) falls while your ad click-throughs rise.
Rising star reviews is a comprehensive online review management tool that helps businesses track their online reviews, address negative feedback, and generate new reviews.