By: Katie Shore Oct 29/2019

More users than ever are using local searches to determine which businesses in their area that they want to visit. If you want to turn people using local search into customers, optimizing for Local SEO is essential for your business. One of the best ways to optimize for Local SEO? Gathering reviews from your most loyal customers.

Why are online reviews so important?

More customers than ever aren’t even leaving the search results page when they make a Google search. They’re finding all the information about your business that they need right within the search engine results page; one of the key pieces of information is the star rating that you’ve received from various review sites.

More users than ever are relying on the internet to find new services, yet word-of-mouth recommendations are seen as the most reliable sources of information. A review serves as “social proof” that there are real people out there who recommend and trust your product. When your product or service is new to them, they will scour reviews for social proof that your business is worth it.

The best review sites for Local SEO

There are so many different options to evaluate users online; how do you determine what the best and most reliable review sites are for your business? Here are a few of our expert recommendations for the places to respond to reviews.

  • Google My Business: According to SEO expert Rand Fishkin, less than half of searches result in a click; people are finding all the information that they need within Google Search results pages. This is why having an optimized Google My Business listing is so important. Your company will appear within relevant local search results. Getting Google reviews shows social proof of your company’s quality right on the page.
  • Social Media: We always encourage our clients to be on social media platforms where their prospective customers are. Some platforms, most notably Facebook, have review capabilities that shouldn’t be ignored. If your customers are frequenting social media platforms without a review function, they will be reading other users’ comments, which are other valuable forms of social proof.
  • Industry-specific review sites: Every industry has specific review sites that customers use to evaluate Local SEO. To find ones specific to you, search your service industry + reviews on Google. For example, if you’re an accountant, look up “accounting firm reviews” and see what comes up. Some common ones that we see are:
    • Homestars and Houzz for service-based businesses;
    • Urbanspoon and OpenTable for restaurants; and
    • co for business firms.
  • For an extensive list of local business review sites in every niche, check out this comprehensive list by BrightLocal.

How to get online reviews for your small business

Now that you know where you should be for getting reviews, your next question is probably HOW you get your customers to review your site. The answer is simple but can seem overwhelming – you need to ask them!

No one knows your customers better than you do, and you know how good it feels when one of your customers is so pleased with the work that you’ve done. A satisfied customer is usually excited to let others know what a good experience they had with your business. Simply telling your customer, “If you’re happy, please leave us a review on Google.” It’s a free and easy way for them to spread the word about how great you are.

If asking for reviews face-to-face doesn’t work with your business, we recommend either putting a link to your preferred review page within a follow-up email or with a button on your website. This makes it easy for customers who you don’t have face-to-face interaction with to leave a review.

You’ve got your review… now what?

Your customers have started regularly reviewing your business and your ranking is getting higher and higher. This is great! But to really show that you care, there’s a little more that you can do to go above and beyond your competition in the review game.

It is essential to regularly check your review sites; you shouldn’t remove negative reviews, but you should be checking for spam reviews. These sites are also such a valuable source of feedback; if many of your customers are having the same issue, you should take the steps to solve it immediately. Regularly checking reviews also allows you to respond in a timely manner.

Responding to every review within a few days is another form of social proof; genuine responses to positive reviews show that you appreciate your customers while accepting and responding to negative feedback shows accountability and a willingness to improve. Your review sites are not the place to get defensive or write essays; a simple acknowledgement of the review and a thank you is all you need.

Reviews are just the beginning

Collecting reviews is an essential component of a Local SEO strategy. However, there’s so much more involved in building up your online reputation. Looking for more information on how you can optimize your Local SEO strategy? Check out our downloadable checklist and guide for more.