Local Business Reviews: Why They Are Important and How to Make the Most of Them

Online reviews and ratings play a critical role in brand perception, search engine rankings and conversions. In a study, LocalSEO Guide alongside PlacesScout and the University of California Irvine recently determined that online reviews are the most important local SEO ranking factor – influencing local search engine rankings more than any other factors studied.

Multiple other studies have equally arrived at the same findings and derived similar or identical conclusions. As such, it’s important that you approach local business reviews as an essential cog in your online marketing engine.


approach local business reviews as an essential cog in your online marketing engine
Image source: searchengineland.com


Apparently, to make informed decisions regarding your local reviews strategy, you’ll need more than just the knowledge that reviews play an ever more important role in the buyer’s journey.

You’ll need to know what these reviews are, where to get them and how to make the most of them. We have done the heavy lifting and put together this guide precisely to walk you through these areas.


Local business reviews – what they are

On the World Wide Web, customers have the option to provide feedback or describe their experience and levels of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with a product or service they just tried out.

These written sentiments that customers leave directly on any platform or website that supports this type of content are what we refer to as business reviews.

There are tons of powerful review websites or platforms on the internet; with Google, Yelp and Facebook being some of the leading review platforms.

Review platforms can be general, like Bing and Superpages. They can also be industry or geography specific, like TripAdvisor and Healthgrades.


How to get local business reviews

Ideally, customers that visit your eCommerce store should be able to rate your products and leave their reviews there on your site. This is to say that your site should have a review feature as part of its infrastructure, here’s an example:



your site should have a review feature as part of its infrastructure
Image source: sourceforge.net


The problem is, the biggest number of e-commerce sites simply do not get that much traffic to generate the required amount of reviews.

The inbound traffic is even much smaller for a small local business which has a limited target audience.

This should be disconcerting since people tend to choose products that have more reviews as opposed to merely based on the average rating of the review according to a Psychological Science study. This means that a higher number of reviews increases your chances of making more sales.

It is therefore more important to encourage more customers to review your products than it is to focus on getting reviews from your happiest band of clienteles. This is where local business review platforms and websites come in.

Put simply, businesses (more importantly small businesses) need to hop on to local business review platforms like Google, Foursquare, Yelp!, Angie’s list and Consumer reports and start managing their online reputation to broaden their funnel top for more reviews.


Local business reviews best practices

To make the most of your business’ reviews, there are a set of do’s and don’ts that you need to observe carefully.

One common habit is to try and moderate your reviews to ensure that you do not display anything negative in your reviews. While this may seem like a nice way to hide your business’ limitations as reported by your customers, it is more helpful to respond to such negative reviews and actually addressing the concerns raised instead.

Customers will trust your business better if they find out that you actually act upon the concerns they raise. This way, some of the customers who initially had a negative experience with your business might return to give you a favorable rating.

Notice that having only positive reviews will only make you lose credibility since it is unnatural for every product on your ecommerce site to have only excellent, 5-star reviews.

Here are some best practices to ensure you have your best foot forward.


1. Start with Google

Google is hands down the most important review site because of its unparalleled prominence, that you should capitalize your review strategy on.

According to Review Trackers, Google is dominating the review market, with 6 in every 10 consumers now looking to Google for local business reviews. Leveraging Google for your reviews therefore means that you are presenting your business before the eyes of tons of potential customers.

Suppose someone is searching for your type of business on Google, the search results that really stand out are those in the local pack.

Below are the results for a local search for business consultants in Toronto:


Reviews on Google Local Pack


This way, your business will most likely appear prominently on the local search results if you have updated your business information on your Google My Business listing.

Once you have verified your business listing, the business will be eligible to appear on Google’s local search results, Google Maps and other services related to Google.

Chances are that your business name will appear on the local pack for local searches that are relevant to your business.

Notice however that customers are drawn to products or brands with more reviews. So, you want to ensure your business has enough reviews to draw the attention of searchers to actually click on the result.


2. Diversify into other well ranking review sites

Once you have your Google reviews sorted out and your business is looking good on this giant platform, your next prudent step is to diversify into other sites that are ranking well for relevant keywords.

There are two reasons why this sort of diversification will pay off;

  • One, these sites themselves will drive a high number of leads to your website because they are more visible on Google search results. As a result, the sites transfer that visibility to your own business site that is listed on them.
  • Two, they are ranking boosters on Google itself since they will transfer some of their domain authority to your own Google My Business listing. The more listings you have on authority sites the more ranking benefit you realize.

Note: some of these review sites list businesses from the top based on the number of reviews a business has. Earning just one more review on your business may make a big ranking difference, so it is important that you keep soliciting reviews from your customers.

Here are a few ways through which you can solicit reviews from customers.

  • Create a Review Us page on your business website and link it to your major review profiles on the respective platforms where your business is listed.
  • Gather customer emails at the point of service and send them requests for reviews soon after the time of service.
  • Include a request for review on your print materials issued out at the time of service such as receipts, business cards and handouts.
  • Ask your customers personally for a review at the end of a transaction. Many of them will appreciate the gesture and personalized request for their opinion.
  • Use your social media networks to ask your audiences specific questions about given aspects of your business – directing the people to respond by leaving a review on their chosen platform(s) from among a range of options you provide them with.
  • Respond to as many reviews on the various review platforms, encouraging people to provide their opinions about your business.


3. Never stop looking for reviews

It is critical to keep your reviews recent since 44 percent of consumers only consider a review to be relevant if it was written within one month. This opinion will vary from industry to industry, yes, but it is still important not to disregard it. It might apply to your industry.


4. Track the outcomes of your reviews and make adjustments wherever needed

The most effective way to measure the effectiveness of any marketing strategy is to track it all the way. Reviews are not any different. Be sure to keep track of the outcomes of every review acquisition strategy. This will help you know which strategies are yielding the best results so that you can reallocate your resources more appropriately.


How local reviews impact your business

Reviews represent the ongoing conversation about your business that your customers are having online. Such user generated content influences customer decisions about your business even more than search engines themselves, according to a study.

A separate study by Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of adults below the age of 50 years routinely check business or product reviews before buying new products.

In the United States, a whopping 40 percent of adults almost always (or always) check online reviews before they buy a product on the internet, with only 16 percent never checking them.

Online reviews are even more important if you are targeting the 18- to 29-year-old demographic because these customers always (or almost always) check online reviews while deciding to make online purchases.

PowerReviews and Spiegel Research Center also found that adding reviews to your online marketing arsenal can improve conversions by up to 270 percent on an average.

More interestingly, higher priced items tend to experience an even higher increase in conversion rates when there are reviews; up to 380 percent.

While this study recorded the greatest conversion rates for products with higher ratings (between 4.0 and 4.7), it observed, nonetheless, that having negative reviews among the positive ones can be a good thing.

These observations are echoed by the findings of this study published on Reevoo Blog. According to the study, customers spend more than five times as long on a site when they interact with negative reviews, have more trust for the reviews, and more importantly; convert about 85 percent more often.

This does not necessarily mean that poor overall star rating is perfect for business. Rather, the point is that diversity, which arises from having some negative reviews alongside the positive ones in your ratings, is likely to evoke more trust from your audiences.

When people trust your ratings, you are likely to realize better conversion rates. This is all the more so when the consumer finds these negative reviews informative about the product.


Wrap up

Online reviews, or the discussion that goes on about your brand online, is clearly not something within your control. Even so, there are various steps or actions that you can take to significantly influence this discussion or contribute to building a lasting, favorable reputation for your business. The tips contained in this writeup should help.