It’s Friday night and you’re starving. You just finished hauling the last of the boxes up to the 5th floor of your apartment complex. Since you haven’t had time to visit the local grocer, your refrigerator reminds you of your college years – eggs, a six-pack of beer, and hot sauce in the side-door… That’s not going to cut it. You’re in a new city anyways, so you decide to hit the town in search of what you’re hoping will be your new favorite restaurant. You think to yourself, “Everything is so new… the weather, the way people drive, the radio stations, and certainly the local businesses.” There is, however, one thing that hasn’t changed. That constant factor is your cell phone and your ability to search and access local content on-the-go.
Given the scenario above, people generally take one of two actions:
- Open Google Chrome and search some variation of “best restaurants near me.” According to SEMrush, this is searched an average of 3.3 million times per month. (Personally, I try to avoid “best ______ near me” searches due to Moz’s most recent local ranking study that suggests proximity is the number one rank factor for local queries. I want the best results, not necessarily the closest.)
- Go to Yelp, TripAdvisor, or another third-party local App.
Local on-the-go search scenarios like this take place millions of times every month. In fact, Yelp averages 26 million unique mobile users per month (Yelp).
While it’s necessary for local businesses to acknowledge and be present across the various avenues of the local search ecosystem, it’s more important to understand how to convert local intent. A recent Nielsen survey (commissioned by Yelp) argues review sites drive higher conversions than search and social media. The survey of 2,000 US adults found that 92 percent of respondents said they “at least sometimes, frequently or almost always” made a purchase after visiting Yelp (Search Engine Land).
All other components of a local search listing help your business’ visibility, but reviews convert. Certainly, local rank factors like optimized Google My Business listings, quality links, and the consistency of citations are vital for local SEO success. But if your business has a 1-star rating on Google and Yelp, all that hard work goes to waste. Let’s go back to the opening scenario. You searched “best restaurants near me” and the local pack returned three results: one has a 1.5-star rating, one has a 3.2, and lastly 4.7. I wonder which local business is going to win the conversion…
Here’s a baseball analogy. Having an optimized local business with poor reviews is like a baseball team that wins eight innings consistently but has a terrible closing pitching that blows the game in the last inning. You want the save. You want the conversion. You want Mariano Rivera on the mound.
Create Review Acquisition Strategies
As a business owner, why wouldn’t you create review campaigns? Reviews are permanent word-of-mouth billboards. Encourage reviews from your customers and make the process as easy as possible. Apart from Yelp, review platforms like Google allow businesses to proactively create review acquisition strategies. Visit this link for more on Yelp’s strict review guidelines.
How to Increase Your Business Reviews on Google
Building up your reservoir of reviews is not as difficult as it may seem. Below are eight tips for earning reviews on Google.
- Review acquisition campaigns are not sprints. Take time to gradually roll out review campaigns and tactics to avoid being penalized or appearing unauthentic.
- Email your customers. Your email subscribers are among your most loyal customers. Provide an easy way for them to voice their love for your brand. Within the email, provide links to pages where users can leave reviews.
- Link to your Google My Business profile page from your store locator pages on your website.
- Provide incentives.
- Invest heavily in staff training and continual education. Empowered and knowledgeable employees create customer experiences that leave users wanting to leave positive reviews.
- Leave postcards at point of purchase locations within your stores encouraging and instructing customers how to leave reviews.
- Create a review page on your domain.
- Proactively read and respond to reviews left on your profiles. You don’t have to respond to all of them, but doing so shows that your business is engaged. Responding also shows there are empathetic people behind the scenes and that you’re not just another big-box retailer.
We all know Google is the big player and it’s important to optimize GMB profiles, but my prediction is that the use of apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor will continue to grow. Since inception, Yelp has accumulated 127 million reviews. If you have a local business, I strongly recommend auditing not only your Google profiles, but Yelp and other third-party local directories as well to ensure you’re not leaving any conversions on the table. Remember: optimizations help your visibility, but reviews convert.
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