Citations are an important component of any successfully visible website, and this ideal has stood true right back to the primordial days of the internet when Google would rank pages solely on the number of external links that any given website had pointing to it. Today tactics such as getting listed on questionable online directories isn’t just lazy, it can be detrimental to your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign. There are numerous ways to gain favourable citations to your website, but in this Blackboard Monday article we’re going to focus on how user reviews affect your rankings and why you need to start pushing for them to boost your SEO efforts and the visibility of your website.
User reviews have two clear advantages, they give potential clients and those who currently use your service a simple way to find out how reputable your business is, and they also can give your SEO campaign a boost by acting as a citation to your website from an external source. To start with we’ll look into the positive effect that good reviews can have on your website from a marketing perspective.
Like so many things that we used to do in the real world with people we met in person before the internet was prevalent, online user reviews have effectively made a way to easily access and spread ‘word of mouth’ feedback about any given site, product or service. Many of us have utilised user reviews to make our opinions heard, but also in our decision making online, and whilst at the time we may have through little of them, user reviews they can be quite powerful. For example; if you were looking to purchase a new tablet on a site such as Amazon, and for the sake of argument we’ll say that in this instance you had no real preference towards an Apple, Android or Windows tablet (although we know that many of you do), you would weigh up the pros and cons of each available device and potentially narrow your choice down to around two devices that meet your needs and requirements. Without going into a store to try out these devices you’re at the mercy of the copy that Amazon has on their site to build an opinion of which of these two devices are best for you. In these situations it can come down to user reviews to make a decision. If one of your two choices has an average user rating of 4 stars but the other has 4.5 stars you’ll likely want to choose the one with more favourable reviews, but further to this you can read user feedback to find answers to some of the questions that you may have had about each device. This ethos applies to your website too, from reviews directed at the usability of your website and how easy it was for previous users to access your content or pay for products and services, through to reviews of your customer service and of course of your actual products and services. These reviews, which of course will be positive (we hope), are there to fill potential clients with confidence about you, your website and your online offerings.
A Quick Bit about Citations
As we’ve mentioned already reviews can act as citations, effectively meaning that you’ve scored a natural user generated link to your website. Google really digs these, they’re natural and provided you don’t abuse the system and start creating phoney accounts to post your own reviews under the guise of a customer user reviews are highly beneficial, and will give a boost to your SEO campaign.
Where User Reviews are Worthwhile
There are numerous websites out there where user reviews can be beneficial, but don’t just focus on external user reviews and considering posting them in the most obvious place; your own website. Many of the websites that we design and develop at Michael Bell One come with a testimonials page where clients can leave a review of your products, services or website for you to go through and place online. It’s important to keep in mind that clarity is important if you’re going to place user reviews on your own website, particularly if you don’t plan to post bad reviews. Make it clear that you have a process in place and that you’ll choose which reviews will be placed online. You can always use the bad reviews as a way to contact disgruntled visitors and clients to find out specifically what it is that they didn’t like about your service if it isn’t clear from their review and also discover what they feel that you could do better in the future. It’s also important to have a mix of glowing user reviews and just generally positive ones to lend an element of believability to the user review that you’re posting, but we’ll touch on this topic shortly.
Google+ is a great place for your visitors and clients to leave user reviews. These reviews will become visible under your listing or in the knowledge graph on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) once you have received over 5 of them. This can be seen in the listing above for Computer Systems Engineers (CSE) who provides IT Support from West Sussex. It’s been known for Google to give a preferential sway to companies who have a number of positive Google+ ratings such as those that CSE have, and for some companies they can see a push in their rankings as a result of this.
There are countless user review sites out there where it’s possible for people to leave reviews for your website, products and services. Yelp is used by a whole host of different websites with a focus on local business, TripAdvisor is invaluable to the leisure, tourism and catering trades, Checkatrade has become very popular amongst trades people such as builders, electricians and plumbers. To find the most effective place to direct your clients to write their reviews a simple Google search can be all you need. By searching for your industry, service or product followed by the term review you can easily find sites where reviews relevant to you are being left, so for instance searching for “electrician reviews” will reveal sites such as MyBuilder, Trustatrader and the aforementioned Checkatrade.
You Don’t Want 100%
It might seem counter intuitive to say this, but you don’t want 100% positive user reviews, especially on sites such as Google+. We know that the mentality of always giving 100% and the theoretically impossible 110% is prominent, and we totally get where you’re coming from, but remember that these reviews are intended to be from real people. Consider this, if you were reading reviews for a film and all of them were 10 out of 10, two thumbs up, 5 stars, you would be suspicious of how genuine each review was. The ideal of perfection should always be aimed for, but remember to err is human. It’s impossible to please everyone and Google knows this, which is why it views numerous positive reviews for any site with suspicion, as should anyone else. It’s just not natural to have unanimous approval, so don’t panic if some of your reviews are less than positive, provided that the rest are favourable you’ll be demonstrating a more natural review score and both Google and your clients will be less concerned that you’ve paid for reviews and believe that they are more genuine.
Having a stream of customer reviews is highly beneficial, but you might be wondering what the best approach to gaining user reviews is. There are a few approaches that you can take that are effective at gaining more online user reviews, but there are also a number of pitfalls that you want to avoid. It’s important to be aware that many sites have strict guidelines for their user review process that can forbid you from requesting clients to write reviews, offering incentives such as freebies or discount codes, so please be aware of these before proceeding with any of the following approaches.
Ethical User Review Tactics
For many review sites it’s perfectly acceptable to provide a link to a review website from your own, and this can be a great way to give your visitors an easy way to find review sites to provide feedback. It doesn’t hurt to produce some print materials if you’re going to see a customer when performing a service, or if you’re going to send them a physical product to use your printed materials to point them in the direction of online review sites. It also makes sense to train your staff to point clients in the direction of these sites upon completion of a service or during a follow up call or email to check how a customer found your service or product. Don’t be afraid to let your client use their initiative and review you wherever they see fit, there are ways to track links to your site and to find out where you’ve been reviewed, and at Michael Bell One we can help you with this. By waiting to see where your clients will review you will initially make it more difficult to find their reviews, but it does ensure that you’ll have diversity in your reviews.
Bad User Review Practice
Generally it’s considered bad practice to provide review stations in your place of business, as it places pressure on your client to write a review right there and then and can skew your results, so avoid this. Whatever you do don’t write fake reviews on review sites, this is a shady practice and you run the risk of getting caught out by the review site, by your current and prospective clients and by Google. It’s a risk that we recommend avoiding. Equally avoid paying a third party to write fake reviews, whether they’re posting them in the guise of a customer or on behalf of a genuine customer; you face the same risks as posting the review yourself. It can be difficult to avoid but if you receive too many reviews in one hit you can be caught out by filters at review sites as well as at Google, so if possible scale back the push for user reviews amongst your clients if they happen to be particularly vocal.
Reviews take time to acquire, so if your business or website are relatively new don’t be disheartened if you don’t see a slew of positive user reviews popping up online immediately, it takes time to build up a reputation online. Following some of the tips that we have listed can help to increase the chances that your clients will leave a user review for you, but at Michael Bell One we feel that it is vital to ensure that you follow a few important steps to begin with. Of course you want to make sure that your infrastructure and product is of a high standard that you are worthy of good reviews in the first place; this goes without saying. You also want to ensure that you have a website that reflects the standard of quality that your business stands for, and for this you need to ensure that you have people working on your website who know what they’re doing, who can provide you with an engaging design that is matched by an exceptional development build. You want to ensure that your website provides an intuitive ease of use so that it’s not just your content, products and services that your visitors and clients are impressed with, but your online presence too. A SEO campaign will provide you with increased visibility, and coupled with a branding service you can ensure that your online presence is clear, positive and beneficial.
At Michael Bell One our design team have vast experience of providing engaging cutting edge designs that our talented development team make a reality utilising expert coding methods. We ensure that your visitors are provided with an online experience that will ensure that they enjoy the experience of using your website as much as they do your products and services. If you want to find out more you can get in touch with me (Jake Judd) or David Park using our online contact form, by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling our Lewes office on 01273 478822, and we’ll be more than happy to discuss how the team at Michael Bell One can help you.