There's no denying the impact that ratings and reviews (both good and bad) have on conversions, but many site owners overlook their SEO importance as well (and often don't mark up their pages so that star ratings appear on the search engine result pages directly) - this is a mistake.
In fact, Moz's search rankings report indicates that review signals - on site and on third parties - make up nearly 10 percent of overall ranking factors. The search engines are looking at review quantity, review velocity, review diversity and more to understand a site's authority, relevancy and even customer experience.
With those factors in mind, let's look at 10 ways to get more reviews for SEO.
Retailers, information publishers and service providers should encourage customers/readers/clients to leave reviews for their offerings and the best way to do so is via email. The majority of reviews left come from a post-purchase email, so it's important that companies not only send the email, but also leverage best practices such as mobile optimization, strong calls-to-action, short subject lines, etc. Social media, account pages and in-app notifications are other places to ask for reviews.
If there is any friction when leaving a review customers will abandon the process and the company will be stuck with fewer reviews and fewer chances to be seen as a valuable, authoritative company to the search engines and prospective customers. Types of friction can include: a customer can't start and complete it on their mobile devices, they have to remember login credentials (a strong case for social login or "remember me" authentication), the form is bulky or complicated, there are broken links in the email and the list goes on. The review process should be tested from start to finish and on multiple devices and browsers.
Reviews left by verified buyers add credibility, and fellow buyers want to be in good company when they offer their experience. By verifying and showing that a person has experience with the product or service, it can encourage other customers to leave reviews as they are not taking part in fraudulent ratings.
Not all reviewers need to be incentivized to review a product or service, but it can help. Fabletics, for instance, offers 20 points for each product review, which can be used toward the purchase of an item. Customers can track their points, which increases engagement and encourages them to leave more.
The actual ratings and reviews vendor that a company uses can be a wealth of information for how to encourage customers to leave more reviews. Contact a company representative who may be able to review your current initiatives and provide ways to improve them. PowerReviews, for example, recommends to its customers that they send post-purchase review requests on their behalf to ensure they follow best practices (like asking the right questions) and have the best chance of generating reviews.
When it comes to local search queries in particular, the reviews left on third-party sites have higher ranking implications than reviews left on site (according to the previously mentioned Moz report).
Businesses across all industries will want to ensure basic info like (name, address and phone number) are up to date on directories such as yelp, yp.com, Manta, Google My Business, etc. If a company's info is wrong, customers may question whether it's the right business or they may think it's not worth their time if the company itself can't take the time to ensure accuracy.
Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on gifts each year; retailers would be wise to ask gift givers to leave reviews to understand (1) what made them buy, (2) who the present was intended for and (3) how it was ultimately received by the recipient.
While fellow gift givers might be more inclined to leave reviews if they see their peers doing so, there is also SEO value in that different language will naturally be used to describe the gift-giving experience. Check out these best practices for capturing reviews from gift givers.
Not only will the search engines look down on reviews with foul language and those not topically relevant, but customers will also be less likely to add their opinions to a page because they are the company they keep. A company should look its ratings and reviews vendor to understand the moderation process for that particular software.
For example with PowerReviews, all reviews are moderated and put through anti-fraud technology. While a profanity filter is also used, every piece of content must be moderated by a human because machine moderation may miss certain innuendos or descriptions of uses, which are not appropriate but the filter didn't pick them up because the words used didn't cause concern.
While not all negative reviews are "bad" per say - because what could be a turn off to one customer may actually help another (like a shirt was too loose or services were more for a smaller business than a larger one) - merchants, service providers and info publishers should consider responding to them in thoughtful ways (e.g., professional, polite and genuine). By adding additional content to reviews, this can work for an SEO advantage and encourage more users to leave more reviews without fear or retribution or being mocked - rather they may find an owner to be helpful. In order to respond, however, brands need to be listening and that takes them across the Web like social, directories and more. Check out this "5-Point Checklist for Handling Negative Reviews."
The content that is included on a website is not only helpful in the initial conversion process, but can also assist a reviewer to use the language that will best rank a company. By including writing prompts - like using descriptive keywords in the questions themselves or fully educating a consumer on the product like through the product descriptions - customers may feel more comfortable writing a review because they understand the lingo.
It's important to remember that not everyone is comfortable typing and using the English language, so by asking direct, relevant and, perhaps, leading questions, companies may be able to put them at ease.
How do you encourage customers to leave more reviews? Let us know in the comments below!