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Harness the power of local SEO through customer reviews

Small-business owners know that customer review sites are important tools for local search marketing strategy, but what many don't realize is that the number of reviews a business receives affects its local SEO.

How does this work? Google instituted its Venice Update in 2012, which uses localized signals to produce search results for each customer. For example, if a customer is looking for a mechanic in Memphis, Tennessee, it is no longer necessary for the customer to specify location. Instead, the customer only needs to search "mechanic" and Google will produce all local results.

To do this, Google crawls through review sites to locate geographic location and keywords, and the more reviews a business has, the more frequently Google looks for new keywords. To maximize local search benefits, small businesses should make sure to claim their pages on Google Plus Local, Yelp, Bing and Foursquare, among others.

Here are some tactics to encourage customers to post reviews to these sites:

Tell customers
Small businesses should have a strategy for asking customers to post reviews, and all staff members should be aware of this plan, which can include which sites customers should visit to post their reviews or when to ask customers to post reviews. For example, a restaurant might decide to have its servers hand out cards that tell customers where to post a review, or a florist might make it a policy to ask customers who approach them with positive feedback to write a review. Because local businesses are so well-connected to their communities, sometimes simply asking a customer is the easiest way to go.

Use auto-responders
Auto-responders send emails to customers who have recently made a purchase, asking them to write a review online. These emails should be short and provide a direct link to the review site to maximize the ease for small-business customers.

Talk to your fans
Small businesses should leverage their social media presence to garner customer reviews. The key here is to connect closely with fans by having contests, thanking specific fans on Facebook, sharing updated business information and replying promptly and publicly (when necessary) to Facebook comments or Twitter tags from customers. Then, when it comes time to post a link and ask customers for their valuable time writing a review, they will be more likely to help out.

Additionally, as part of a small business' local SEO strategy, it's important to keep all place pages updated with the most current information.

Content Writer: Matt Rowe Matt Rowe Chief Technical Officer

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