The importance of accumulating genuine and honest reviews of your services via authoritative online business and social hubs is ever increasing, and although you may have all the other elements of your local search strategy covered, the power of review data should not be underestimated.
Preparing your site for local SEO – the basics
Just to recap, it’s worth briefly highlighting some of the basic actions you should incorporate into your local SEO strategy.
- Include the official and registered address of your company on your website in html format. Place this in the footer (or header depending on the design) of the website so that the address displays on each page of the site.
- Include the phone number of your website in a similar manner to the footer, and be sure to include the local area code.
- Optimise the crucial elements of your pages with your location where applicable (title tags, H1 tags, image alt tags, body copy etc).
- Claim your Google + Local page and populate this with as much information as the profile allows.
- Build some links to your site, and make sure that you establish profiles on trusted citation sites such as Yelp, Qype, Four Square and Trip Advisor
- Be sure to include the address in exactly the same format each time you reference your company online.
- Become active in how you obtain and represent review data.
What part do reviews play for local SEO?
Since Google’s Venice update in early 2012, organic search results have become, and continue to be, increasingly blended to return information on local companies, places and services.
One of the key objectives of the Venice update was to remove an over reliance on location based modifiers as part of a complete search query. This over reliance has been achieved in part, by placing more emphasis on the location of the user via geo-targeting, often based on IP addresses and GPS signals.
The search engines also rely on a varied range of signals, one of which is the quantity and authority of reviews which are left by customers online. Other signals will of course include the content of the website, the websites link profile and its popularity.
Where should your customers leave reviews about your company?
Prompting your customers to leave reviews about your company on your Google+ Local page should be your first priority.
Try to make it simple for your customers to leave reviews – if you have a database of email addresses, filter out the customers who have a Google Mail account and point them in the direction of your Google + Local company page. Reviews left from people with an active user account and Google + profile are likely to appear more authoritative.
It is also beneficial for people to leave reviews about your company on a selection of trusted online business listings and social hubs. Sites such as Yelp, Qype, Four Square and Trip Advisor, with an active and varied community, are at the forefront of local-social search.
These sites are easy to register an account with, and users can gain access via other social sites such as Facebook, making them a convenient way for people to search, interact with and review services within their local communities. These types of sites also have popular apps for mobile devices which again make accessing information for the user incredibly convenient. I would recommend that all businesses wanting to benefit from local search sign up and claim their local presence on these sites.
You should also give your customers the option to leave reviews and provide feedback to you directly, and look to implement this into your site where applicable. You may want to build a specific testimonial or review page to incorporate this data as part of the information available on specific products or services.
How can you make the most of the review data?
To further improve the presentation and visibility of your web pages in the search results you can add rich snippets to your website. Using structured markup on your web pages you can make it easier for humans and search engines, such as Google, to establish the nature of your content.
If you have review data on your site then use structured markup to inform the search engines of the nature of the content and help them to correlate it with your business. Use the hReview micro-format to structure your review data and give your web pages the best possible chance to display review data in the search results.
Depending on the search query, successfully implemented rich snippets will display golden stars beneath your search listings, and rich snippets have been proven to greatly improve click through rates.
To further build on your existing local SEO strategy and make the most of review data you will need to consider:
- How easy it is for your customers to leave reviews about your company
- Where they are leaving the reviews for your company in order to get the maximum benefit
- How you mark up your web pages to help the search engines understand your data and enable rich snippets to be displayed in the search results.