Not many business owners realize this, but search engine optimization (SEO) is closely linked to online reputation.
Local SEO services or search engine optimization services aim to overcome the challenges of discoverability and findability. For example, local search optimization uses target keywords to improve search rankings. But by using location keywords, a local SEO consultant can help brands appear in location-specific search results.
Unfortunately, one element often neglected is the importance of online reviews and their impact on local online visibility.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO, like traditional SEO, refers to the methods used to improve search rankings. One fundamental difference, though, is that local SEO intends to capture the audience in a specific location. Traditional SEO, on the other hand, intends to improve search visibility on a national or global scale.
Many strategies, measures, and optimization techniques for local and traditional SEO are the same. So, instead of picking one over the other, you can make them work together to bring better results. In most cases, a local SEO company would ensure that a website conforms to traditional SEO. Next is applying local SEO strategies so that consumers from the community or city can find your business.
At the very least, local SEO can enhance search discoverability and findability. Without other strategies, such as quality reviews, there should already be a considerable increase in site visitors. But by combining local search optimization and online review management tactics, the click-through rates would be higher, resulting in much more organic traffic.
How Local SEO Works
After learning “What is local SEO?” the next thing to understand is how it works.
Features of Search Engine Results Page (SERP):
SERP is the page that Google, Bing and other search engines return after users submit a search query. Besides the traditional organic results, this page includes pay-per-click (PPC) ads. SEO aims to optimize pages/posts to appear on page one of the SERP, where most organic traffic originates.
Besides those features, SERP also shows other information aiming to meet search intent, which can be informational, commercial, navigational, or transactional.
Search engines like Google want to provide the best user search experience. Hence, one thing it does is provide the most relevant information as users intend. For instance, if a user is looking for a business, the results Google provides factor in the user’s location.
Rather than make users dig for information by clicking on paid and organic search results, Google may also display rich snippets, such as the following:
- Knowledge Panels
- People Also Ask
- Knowledge Panels
- Related Searches
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
A couple of things to note about these snippets are:
- Pages that appear on a SERP snippet may not be in the top 10 search results. It is also referred to as Position Zero if it sits between the paid and organic search results.
- SERP snippets provide information that users want to see without the need to visit one or more pages. Often, they take away traffic from those in the traditional results. A local SEO agency can help brands appear in snippets to increase visibility, site visitors and customer acquisition.
Above is an example of Position Zero. As you can see, the featured snippet appears on top of the SERP. Hence, users are either satisfied with the information automatically generated by Google or will click to open the page to read more. As a result, Thrive’s article on using content marketing to improve customer retention is more likely to grab more organic traffic than other results.
Examples of Local SEO in SERP Snippets
Again, to be clear, the traditional results in SERPs may be location-specific. But the prominence of search result snippets makes them coveted as they can significantly drive organic traffic.
Above is an example of local SEO at work. Google assumed that people searching for “best hotels in Dallas” plan to visit Dallas and are looking for accommodation. Hence, the featured snippet shows a map with hotels flagged. In addition, the snippet also prominently displayed four hotels with prices, star ratings, number of online reviews and other information.
The four hotels mentioned already have the upper hand in capturing users. According to Google, 76 percent of people who conducted a local search visit a physical place within 24 hours. But more importantly, 28 percent result in a purchase. So in the case of the hotels featured, they should capture more leads and convert at a higher rate.
One thing to note is that ratings and reviews matter too. So more businesses are now incorporating online review management strategies in local SEO to increase lead acquisition and brand value.
In the previous example, the intent is evident as the query includes a location keyword. But many search terms do not have a geographical reference, such as “digital marketing company” in the above example. Regardless, Google’s algorithm will still consider location as a ranking factor.
People who search for “digital marketing company” most likely have commercial or transactional intent. So the results will be agencies near the user’s location, as determined by the user’s IP address.
In the example provided, Google determined that the user was from Dallas. So the results it delivered are businesses from Dallas. Companies that do not optimize their site and content for local SEO and collect quality reviews miss out on opportunities to grab visitors from local search results.
How Online Reviews Affect Local SEO
Traditional SEO comprises the following:
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
Local SEO, meanwhile, is generally considered a subset of traditional SEO.
The most common strategy to boost local search optimization is inserting location keywords in pages and posts. But that alone is not good enough. A reputable and professional local SEO agency would use techniques that address how Google determines local business search rankings.
- Relevance. Google uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), among others, to understand the context of the content. Its purpose is to deliver relevant information that best meets user search intents. So a prerequisite to any SEO effort on the content side is to provide high-value pages/posts.
- Distance. In local search results, the assumption is that the user needs or wants to do business. Hence, it makes sense that Google prioritizes businesses that are physically close to the user.
- Prominence. Among the many SEO techniques, one that matters greatly to local SEO is prominence. Online reviews, for instance, serve as trust signals that Google uses to identify businesses that can offer the best solution to users.
To illustrate the importance of quality reviews, consider a hotel as an example. Usually, the hotels that stand out in local SERPs have high numbers of four to five-star ratings and positive reviews. So, a competitor with little to no reviews is not likely to appear in local search results and SERP snippets.
How Online Review Management Boost Local SEO
As mentioned in the previous section, the three main factors that Google considers in determining local search ranking are relevance, distance and prominence.
In most cases, relevance is determined by the local SEO consultant and content writing team. Not only do they need to incorporate targeted location keywords in pages and posts, but they also need to create high-value pieces that address the appropriate stage in the sales funnel/buyer’s journey.
Distance refers to businesses’ proximity to a particular user. To this end, there is not much that SEO and content writers can do beyond using keywords that target specific locations, as Google derives the location based on the user’s IP address.
Prominence is another matter, as much of it concerns a brand’s online reputation. If there is one element that plays a massive role in boosting local SEO, then that would be online reviews.
So, how do online customer reviews help improve search visibility?
Businesses with higher reviews and above-average star ratings are more likely to appear in SERP snippets, such as Local 3-Pack or Knowledge Panel. It is why many companies are hiring a local SEO company to generate customer reviews or monitor online reviews.
Traditional SEO improves discoverability, while local SEO boosts findability. Online reviews and ratings, meanwhile, enhance local SEO by making a business more prominent in search results.
Being more prominent in SERP, in more ways than one, boosts discoverability and increases conversion rates. As a result, the business can generate more quality leads and revenues.
Here is a case study of a multiple-location restoration and reconstruction firm that has rebuilt thousands of properties across the United States since 1948.
After being acquired by a new investor, the firm partnered with Thrive Internet Marketing Agency, replacing the previous digital marketing service provider for lack of transparency and poor service quality.
Among the many challenges, such as merging two domains without losing traffic and rankings, is improving brand awareness. In addition, the firm wants to improve local search rankings in the 22 locations it operates.
Without going much into the details, Thrive implemented these strategies:
- Technical audit and SEO
- Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
- Local SEO, including Google Business Profile (previously Google My Business) setup and performance audit
- Pay-per-click (PPC) management
- Social media marketing (SMM) management
- Online reputation management
The results, to say the least, had been spectacular:
- +93.46 percent in organic search traffic
- +295.69 percent in the top five keyword rankings
- +20,016,600 impressions
- +4,316,272 people reached through social media ads
Note: You can discover more insights about your company and brand when you monitor online reviews. This information is valuable in improving your products/service, customer interactions and relationships. Some companies have even identified new markets and created more value propositions to expand their business.
How To Determine the Effectiveness of Online Reviews in Local SEO
Unknown to companies that do not have an online reputation management strategy, there might already be mentions of their brand – these range from ratings to reviews, posts and comments on review sites and social media networks.
The most significant disadvantage of failing to monitor online reviews is missing the chance to respond and appease disappointed customers, such as in the case of negative reviews. So instead of building a solid relationship, the brand’s reputation takes a hit, resulting in customer attrition and more difficulty acquiring new customers.
The solution is simple. Engage the service of a reputation manager or agency to enhance brand reputation. Usually, one of the first steps taken is to conduct an online reputation audit. For example, Rize Reputation Audit Report measures a brand’s reputation using four factors.
Besides the number of customer reviews and star ratings, they must also be fresh. So there is a need to collect new online reviews, and they have to be honest opinions. Avoid buying fake reviews because it often does not end well. Already, many companies were caught doing that and fined heavily by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Suffice it to say an online reputation audit can tell if you are doing enough to boost your local search optimization strategy. A high score indicates that you have enough new reviews. However, the score changes over time. So one of the jobs of a reputation management company is to monitor areas to keep working on to improve the score.
Enhance Your Local SEO Services Using Online Reviews
Local SEO can significantly increase your customers if you sell products or services to consumers in your community, neighborhood, city, or state. In most cases, it is a value-added service to SEO packages.
At its most basic practice, SEO consultants and content writing teams create pages/posts incorporating location keywords. But this strategy may work only to a degree. So if you want to truly capitalize on the benefits of a proper local SEO strategy, then make sure you have an online review generation strategy.
Online reviews help your brand be more visible on local searches. In addition, they enhance your brand reputation and help increase click-through rates for higher organic traffic online and visits to physical stores.
For more information, consult Rize consultants for free. Our specialists can conduct an online reputation audit of your brand and discuss strategies to enhance your brand presence and solidify your local search rankings.