Managing reviews and reputation isn’t a new discipline for search consultants and agencies to focus on, but it is gaining prominence as reviews take on more significance in the world of local search.

shutterstock_179555099-ratingsConsumers consult online reviews more regularly in their research process and put an increasing amount of trust in ratings and review sentiment when determining which local business to contact. Seventy-nine percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to the BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey

Reviews also play a significant role in gaining visibility in search. Positive reviews can boost rankings within local search results; but more importantly, they provide standout performance once that page-one placement has been achieved.

So with his growing importance of reviews, how do search marketers approach review management and just how important are reviews vs. other local signals? (e.g., citations).

Expert Survey: Reviews & Reputation Management

We (BrightLocal) wanted to learn how local search experts are handling reviews for their clients and how they construct their review strategies to help with local optimization.

We reached out to 20 knowledgeable and respected local experts and asked them to participate in our survey. We’d like to give a big (BIG) thank you to all those who took part and shared their knowledge and experience with us. A full list of participants can be found here.

We asked them 12 questions focused on their understanding of reviews and review strategies. The following four charts represent some of the key findings of the survey. The full findings and analysis can be found on Brightlocal.com

1. How Important Is Reviews & Reputation Management In Your Services?

Importance of reviews

Key Findings:

  • 35% say that reviews and reputation management is the most important service
  • 65% say that is either most or very important in their services
  • Just 5% say that it is not important

Comments:

The majority of local experts believe that Reviews are of major importance to local optimization. Over one-third say it is the most important part of what they offer. We have seen a growing number of consultants positioning themselves as reputation specialists and focusing their efforts solely on Review Management.

2. What Importance Do You Give These 3 Optimization Tactics?

Each expert assigned an importance weighting from 1 to 10 for each factor  (1 – Low Importance, 10 = Critically Important)

Q5

Key Findings:

  • Local experts assign a very similar weight of importance to all three tactics
  • Citations are considered more important than Reviews
  • Links are considered the least important

Comment:

Citations are considered a more important signal than Reviews and so many SEOs put more significance on getting Citations right. This is evident in Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Study, which shows that ‘Citation’ signals account for 16% of ranking influence vs. 10% for Review signals.

It’s interesting to see that these experts place ‘Links’ behind both citations and reviews. Given the ongoing ‘attack’ by Google on low-quality link tactics, it’s not surprising that many SEOs do place links behind these locally-focused tactics.

Google is devaluing links in favour of other signals (e.g., social) and the future of link-building as a search tactic is very uncertain. While genuine links will always offer some search authority, the act of ‘getting’ links will become harder, and the threat of penalties will push agencies to focus on less volatile and longer-term strategies.

Quote From Local Expert:

“Citations and links are great from a ranking perspective but reviews go so much further in helping to gets new clients or sales. Reviews influence click through, trust, branding, and every other aspect of the presentation of a business.”  — Mike Ramsey, Nifty Marketing

3. Do You Have A Tried & Tested Strategy For Generating Reviews That You Implement For Each Client?

Tried & tested review strategy

Key Findings:

  • 83% use a similar strategy each time
  • 17% devise a new strategy

Comment:

Having a review strategy is essential for providing efficient and cost-effective reputation management. It’s expensive and time consuming to re-invent the wheel for each customer; so, having a blue print approach that can be applied to each new customer is very valuable.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of our experts surveyed say they adopt a similar strategy for each client. Of course, all clients are different, and the elements of the strategy should be tweaked. You may find it useful to have two or three strategies to cover different types of business, e.g., Service Area Businesses vs. Fixed Location businesses.

But the pillars of your strategy will be the same for each client:

  • Targets – how many reviews need to be generated each month
  • Preferred sites – which sites are most important for each client
  • Education – training client/employees on why reviews are important and how to get reviews
  • Communication – how and when to ask for reviews for maximum impact
  • Incentives – make reviews important to employee

Quote From Local Expert: 

“The very best approaches are highly naturalistic in the way in which reviews may be encouraged and influenced – it’s an area where sophistication and subtlety are called-for. Going about this in a clumsy manner can cause a business far more damage than the often marginal benefits that may be associated with reviews.” — Chris Silver Smith, Argent Media

4. What Target Of New Reviews Per Month Do You Set For A Typical Client?

Review target per month

Key Findings:

  • 40% target 2-3 new reviews per month
  • 85% target 1-5 new reviews per month
  • Just 10% target more than 5 reviews per month

Analysis:

It’s interesting to see that most SEOs set such conservative targets for new reviews per month. This target will vary based on the type of business, location and how competitive the market is for a specific client.

I think this highlights three interesting facts about review generation:

1. Quality Beats Quantity – the quality & star rating of reviews is more important than sheer volume.

2. Build Reviews Naturally – it’s important to build reviews in a natural way that is consistent month on month.

3. Don’t Overwhelm Clients – there is often resistance by clients/employees when setting up a review process and you don’t want to overwhelm by setting targets too high.

Quote From Local Expert: 

“This answer to this question varies per client. Some industries like restaurants or hotels can expect a much higher volume of reviews, while in other industries, two reviews per year could be the norm.”  — Darren Shaw, Whitespark

See the full survey findings on BrightLocal.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Myles Anderson is Founder & CEO of BrightLocal.com. BrightLocal provide a unique and specialised set of local SEO tools for SEO Agencies, Freelances and & local business owners. See their Local SEO Research Section for the latest research & survey findings about the local search market.

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