We like to say that positive online reviews is how customers find out if they can trust a business. But recently, it appears as though reviews are playing a growing role in whether customers can even find a business.

Here’s the skinny: in late April 2017, Google added a review average filter to the local pack search function for qualitative local searches —and it starts at 4+ stars by default! Essentially this means that when someone searches “Best Thai Food Toronto” for example, Google is doubling down on its effort to present only the highest customer reviewed options.

We caught wind of this update from a great article written by Conrad Saam for Search Engine Land, and we thought why not ring him up for the podcast and let him do some explaining?  Conrad was a wealth of knowledge and had some great insight on the new update including how he’s going to approach it tactically as a marketer, and some personal stories from the front lines of working in the legal vertical in Seattle. I encourage you to take a listen. Here are three of my favorite points of advice from Conrad:

You can’t be everything to everyone

Conrad works exclusively in the legal vertical, and his perspective is that his agency Mockingbird Marketing “is going to be the best within one certain category”.

This focus can take two forms: you can either narrow the focus into a particular vertical and be great across marketing functions for that vertical, or you can focus on a marketing function (social, email, SEO, etc.) and work across verticals. The point here is whatever you decide, gain a laser focus and become a true expert at it.

Good online reviews starts with a good product/service

Sometimes as marketers we can forget this. But as we begin the process of working with a new client, it is so important to keep this in mind and adjust your strategy and goals accordingly. As Conrad puts it “if the chocolate cake doesn’t taste good, you aren’t going to get good reviews, and nothing is going to change that.” Most marketers are always up for a challenge, but sometimes things are beyond your control.

Find those super happy customers

Actively asking for reviews can be a little risky. Even if the product or service is top notch, unfortunate situations can happen and sometimes asking for a review in the wrong way can elicit a negative response. With this in mind, the goal should be to first actively seek out those customers that the business is sure had a great experience. Keep in mind this isn’t the entirety of the quest for reviews, but this should be the starting point. If we can get that positive review momentum going early we can it bodes well for the entire process.

One last takeaway

Taking a wider perspective, the most important lesson might be to acknowledge that Google is continuing to progress towards a focus on each word in a query, including qualitative ones, when brewing up its search ranking. With that in mind the focus for a small business must be towards a completely holistic and winning presence online. Positive online reviews play a huge role in this; it’s how customers know they can trust a business. And now more than ever, it is a big part of how local businesses rank online.

For even more great stuff on online reviews check out this industry leading blog from Vendasta on "How to respond to online reviews good and bad"

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