It’s 2018. Your local business clients live, breathe, and die by their performance in local search. Performing well in the local search market is a very complex and demanding task for most, but the results warrant the effort. One the most overlooked elements in climbing local search rankings is properly leveraging your ratings and reviews on Google.

Google is the top search engine in the world, and is one of the most powerful and influential brands that has ever existed. As a result, consumers have grown to place great trust in Google when it comes to making local purchase decisions. However, local businesses need to be equipped with the best possible ratings and reviews if they want to drive real traffic to their storefronts.

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”

Jeff Bezos

Why Online Ratings and Reviews Are So Important

People no longer depend on personal recommendations.

In fact, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And more than 80% of commerce still occurs within a few miles of home or head office.

There was a time when “word-of-mouth” ran supreme, and people turned to their closest friends and relatives for product and service recommendations. Today, however, social media platforms and review sites allow people to publicly share their opinions about a brand across the web, and potentially impact the purchase decisions of hundreds, thousands, or millions of other people.

The data below demonstrates the rapid growth of media platform usage by consumers and local businesses alike. The difference is that consumers have the time to spend on these platforms doing product/service research, but these local businesses increasingly do not have time to actively manage 9+ media sources for advertising, promotion, and reputation management.

digital media consumption

Source: Radicle Consulting

One of the most influential media site categories among these is that of review and listing sites. These sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google form the foundation that is a local businesses digital reputation. Let's explore the connection between all of these popular review sites and the top dog of all things search, Google.

The 4 Elements of Google Ratings and Reviews

The impact of social media combined with an exponential growth in the demand for reviews and ratings have driven the growing consumer dependency on search engines for local recommendations. Well, mostly just one search engine if we’re being honest. These are the 4 rating and review elements that your local clients need to master in order to get the most value out of their local search rankings.

1. Review Rich Snippets

Online real estate is one of the most desirable components of digital marketing. It is also one of the most difficult to claim. But, once claimed, how do you ensure that you are driving the greatest volume of clicks and physical traffic possible for your clients?

You get creative. And using rich snippets is one of the best ways to differentiate your clients from their competitors.

Rich snippets are small pieces of information that can be added to a sites customer facing search result to give it a unique appearance, greater authenticity, and begin to build that consumer trust right away.

Here is an example of a review rich snippet:

review rich snippets

According to Search Engine Land, these “snippets” of review information can generate upwards of a 30% increase in click-through. Snippets are generally an average review score from a third party listing or review site such as Yelp. It is also best practice to source these review snippets from sites that are highly relevant to the product or service that your clients are offering. For example: a local restaurant may want to include a snippet of their Zomato review score.

2. Seller Ratings

Seller ratings are essentially the Google Ad application of rich snippets. Rich snippets must be sourced from other listing sites or directories and appear on organic search results, whereas seller ratings are an automatic markup sourced from roughly 20 different certified review sources and appear strictly on paid Google Ad campaigns.

Here is an example of a seller rating:

seller ratings

It is important to note that seller ratings are not a “choice” like rich snippets, but rather an “reward” that Google will provide certain sites with. I order to be eligible for seller ratings, your clients must have at least 150 unique reviews in the past year, and an average review score that is greater than 3.5 stars.

3. Google My Business Reviews

Google My Business (GMB) reviews are the reviews displayed by Google next to verified businesses. This rating score is critical because it is the one that shows up on your clients sites in search, on Google maps, as well as on Google+. These reviews can display attributes such as star ratings, photos, and comments/testimonials.

Here is an example of a GMB review score:

google my business reviews

The scariest part about GMB reviews is the fact that anyone with a Google account can leave a review and comments on any business, regardless of credibility, and possibly without even visiting the business.

Everyone has an opinion, yet the modern reality is that the Internet allows people to express their opinions instantly, regardless of accuracy or authenticity.

Paul Plant

Director of International Partnerships, Vendasta

By ensuring that your clients have either the tools they need to monitor and respond to these vital reviews, or by providing a service to do such things for your clients—you can ensure that their reputations always remain intact.

4. Reviews from the Web

When searching for a specific destination, something called a “Knowledge Panel” will appear on Google. We’ve all seen these before. They start with the review section shown above, and then display other important information about businesses such as contact information, hours of operation, quick links to websites and Google Maps. Other components include popular times (so you can plan your visit accordingly) and reviews from the web (so you can see what others have had to say about the destination.

Here is the reviews from the web portion of the Knowledge Panel:

reviews from the web

These reviews from the web are major components in Knowledge Panels and are available to searchers across the planet. This gives your local clients yet another opportunity to shine by showcasing feedback from all of their delighted customers.

Get the Full Study

Here are all four of the above mentioned elements involved in conquering Google reviews and ratings.

google ratings and reviews

By helping your customers generate more positive reviews across different directories and listing sites, you can help them master their digital presence and drive greater clicks and conversions for their business.

If you want to learn more and better help your customers and prospects drive higher CTRs, improve their digital ROI, and potentially reduce advertising costs, then check out the full study and start dominating Google ratings and reviews for your clients.