Everyone loves getting a positive review from a happy customer. There’s nothing like it to fill you with a warm glow and make your day. But good reviews bring way more than good vibes. They build your brand reputation, they increase customer trust, and they also have the power to significantly boost SEO rankings.

Google doesn’t say how much weight its algorithms give to reviews, but Moz estimates that reviews affect as much as 10% of Google’s criteria for your ranking on the SERP.

A recent study from Yotpo found that businesses that invest in acquiring and publishing customer reviews enjoy an increase of close to 150% in their monthly page views referred from organic search.

That makes customer reviews far too important for you to ignore.

How do customer reviews affect SEO?

Digital marketing and SEO thought leader Neil Patel is no stranger to the benefits of reviews.

Patel has also written extensively about the importance of customer reviews. He recommends that you “collect and prominently display testimonials from your customers on your website for an added local SEO boost.”

Patel points out that when you search for a local business, like “pizza near me,” Google displays the top three results, followed by results from top review sites that answer your search query. If your pizza shop has reviews in Yelp, TripAdvisor, and your local community directory, Google will interpret that to mean that it’s the best answer for anyone looking for a pizza place nearby, and you’ll naturally rank higher in the SERP.

Here are a few more ways that customer reviews affect your SEO:

  • Links to your site from review sites build your “link juice” and boost you up the SERPs.
  • Google displays the star ratings for local businesses as rich snippets, attracting more attention for your business and increasing click-through rates.
  • Customer reviews naturally add more of the long-tail keywords that you need for great SEO.
  • Customers often post their reviews on social media platforms, with hashtags and mentions that increase your social SEO.

If this all seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry. You don’t have to try to get dozens of reviews immediately. Instead, make collecting customer reviews part of your regular business practice, so that you’ll add to them a little at a time.

Patel reminds marketers to “Start with changing your mindset about reviews. They aren’t a one-time thing, but an ongoing process. A natural progression in the number of reviews on a continuous basis will deliver great results for your business.”

That’s why his Neil Patel Digital agency always requests reviews, as part of their SEO strategy.

Here are some easy ways to harness the power of customer reviews for superior SEO rankings.

1. Ask for more reviews

As the popular saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Create a template email or text message to send to customers to ask them for a review. Wait a day or two before you make your request, but don’t leave it so long that your interaction with them has lost its impact.

It’s a good idea to include a form asking for their reactions to specific prompts, because that helps you get more detailed reviews, and also helps your customers with the age-old dilemma of what to say.

Don’t make it too long or complex. Try asking for what they liked best, what could be improved, and an overview.

If you don’t get a review, don’t despair. Allow a couple of days to go by, and then follow up with a polite reminder. However, don’t cross the line into nagging; two follow-up messages are ok, but then it’s time to back off.

2. Respond to reviews, both good and bad

Once a customer has left a review, make the most of it! Try to respond to both good and bad reviews. It makes your customers feel appreciated, encourages others to leave a review too, and helps to strengthen a positive impression of a business that cares about its customers.

Good reviews deserve at least a “thank you.” For more brownie points, add a personal response and invite the reviewer to come back soon.

Bad reviews need careful handling, but if you do it right, you can boost your brand reputation because you’ll show that you listen to consumer criticism. Admit to your mistakes and tell the world what you’re doing to fix them.

It’s also worth asking what you could do to get the reviewer to change their low rating. Even a three-star rating is better than one.

If the review seems unfair, this isn’t the time to voice your righteous indignation. Instead, show your prospective customers how patient and considerate you are. Acknowledge that the reviewer is displeased, apologize for their negative experience, and politely explain your side of the situation.

3. Choose the right review platform

Your choice of review platform can make a big difference. For a start, you’d expect that Google pays careful attention to reviews on Google itself. Local review platforms, like community directories, are highly valuable for building your local SEO.

If your industry has specialized review sites – like Capterra for SaaS businesses, Zomato for restaurants, and TripAdvisor for leisure and tourism – then direct your energies towards them to build your brand reputation.

Different review platforms also have different rules about how you get customer reviews, so read them carefully. For example, it’s vital to know that Yelp doesn’t allow you to ask for reviews at all, and Google forbids you from offering anything in exchange for a review.

If you fall foul of these requirements, you’ll get kicked off the platform entirely.

Customer reviews and SEO should be best friends

As you can see, customer reviews boost your SEO in a number of ways, from raising your social media presence to strengthening your link juice, so it’s worthwhile investing some time and energy in getting more, and better quality, reviews.

By asking politely, taking care to respond to customer feedback, and choosing the right review platforms, you can use your superpower to fuel your SEO sky high.