A client recently contacted us at Papercut and asked, “Do Google reviews matter?” It’s a valid question, and one with an answer that, not surprisingly, has changed in recent years. Everyone knows that search engine optimization can be a challenge for small business owners who rely on high rankings and visibility to attract customers. To help clarify things, here’s my take on Google reviews in 2016.
Some Big Changes
Last year, Google made some big changes that impacted the way users leave reviews for a business. Long story short, they’ve altered Google+ to make it more of a social platform, meaning that it’s less effective as a marketing tool for businesses. Reviews are no longer displayed on a business’s Google+ page, and Google+ pages are now virtually inaccessible through search results. In the old days, directing customers to your Google+ page for reviews was easy. Now, it takes multiple clicks to access a review platform, and there isn’t an easy URL to send people too. Unfortunately, things aren’t terribly straightforward for customers.
Are They Important?
Well, reviews are more difficult to get now, but do they matter? Yes, Google reviews are important. They are a ranking signal, but they’re not the most important one out there. I would argue, though, that they matter for another reason as well. They matter because they are associated with your business and anyone searching for your business on Google, no matter how many clicks it might take, can technically see them. It’s important for business owners to be aware of their company’s reviews. Always respond to negative reviews. This shows concern and illustrates that customer service is a priority. Sometimes, a positive response can counteract negative comments. Business owners should also be mindful of positive reviews and occasionally respond to thank reviewers for their comments, which shows searchers that they are engaged online.
What to Do Now
While reviews are certainly still important, Google’s changes mean it requires more work to get them. Resources that were dedicated to promoting your Google+ page and telling customers where to leave a review may now be better spent elsewhere. It’s now known that traditional SEO best practices can also benefit local rankings. So, if you work to improve your website and boost its visibility across the web in general, you will also help to improve its local rankings. Concentrate your efforts on areas like mobile friendliness, site speed and accessibility, and content, and you will be rewarded.