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Ninety-three percent of all buying decisions begin with an online search. We’ve all participated in this online search phenomenon. Despite the thousands of hits vying for our attention, we’re not likely to click on anything below the top few results. In fact, the top result in a Google search gets 33 percent of the traffic. And 28 percent of “searches for something nearby result in a purchase.” So if your business ranks highly on a search results page, there’s a good chance that you will not only get exposure, but you’ll also get customers as well

The other thousands of results? They likely won’t even be seen. With such steep competition, what’s a humble business owner to do?

You might be surprised to know that “online reviews are thought to make up 10 percent of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results.” To get your business to the top of the first page of Google results, one thing you can do is make sure your online reviews are what search engines are looking for.

There are four factors that will make your business’s reviews get a higher search ranking: quantity, quality, velocity, and diversity. Here’s what those terms mean for you.

Review Quantity

This one’s pretty straightforward: Do you have a lot of reviews? Do you have any? “It usually takes about 10 reviews before people even consider them legitimate.” Having fewer than 10 reviews makes it look like customers didn’t care enough to share their thoughts (or worse: like the business owner enlisted family members to write fake reviews). Having lots of reviews makes your business look relevant and legitimate, and Google wants reviews that fit that criteria.  

Review Quality

Search engines display results that are relevant to what searchers have typed in the search bar. So reviews that contain relevant words will show up higher than reviews without relevant words. Reviews that seem to be based on real events get higher rankings, as do reviews that don’t seem to be written by people paid to write them. Additionally, the websites that reviews appear on have a bearing on search rankings: “Sites like Google Plus, Angie’s List, and Yelp carry a lot more clout than reviews on blogs or your own website.”

Review Velocity

Review velocity refers to the speed at which reviews accumulate.” But don’t make the mistake of thinking that means hundreds of reviews all at once. Too many too quickly looks suspicious. You want reviews coming in at a reliable pace. A steady stream of reviews, rather than a flood, makes reviews look genuine to search engines.

Review Diversity

How different are the reviews? Do they vary in content and rating, suggesting that real people with real thoughts wrote them? If reviews are too similar, not only does it seem fishy, but it doesn’t give consumers a genuine idea about your business.

How do I get reviews that fit the criteria?

If you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry. There are simple things you can do to encourage search-engine ready reviews. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Ask your customers for reviews. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but the discomfort is worth it. A full 70 percent of consumers will give you a review if you ask them. Asking for reviews from real customers will increase your quantity and quality of reviews, since they’ll be genuine. If you make a habit of asking over time, your review velocity will hit the sweet spot it needs to look good to search engines. Ask your marketing team to create a handout to give to customers, or use this template.
  • Choose a couple of major review sites to focus on. From there, focus on review sites that are popular in your area or target demographic. Google+ and Yelp are two major sites that deserve your attention. If you have reviews on those sites, your review quality will increase.
  • Let negative reviews happen—and respond to them. Negative reviews mingled with positive reviews will increase your review diversity. But negative reviews are a curse, aren’t they? In a survey, 86 percent of consumers said their decision to buy or not to buy was influenced by negative online reviews, so yes, negative reviews are not great. But here’s the good news: “Most customers won’t write you off based on one negative comment. Many, however, will gain respect for your business if you respond to the comment in a pleasant and helpful way.” Because of this increased respect, you may gain customers you might never have gained without the negative review. So respond to negative reviews promptly and courteously, and watch the search engines do the rest.

Online reviews are crucial, not only for your business’s reputation but also for your search engine rankings and ultimate customer attainment. Working on review quality, quantity, velocity, and diversity will launch your business to the top of the search page, and your business will bask in booming success.

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