Your local business lives and dies by its performance in local search. Performing well in the local search market can be a complex and demanding task, but the results are definitely worth the effort. And one of 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. In fact, it’s 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, as a local business, you need to be equipped with the best possible ratings and reviews if you want to drive real traffic to your storefront.

Why are online ratings and reviews so important?

In short, because 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” was supreme; people mostly relied on 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 – potentially impacting the purchase decisions of hundreds, thousands, or millions of other people.

But while consumers have the time to spend on these platforms doing product/service research, local businesses often don’t have the time to actively manage multiple media sources for advertising, promotion, and reputation management.

One of the most influential media site categories among these is that of review and listing sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google. These are the basis where your local business establishes its digital reputation.

The Four Elements of Google Ratings and Reviews

There are four rating and review elements that are essential for small businesses to get the most value out of their local Google search rankings.

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. How do you make sure you’re driving the greatest volume of clicks and physical traffic possible to your site?

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

Rich snippets are small pieces of information that can be added to your site’s search result to give it a unique appearance and greater authenticity and begin building that consumer trust right away.

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’s also best practice to source these review snippets from sites that are highly relevant to your product or service. For example, you can include a snippet of your restaurant’s Zomato review score.

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, while seller ratings are an automatic markup sourced from about 20 different certified review sources. They appear strictly on paid Google Ad campaigns.

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

Google My Business Reviews

These are reviews that are displayed by Google next to Verified Businesses. This rating score is critical because it is the one that shows up when your business site appears in searches and on Google Maps and Google+. These reviews can display attributes such as star ratings, photos, and comments/testimonials.

The only downside to GMB reviews is 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.

Obviously, it’s crucial to monitor and respond to these vital reviews to make sure your reputation always remains intact.

Reviews from the Web

You’ve probably noticed sometimes when searching Google for a specific destination that something called a “Knowledge Panel” will appear in the result. A Knowledge Panel starts with the review section shown as discussed above and then displays other important information about that business: for example, contact information, hours of operation, quick links to websites, and Google Maps.

Other features might include popular times (to plan a visit) or reviews from the web (so you can see what others have had to say about that business).

Ready to start dominating Google ratings and reviews?

By implementing the four strategies above, you can master your digital presence in the world’s most powerful search engine. Using Google tools will drive greater clicks and conversions, while your business will also benefit from more positive reviews across different directories and listing sites.

Want to learn how you can apply these techniques to your own business?
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