Online reviews have become an integral part of ecommerce marketing strategies. When it comes to purchasing decisions, customers look for trust signals, and so do search engines like Google.
To shed some light on how reviews impact SEO, we caught up with Partnership Manager James Owen from the world’s most powerful review platform, Trustpilot, to get some valuable insight…
Firstly, let’s discuss how people shop online. It’s been proven that 60% of consumers look at online reviews at least weekly. So how do consumers use online reviews?
As online shopping continues to grow, reviews will play a greater role in helping consumers research companies and make purchasing decisions.
Consumers use reviews for validation. When it comes to online shopping, customers don’t have the luxury of social validation – like their friends or family – so rely on other people to leave their honest opinion about a service or product. Actually, it’s been found that 98% of consumers consider online reviews as an essential part of their online buying journey, and 49% consider positive reviews as one of their top 3 purchase influences.
Depending on the size of their purchase, consumers will spend quite a lot of time browsing reviews. This is so they can get an overarching opinion about what they’re going to buy and the service they’re potentially about to receive.
However, it’s important to note that although consumers often consult reviews before they visit your store, they also search for reviews when already actively shopping for your products and services – on your site. This means engagement with reviews occurs throughout the shopping journey, so retailers must ensure that customer feedback is showcased at various touch points.
With 93% of consumers saying the content of a review has impacted whether they make a purchase, what kind of content are these consumers looking for?
First and foremost, consumers look for an overall rating (e.g. four out of five stars) as the most important factor when reading online reviews. This is unsurprising given that this is a simple and easy-to-understand summary of a brand’s feedback.
But consumers also look at the recency and number of reviews a brand has received to gauge their relevance and usefulness. So brands need to be continually asking their customers for feedback.
In terms of specific content, online shoppers look for reviews that refer to the quality of products and great customer service. Just under 90% of shoppers claim that reviews mentioning product quality were important, and 82% felt that mentions of customer service and support were equally valued.
Also, consumers place great importance on how a brand responds to a negative review – it's all about how a brand combats a bad experience and how they intend to rectify it. For example, if a customer’s delivery didn’t arrive on time, consumers will want to know how a brand apologised and/or whether it’s a common occurrence.
As you can see, when it comes to the content of reviews, consumers are looking for both positive and negative feedback because it helps them gauge the overall customer experience of a brand.
It’s no secret that ranking on the first page of search engines like Google is a challenge for any business, and it doesn’t happen overnight. So why should businesses consider review collection to help with organic search?
Reviews are a key tool for any successful online marketing strategy. Firstly, reviews improve keyword reach on your site. When customers leave reviews, it creates thousands of additional content pieces related to your site, and therefore can help you appear in more organic search results.
When it comes to SEO, Google always puts the customer first. A brand’s customer is Google’s user. What your customer wants and trusts, Google wants and trusts, it’s as simple as that! Google loves User-Generated content and uses this as a signal to rank an online store. Businesses should treat reviews a lot like backlinks.
When a customer reviews your ecommerce business, it tells Google two things:
1. The authenticity of your business.
2. Whether your business is trustworthy.
Here at Trustpilot, we have SEO enabled Trustboxes that allow you to house product review content on your website, that can then be fed into Google’s organic search results. These appear as the yellowy/gold stars known commonly as rich snippets. These rich snippet stars are a real head-turner and naturally draw the eye to the listing. In fact, we typically find using these translates into a 35% increase in click-through-rate. Not only can product reviews drive greater traffic from search results, but they also improve on-site conversions and reduce shopping cart abandonment.
How do good reviews impact SEO?
Google has a very complicated algorithm that is constantly changing, but one thing that has stayed relatively static is the impact of reviews. As mentioned above, whether it’s a positive or negative review, they’re a great way to legitimise your business and boost your SEO strategy.
Positive reviews also improve a business’s ranking in search results. The pillars of SEO are authority, trust and relevance, so if Google believes that you tick all those boxes you’ll rank higher! Added to this, the better your reviews, the lower your bounce rate. When customers are reading reviews they’re more likely to be spending longer on your site – clicking and converting.
We all know that bad reviews can give consumers the wrong impression of an online store, but how do they impact SEO?
Just like positive reviews, negative reviews can help businesses' SEO efforts. Not only do bad reviews increase a brand’s credibility, but most importantly they offer a brand the opportunity to respond and actively manage their reputation. It shows the consumer and Google that they care for their customers.
It’s suggested the worst kind of reviews for SEO are those left unanswered or ignored. Why is this?
Ignoring a review is just bad for business. Consumers want to know that a brand is supportive. Here at Trustpilot, we always suggest responding to your customers within 24 hours. From an SEO perspective, responding with a sense of urgency can be hugely beneficial. Google states that businesses should interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business. So not only will responding build trust with your customers, it will also build trust with Google itself.
Conclusion – Brands should embrace positive reviews and not shy away from the negative reviews. Responding is imperative and should be considered as a number one priority.
How should a brand respond to bad reviews?
You can always turn a negative review into a positive! By responding in a professional, but genuine way, you can turn a non-lover into a loyalist. Remember, your response needs to be clear and concise. If a merchant receives a negative review, it’s best practice to apologise (and actually mean it), offer amends with a special offer, and always express your commitment to fixing the issue.
How should a business respond to good reviews?
Again, just like negative reviews, be sincere and caring in your response. Let the customer know you appreciate their time and effort. It’s been proven that it’s cheaper to get current customers to make a repeat purchase than it is to acquire a new customer, so maintaining the lifetime value of your loyal customers will go a long way. Sometimes the response can be as simple as; ‘thank you for shopping with us, we hope to see you again soon’. It just makes the customer feel appreciated and shows excellent customer service.
So, it’s clear customer reviews matter, especially for SEO. What are your top tips for crafting the perfect reviews acquisition strategy?
Timing is key. You’d be surprised how many businesses ask a customer for a review before the customer has even had a shopping experience with the brand. At Trustpilot, we suggest you invite all of your customers after their product or service experience and respond to those reviews accordingly.
Retailers have a huge resource in Trustpilot’s customer success team. They will recommend best practices based on other companies and their successful experiences. Also, don’t forget to show-off and shout about your reviews by integrating the feedback throughout your website on key pages such as checkout, product pages and of course the homepage.
On top of this, don’t forget to spread reviews across your social channels. We live in a world of social media and standing out on these platforms is hard at the best of times, so using some of your favourite reviews across Facebook and Instagram can help you stand out.
A special case: what do reviews mean for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday rolling around each November, it’s important to take advantage of every way possible to make your store stand out. Of course, we hope you’ve got your BFCM strategy plan mapped out and ready to go, but there is something you might have missed out on: reviews!
Why should online retailers consider reviews as part of their BFCM strategy?
With so many enticing offers flying around during the BFCM period, the differentiating factor between retailers can be who has the strongest online reputation or who utilises social-proof more effectively.
Trustpilot has conducted third-party research into the effect reviews have on shopping cart abandonment and value. We found that integrating genuine feedback throughout the natural buying journey not only increases the order amount, but it also heavily reduces the number of people that do not complete their purchase or abandon their shopping cart altogether.
How can businesses use reviews to increase sales on BFCM?
I’d suggest that every brand needs to shout about their online reputation and display social proof as much as possible. This all contributes to getting the highest amount of sales and revenue available during the BFCM madness.
Product reviews are especially important in my opinion. For a customer, this is genuine and honest feedback from someone just like them that has bought the item they’re considering.
How can customers be encouraged to submit reviews?
Here at Trustpilot, we took a strong stance a while back to stop businesses incentivising their customers to leave reviews – this is now prohibited on our platform.
My advice would be to show your customers that you genuinely care about their feedback; so invite everyone that’s had an experience with your business, and automate reminders to send to those that do not leave a review the first time around.
What’s more, customers will also be encouraged to leave reviews if they can clearly see feedback throughout their customer journey. Again, it signals that your business cares about their opinions, so they realise their review will be heard and valued.
When it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and even the rest of the year), having the best deals isn’t always going to convert into more sales. Brand credibility and social reputation is just as important – so make sure you display and respond to reviews throughout the buying journey.
Your ecommerce SEO agency
We hope this interview has given you more insight into the importance of reviews for SEO. If you like to find out more on how to improve your Shopify store’s search ranking, then get in touch with our team of digital marketing experts today!