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Cami Bird

Why Responding to Online Reviews Improves Your Brand’s Online Visibility

Cami Bird

Up until recently when Yelp announced that businesses should respond to every review they receive (even positive ones), there was much debate about which online reviews businesses should respond to.

But I always wondered, why was this even a debate?

People leaving reviews for you are paying customers who felt passionately enough about their experience at your establishment that they wanted to share it with others. Why would you not thank them for openly sharing their opinions and take advantage of the extra exposure that responses provide to your business?

Every review response (on reputable sites, such as Google or Yelp) gets factored into search algorithms and the results are spit out. As review sites and SEO continue to develop, the role of reviews and responses will only increase; in fact SEO experts agree that the heavier weight attached to reviews will soon impact a business’s SEO by almost 10% double the amount they assign to social signals.


Optimize Review Responses for SEO

How can you optimize a review response for SEO? It’s simple and done the same way you optimize any content that you share — with keywords. Identify where your traffic is coming from and the keywords that generate revenue for your business. If you are stuck identifying keywords for your business, companies like LocalVox can help by providing you with a one-stop dashboard that displays data, trends and rankings so you can easily see how well your content ranks on search engines, maps and local directories.

Once you have discovered your prime keywords, keep them handy for the next step in the process.

Respond to Reviews

Every review should essentially be answered with the same formula:

  1. Address the customer’s concerns or compliments
  2. Highlight your business’s values
  3. Provide further actions (such as asking to take the conversation to a private area)

While this might seem easy enough with only three steps, emotions and time can play a factor into how well a response is constructed and received. For any response to a review — negative, moderate or positive — the reviewer will always feel an emotion; your goal is to ensure the emotion felt is a positive one.

But, here’s the difficult part of responding to reviews: you can’t show preference for one reviewer over another; responses also need to be written with just enough emotion and marketing intent. By spending a few more minutes on each response (at least to start), you can better structure your emotion and marketing element, mixing both to create the perfect response.

The following table gives examples of responses to negative, moderate and positive reviews on two different levels: typical and optimized (the optimized response is for an organic pizzeria in St. Louis). Their top keywords are "organic pizza st louis," "authentic st louis style pizza," "st louis county pizza" and "original cardinals pizza."

Review Matrix

You may have noticed that including the keywords was not a challenge at all, especially if you follow the three steps to every response. Each keyword or phrase naturally flows into the response and also makes the reply a bit more personable.

Track Your Results

Tracking the influence of the keywords is the final step, where you’ll see if putting that little extra effort into your responses is actually paying off. While this isn’t the easiest thing to track, think of it like a science experiment.

Make only one change in your marketing efforts this quarter: start responding to reviews online, and compare the difference to past quarters where you did not respond. Check back and search those top keywords you’ve been using once a month and watch for upticks in business.

When you respond to reviews, you are providing your business with more visibility in online searches, as well as uncovering your business to potential customers searching for a business like yours everyday. The fact that your business responds to all reviews shows potential customers that you take pride in your product/service and provide excellent customer service ... a fact that will negate any rogue negative review. And that’s influence you aren’t even paying for.

Now that it is an accepted practice to respond to all reviews, make sure you are getting the most out of your responses by including your business’s top keywords. As review sites continue to play bigger and bigger roles in SEO, your business will already be ahead of the curve by incorporating best practices that show you provide excellent customer service and know how to optimize SEO to bring more traffic through your doors.

Cami Bird is the Content and Partner Marketing Manager for MarketMeSuite and LocalVox. She is an expert in social media engagement and inbound marketing, and has an obsession with Welsh corgis.

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