Online review platforms are ubiquitous. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and others offer consumers a platform to publicly express their honest opinions on businesses. Everyone and their cousin knows just how influential online reviews are in relation to purchasing decisions.
Consumers aren’t the only ones who can reap the benefits of online reviews. The businesses being reviewed are rewarded with factors like rating promotion, website integration, and avenues to interact with customers.
One of the most overlooked benefits to these types of third-party review platforms is search engine visibility. Google rewards businesses that have positive reviews posted on trusted sites. Numerous positive reviews indicate that a listing is highly appropriate for its users.
Google digs ratings and reviews
Not all review sites are created equally, and not all have relationships with Google (see here for a full list of Google Review Partners). As the search engine’s primary objective is to provide users with the most valuable and authentic information, ratings on trusted, third-party review sites play a significant role in determining a business’ rankings on the result pages.
While this directly correlates with the search visibility of local businesses, where “local SEO” works to benefit their rankings in the local pack, based among other things, on the strength of their ratings, it also benefits brands and retailers that aren’t strictly “local.” Google derives brand signals from reviews and ratings, and this contributes towards your site’s domain authority.
One of the most attractive and eye-catching elements on any “SERP listing” – SERP being Search Engine Results Page – are the yellow stars, technically known as rich snippets for ratings.
When implemented properly, reviews of your company on Google-recognized third-party review sites will (more or less) increase the likelihood that your pages will be displayed with rich snippet stars, increasing chances of click-through from search. Empirical evidence shows that 150+ reviews over a 12-month period with an overall rating of 3.5 almost definitely gets your star rating to show up.
Numerous studies prove that having Google display rich snippet stars in your SERP listing guarantees a higher click-through rate (CTR) than normal.
Again, this leads to a virtuous cycle. SEO experts have argued based on experimental correlation that when Google sees a click-through rate for a given position that is higher than expected, and the bounce rate (site exits) for those visits to the web page is not high, there is evidence that the web page ranks even higher for the relevant keywords.
Ignite Visibility recently published a micro-study that found strong correlations between click-through rates and Google positioning:
No surprise then, that SEO experts stress the importance of proactively getting your customers to leave reviews on varied platforms, including social media and industry-specific review websites.
Review platforms add authenticity signals
To benefit from the perceived authenticity that rich snippets with rating stars give your brand and product, utilizing credible third-party review sites is a highly-effective way to improve your search engine visibility.
Review platforms offer simple mechanisms for inviting customers to leave reviews. You (or, in some cases, anyone wanting to review your products or services) create a company page on the site to display their sentiment. As this page gathers ratings, it will be more likely to appear on Google for searches on your brand name, primarily based on the authenticity, reliability and “trust factor” of the review site in question. Eventually this page will push traffic to your site via a link.
Third-party review sites stand as the guarantor that the reviews collected are from real customers. From an SEO perspective, Google accepts that the third-party reviews are reliable and honest appraisals of businesses and their offerings. Assuming you get mostly positive reviews, Google’s algorithm will be inclined to place you higher in the results, as it will be more confident that your company is a good solution for the query entered. The confidence that Google attributes to the various third-party review platforms must be factored in.
How review sites improve your digital presence
Major review platforms can charge a monthly subscription fee so you can edit and maintain your page on their site in a way that is consistent with your Google My Business page as well as various “citations” found across the web, including on other review sites. This is very important for local SEO.
Paid-for pages on review sites let you collect reviews about your company, products and services, and present and promote them in an organized, professional way. As with most SaaS models, these review sites have different payment tiers, providing various options on integrations and level of support.
Importantly, they all offer code snippets that you can install on your site, from where you directly display your ratings to site visitors. These snippets also feed that information to Google and allow it to display the stars and ratings we see on organic search results as well as AdWords text ads.
Obviously, Google works to display the most trusted sites in its results, in order of their reliability. The question is, which review platform does Google see as the most credible? And which sites give more “SEO power,” in general, for businesses across the board?
I used SEO tool SEMrush to pull some data about the kind of traffic these review sites get, the keywords and terms they rank for in Google, and the actual value of these keywords (presented in comparison with each other of course). I also checked how they ranked in terms of overall web traffic, and found that all of these sites are in the top 100,000.
Here are the top ranked US review sites in terms of SEO power on Google.com:
While reviews on any of the five platforms listed above (and a bunch of others) will get you rich snippet stars that provide opportunities to make your appearance more eye catching on the SERPS, Trustpilot is the one that packs the most punch, based on traffic numbers, keywords, and overall popularity.
Trustpilot is not just limited to the US; it is a community-driven review platform spanning 65 countries. With 35 million reviews of 190,000 businesses, 45,000 new reviewers each day and 1 million new reviews each month, it is well ahead of the pack from an SEO perspective, with 3 times more SEO visibility than other platforms. Businesses also get a “TrustScore” – an algorithmic measure of customer satisfaction, based on customers’ reviews on the site. While TrustScore may not be the most compelling piece of data from a search perspective, it certainly impacts the way consumers behave and interact with brand websites.
That said, every review platform that has a respectable amount of traffic is certainly worth exploring for more than just the SEO value. Review sites are a key factor in developing a positive brand image and word-of-mouth. Positive results like rich snippet stars and SEO visibility can make a momentous difference in conversion rates. In a crowded space, the importance of each online review cannot be overlooked.
Getting registered on review sites is incredibly easy and reaching out to customers to leave reviews is even easier. For as powerful as online reviews are in modern marketing, expanding your business footprint across as many online channels as possible will serve you well in the long run.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.