When you’re considering a new purchase, do you check the reviews? If it’s an especially large purchase, do you look to other sources for reviews to verify if the purchase is worthwhile?
According to many different surveys, the answer is most likely yes - 89% of global consumers say they read reviews, and 93% say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions. Not only that, 4 in 5 customers say they’ve changed their minds on a purchase after reading negative reviews.
Reviews matter to ecommerce businesses - their benefit stretches across customer acquisition, retention, and more. One of the ways reviews benefit acquisition is through their impact on SEO.
Why reviews matter for SEO
Trust is one of the most important aspects of search. Search engines want to know the results they display to their users are high quality, relevant, useful, and trustworthy. Google actually has a guiding concept for search result quality called E-A-T which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Put simply, this means that content should display a high level of knowledge on its given subject matter, and come from a reputable, trusted source. In ecommerce, that trust can often be demonstrated through positive or negative reviews.
There is another concept that goes some way in explaining the importance of reviews to trustworthiness in the eyes of search engines, and that’s “Your Money, or Your Life” (YMYL). YMYL content is that which may impact a user’s future quality of life, whether that’s financially, health, safety, or happiness. Google wants to ensure the content it ranks on SERPs is that which can be trusted when it comes to these YMYL subjects. Ecommerce of course could potentially impact a user’s finances or wellbeing, therefore Google wants to use every signal it can to ensure an online store is worthy of recommending to users.
Essentially, reviews are both the users’ and search engines’ way of validating that your store can be trusted. The more you do to display and encourage positive, recent reviews, the better impact these will have on your store’s SEO. If it’s a choice between a competitor with fewer, older reviews and your product with lots of recent positive reviews, there’s a stronger chance both customers and search engines will favor your store.
First and foremost, you want to ensure that you’re encouraging and displaying reviews on product pages. These are a core feature of any good product page, and some studies suggest that conversion rates of product pages with reviews are up to 3.5 times higher than those that don’t feature any. They give potential customers a very easy way to see the perceived quality of your product by reading the reviews of fellow customers. Beyond that, they also have the unique ability to add fresh keywords that you may not have considered before. The words and language in reviews is that of your customers and therefore your target audience. By having these reviews displayed, your store has the potential to rank for keywords your audience is using without any extra effort from your team.
How to get more on-site reviews
So, on-site reviews are great for your store’s SEO but is acquiring them difficult? Not necessarily; in fact, many customers are happy to offer feedback with 67% in one survey saying they’d consider leaving a positive review. This jumps to 89% if an initially negative experience is turned into a positive one.
One of the best strategies to garner more reviews for your store is actually to automate the process. The first way to do this is by setting up an email workflow that will automatically send review requests to customers. You can make this a simple, single email that triggers after a certain period of time, or make it more complex - sending different content to different customer segments, setting up conditions to send more than one email depending on previous campaign activity, and so on. Another way to automate the process is by making use of an app specifically designed to gather reviews. Many apps available through the Shopify App Store allow you to send automated emails and SMS, as well as implement the reviews throughout your site.
If you really want to prove your trustworthiness to search engines and their users, you need to have a strategy for off-site reviews. As the term suggests, these are reviews hosted externally to your own site. There are a variety of trusted, third party review sites which your customers may use in their purchasing decisions such as Google My Business, Trustpilot, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. If you sell on third party marketplaces such as Amazon, these reviews are also valuable.
These reviews are harder to come by and influence, but if you can secure them regularly they can add serious weight to your perceived quality as a search result. This is due to the fact that unlike on-site reviews, off-site reviews on trusted third party sites are much harder to manipulate. Store-owners have the ability to hide or suppress negative reviews, which both search engines and users are aware of. With third party sites, the most the store owner can do is respond to reviews and flag any they believe may be fake or misleading - a YouGov survey found that 78% of US consumers find these sites useful to their purchasing decisions.
When your glowing on-site reviews match up with similar off-site reviews, this acts as extra validation that your store and products can be trusted and this will impact both customer perception and your store’s SEO.
How to make the most of off-site reviews
While as a merchant you can’t control off-site reviews, you can still encourage customers to leave reviews and go the extra mile to demonstrate your brand is proactive and engaged with these off-site reviewers.
Be active on Google My Business
One of your most powerful assets in off-site reviews - and by extension, off-page SEO - is Google My Business. It’s by far the most popular platform for reviews, with 59% of consumers saying they use Google for reviews. Engage with your profile there, fill it out, and be present for your customers. This means answering questions, adding extra information, and keeping it up to date. While these aren’t directly related to reviews, customers will be more likely to engage with your Google reviews and potentially leave them if they see you’re active on the platform.
Claim your business on sites like Trustpilot
Many third party sites allow merchants to claim and therefore verify their business on the sites. This gives you some small amount of control, and shows search engines that it is indeed your business that the reviews are for. Unverified accounts with positive reviews won’t be nearly as trustworthy as those which are verified.
Remind customers to leave reviews elsewhere
While you want lots of glowing reviews on your own product pages, it helps to direct some of your customers’ attention to other platforms where you want to garner more reviews. You can do this by including a link in an email and asking for them to leave a review, or including it as a note in the order itself. This can be as simple as “Enjoying your order? Please consider leaving us a review on Google!”. Bear in mind you cannot incentivize your customers to leave reviews on Google as this is against terms of service.
Respond to reviews - positive and negative
Really want to impress users and search engines? Respond to reviews. 41% of consumers say that when they see a brand reply to reviews, it makes them feel that the company cares about their customers. Plus, 89% say they would be likely to shop with a business who responds to reviews. It’s important to reply not just to positive reviews, but to engage with those who have left negative reviews. This demonstrates greater care for the customer experience, and boost consumer trust in your business.
Aim to find a resolution for negative reviews
No one likes to see a negative review, but it’s the content of the review that matters to potential customers - it’s how you handle the review. If the review sits there without a response from your business, it looks like you don’t care. If you respond, then it demonstrates care; however, to go a step beyond that response should aim to find a suitable resolution for whatever the customer was unhappy with.
The opinions and feedback of your customers is hugely beneficial to your store. Discoverability is vital to the customer journey and to both acquisition and retention, and reviews are one of your golden opportunities to improve how customers discover your products, and demonstrate they are worth the hype you give them on your website.