Having correct and consistent online business listings and gaining positive reviews in those listing venues are an absolute must for obtaining higher rankings in the search engines these days, especially for companies who provide ‘local’ services such as practitioners, contractors, attorneys, repair companies, etc, or who sell products locally, for example restaurants, auto dealers, etc.
These online business listings (aka ‘citations’) and reviews are important as a ranking factors, especially for ‘local’ types of keyword phrases. Think of local search terms that people would use, such as ‘appliance repair Milwaukee WI’, ‘bankruptcy attorney Chicago IL’, or ‘home builders Wisconsin’, for example. These search phrases often have location information included, but an inferred location is not always necessary, since Google most likely knows your location anyways. For instance, you can search ‘pizza restaurant’ in Google, and if you are located in Waukesha, WI, they will return listings for restaurants in the geographical area from which you are searching.
The Necessity of Gaining Reviews:
Reviews are a sort of vote of confidence that the search engines use to evaluate the amount of trust they should have in your company. This affects how high in the search engine rankings they may be willing to place your website in comparison to your competitors.
These review venues link back to your website in various ways by mentioning your company name/address/phone number (NAP) via a citation and/or including a backlink to your company website, so obtaining reviews will show Google that people from a variety of sources trust your company. As Google’s trust of your website grows, they become more willing to show your website higher in the search results, since they feel that your company is more authoritative and relative in the niche.
The presence of reviews in your online business listings can also help to make your search results look better to potential clients. For example, listings from internet yellow page (IYP) venues that appear in the search engine results that have reviews will often show up with yellow star ratings along with the results title, description, and webpage link.
These star ratings can make your listings stand out against the competition and attract more clicks to your company’s listings, since they can instill a greater certainty of your service in the searcher’s mind. Branded searches, such as a search for your company name or phone number or address, etc, also look good in the search results!
Not only do positive reviews help to improve search engine rankings, but the yellow star ratings can help to increase your potential customers’ confidence in your company and in turn attract more traffic through to your website or phone calls for your company’s services.
Take a look at the example Google ‘local pack’ results for a search for a local contractor service: ‘basement repair Milwaukee’.
Which of the three local listings would you be more likely to click on? I assume it would be one of the listings with more reviews and rating stars.
Citations (Consistency, Quantity, & Quality):
It is well known in the world of internet marketing that your online business listing data must be both correct and consistent across the spectrum of internet yellow page venues. If not, the inaccurate NAP data could send the wrong signals to the search engines about your company and your search engine rankings could suffer for it.
Not only do your company’s online listings need to be correct and uniform, but the quantity of citations you have and the quality of the IYP venues that your listings are on matter, too.
In general, if all other ranking factors are equal, a company that has more citations on higher authority websites where their NAP data is correct and consistent, would have a website that ranks higher in the search engines than a competitor with incorrect, inconsistent listings on lower quality venues with less listings in their repertoire.
Changes To Google’s ‘Local’ Algorithm:
Reviews and citations are especially important nowadays since Google has reduced the number of results from 10 down to just 3 local businesses in their ‘local pack’ results which show up for local search terms along with a map in Google search results. You will now need more reviews and a stronger, cleaner NAP listing inventory to remain competitive in the search engines and have your G+ Local listing show up in that local pack on the 1st page of search results!
In Moz’s 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, some of the top factors that local SEO experts are paying more attention to since the Google ‘snack pack’ rollout are the quality of citations they obtain for their clients and the quantity of reviews their clients gain on their Google+ Local listing. They are placing more of a focus on the consistency of NAP data in those listings, too.
On the flip side of that, at this moment, less emphasis is being placed on the actual quantity of citations at this time, in favor of seeking citation quality and data consistency. For now, Internet marketing professionals are less worried about the diversity of review venues they obtain in favor of focusing on gaining Google reviews.
Overall Ranking Factors for Local Search:
Participants of the Moz survey were asked to assign a ‘percentage of influence’ to each of 8 thematic clusters of ranking factors across both localized organic results and the ‘3-pack’ local results). 3 of the 8 themes include NAP and citation factors, and 1 more cluster is partially affected by NAP.
- External Location Signals (13.6%) – NAP consistency in IYP and aggregator venues, volume of citations
- My Business Signals (14.7%) – aka ‘G+ Local listing’: categories, keyword in business title, location proximity
- Review Signals (8.4%) – quantity and diversity of reviews and the velocity of gaining them
- On-page Signals (20.3%) – presence of NAP data in the website, titles containing keywords, domain authority, etc
The first three clusters add up to 36.7% and if we take a few percentage points from the 4th cluster we can see that NAP citations and reviews could easily add up to 45-50% the factors that affect local rankings. In other words, it is believed that about half of what it takes to rank well with the ‘local’ algorithms is related to having a strong and clean NAP/citation presence on the internet and positive reviews of your company online.
It can be seen that backlinks are still perceived to be a strong component of the search engine ranking algorithm for local types of searches as a 20% influence was given to that ranking factor cluster. Backlinks, signals from social media, visitor/user behavior, other on-page/on-site signals, and search result personalization all add up to complete the ‘other half’ of the equation in the local search engine ranking algorithm.
Is Your Business Optimized for Local Search?
Contact us now to request an audit of your online presence from a business NAP citation standpoint. Explore the online business listing management packages that we offer, and we can start the work to correct your online business listings right away. I look forward to working with you!