How to use reviews and testimonials to enhance your website’s SEO

Why are reviews, testimonials, and other user generated content (UGC) important to website owners? Adinah Brown, content manager at Leverate, explains.

Google algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

They’re not just analyzing what you have to say about yourself, but what others have to say about you as well. Reviews and testimonials form an important part of User Generated Content (UGC) in which search engine algorithms are placing increasingly more weight and consideration.

SEO loves UGC, consider it a burgeoning romance. Why? Because UGC provides sites with fresh and relevant content, lusciously flowing backlinks and valid organic sources to shape a site’s attributes.

A study conducted by Search Engine Land showed that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, other studies have shown that search engine robots love them just as much as us humans do.

Yotpo conducted a test whereby they analyzed 30,000 online business who all varied significantly, but one common denominator that they all shared was the ability for users to add reviews. Their study found that over the course of nine months the average number of organic site visits increased from 5.4 thousand to 8.1 thousand a month. An astonishing climb in a relatively short period of time. But while Yotpo’s study demonstrated the strong connection between user reviews and organic traffic, we look deep into understanding why this correlation exists.

1. Reviews provide fresh content

It’s a challenge to constantly publish fresh content, but there is also the risk of new content not always being beneficial for SEO purposes. In many respects reviews are that golden ticket, effectively indicating to search engines that your website is active and relevant to visitor’s interests. What’s more UGC is a cost effective and low effort way to add SEO juice to your site and social media channels. It creates a platform for you to have conversations with your customers and lets your customers have conversations about you. This practically makes reviews the health nectar for your website’s SEO. Arguably better than any other marketing strategy in its ability to appeal to search engine robots and engage human visitors.

2. Reviews naturally add shape to your website’s SEO attributes  

Websites are designed to be crawled over and analyzed by search engines who will read their keywords, titles, back-links and internal links and then allocate a value to what they find. Reviewers make up a veritable army of link builders and keyword writers who are out there adding invaluable SEO juice to your website. All without you putting in even the smallest effort. You might as well just sleep in this morning!

3. Rank for the long tail keywords

While general search terms are highly competitive, specific phrases represent the long tail keywords that are searched for far less frequently, making it easier for you to rank more highly. The challenge though is knowing which long tail keywords to focus on, as in any industry there are many. Customers are likely to make that identification process easier through their comments and the words and phrases that they use to talk about your services. You can then integrate that terminology as long tail keywords for your site’s optimization.

4. Boost your Social SEO

Social Media Optimization, otherwise known as SMO, puts a focus on optimizing your social media presence, be it Facebook, Youtube or LinkedIn. A review placed on any one of these social media channels can be shared, liked and invite further comments or instigate comment threads by using hashtags, all of which cumulatively points back to your brand. Social media is already largely about user generated content and therefore reviews naturally work well into these platforms. In this arena, the task is not so much to fuel a conversation, but rather to fuel a buzz on your brand.

5. Ideal for both manual and automatic optimization

While there are automated search engines that will look at your customer reviews as part of its evaluation, there are also human beings who play a part in this process, they are known as search quality raters. These people will evaluate your site’s reputation and consider aspects such as expertise in the relevant industry, authority and validity, all of which can be gleaned from customer content that is on your website. Client written reviews form a strong indicator to search quality raters, that your website is relevant to the industry, a source of interest and a point of engagement to its visitors.

While website reviews and testimonials do run the risk of having negative comments left on your page from a search engine algorithm perspective, this is not necessarily detrimental unless they represent a sizable proportion of comments. Google is aware and realistic that no company, ever, has been totally immune of criticism. Quality raters likewise take a similar approach. The biggest risk is with new viewers who will read a negative review. In this case, the best thing you can do is respond, sympathetically and professionally. This sort of response indicates to new clients that you take every customer experience seriously and you value their service, even if you weren’t able to please them in every circumstance. Again, as long as the criticism is significantly outweighed by the recommendations, your response to a criticism is only likely to be perceived as a demonstration of your professionalism.

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