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No stars in SERPs? Reviews on your site are still valuable

By Expert commentator 05 Nov, 2019
Essential

Even in a world where business reviews no longer contribute to aggregate star ratings in SERPs, there are plenty of reasons to include them on your website. 

In mid-September, Google made a significant change to the way it displays business websites in SERPs. Prior to the update, first and third-party reviews on a business website could have structured markup applied to them that would result in the average review rating appearing alongside the web page in Google SERPs, like so:

Reviews in Google search results

Since Google’s update, which the local SEO community dubbed “Starmaggedon”, these sorts of business reviews no longer lead to these stars appearing. This is due to what Google called the “self-serving” nature of business reviews on business websites (i.e. the people controlling the website and business have control over the content and, therefore, the reviews displayed). 

Plenty of webmasters have bemoaned the change as unfair (as multiple comments on my original post about this show), especially as the same update hasn’t occurred for Products schema - you can still have product reviews on a product page and have the average star rating appear in SERPs for that page. 

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But further to this, some have even suggested that there’s no longer any point in showcasing customer testimonials and reviews on your local business website at all. I’m here to set the record straight and provide evidence to show that displaying this valuable form of social proof on your website is still critical. 

1. People still visit local business websites

Despite the growing importance of Google My Business and Google Maps as highly visible steps in the modern consumer’s search journey, research carried out by BrightLocal shows that people still value and visit local business websites. 

How often do you visit a local business website?

Over 50% of the consumers surveyed stated that they tended to visit local business websites over half of the time they searched for businesses online. 

This shows how critical the business website still is to the research phase of the modern consumer journey. If people are still visiting local business websites, it’s still worth taking the time to showcase customer opinion there. 

2. Reviews are a valuable form of social proof

Today, 78% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. While this figure has dropped in the last couple of years, it still highlights the importance of having third-party voices contribute to the ways you build trust through your website. 

Showcasing this social proof isn’t just about finding a handful of good testimonials and reviews and placing them on your site, though. It’s about timing and location. You want the visitor to see the social proof at the exact point it will help them to make a decision. 

For example, testimonials and reviews that specifically talk about your exceptional customer service are a perfect fit for your ‘Contact Us’ page. After all, this could well be where an unsatisfied customer goes to make a complaint. Hearing the positive experiences of others will put them in a positive mindset and likely result in a more positive outcome. 

3. Consumers are less likely to use businesses without testimonials or reviews on their websites

This is a very important point: 22% of consumers surveyed in the aforementioned research gave a lack of testimonials and reviews on the business website as a reason for being less likely to use a business.  

What would make you less likely to use a local business?

That’s nearly a quarter of your visitors looking for, and failing to find, social proof on your website and choosing to do business elsewhere instead. It’s not considered as crucial to purchase as other aspects, as you can see, but for the minimal effort it takes to showcase reviews on your website, I’d say it’s definitely worth it. 

4. You can get specific with products and services

One of the things you can do with your own website that’s near-impossible to achieve on third-party business review websites is tying service/product-specific reviews to the pages that feature the services and products mentioned. 

The ability to drill down to and feature individual social proof points per product or service gives you the opportunity to make the most of these types of reviews, which might otherwise litter reviews sections of third-party sites, where the focus is generally more on overall reputation and experience. 

Of course, placement is key. There’s no point having happy customers raving about your range of handmade jewellery on pages devoted to showcasing your stationery items, so make sure the testimonials and reviews fit the product and service and place them near key decision points, such as checkouts, for a boost to conversions. 

5. Consumers only trust the average star ratings of businesses with dozens of reviews

In earlier research performed by BrightLocal, we found that, on average, consumers don’t believe the average star rating is reflective of the business quality until the number of reviews reaches 40. 

Number of reviews needed to trust an average star rating

For younger people (18-34 years old) this number was far higher (51 reviews), which suggests that review quantity is only going to get more and more important as the prevalence and visibility of online reviews increase. 

Your business listings on third-party review sites are only ever going to show how many reviews have been left on those particular sites, so your website is the perfect place to highlight your cumulative review quantity. This is particularly important if your business is in an industry which naturally gathers reviews at a slower rate due to the infrequency of consumer need (e.g. law practices). 

6. A standalone reviews page can be optimized for key terms

When a potential customer is considering using your business, it’s very possible that they’ll seek out user-generated content and reviews for it using standard search, with terms like ‘mahoney’s restaurant middletown reviews’. 

While it’s obviously important to have listings on the review sites, such as Yelp, that are likely to appear high in the search results, there’s nothing like getting your own optimized reviews page in there alongside them. 

Simply create a page of your website dedicated to showcasing reviews and testimonials for your business and optimize it to the hilt for ‘reviews’ in the usual ways (headings, meta descriptions, schema, keywords) for a chance to appear alongside these behemoths in search and to take back control of your reputation. 

Conclusion

It’s clear from the data and examples above that, even in a world where business review ratings don’t appear in SERPs, there’s plenty of potential to be found in the showcasing of reviews on local business websites. 

Consumers want to see lots of reviews on your website as well as out there on third-party listings sites that you have less power over, so it makes sense to control the message being shared by your website with handpicked testimonials and reviews. 

 

By Expert commentator

This is a post we've invited from a digital marketing specialist who has agreed to share their expertise, opinions and case studies. Their details are given at the end of the article.

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