When it comes to local SEO, online reviews have always been known as playing an important role in determining how a business ranks in search results. This has led many business owners to wonder just how big of a role they play when compared to other factors search engines like Google use to determine page rank in local searches, such as website content, backlinks and social media presence.
A recent report published by Search Engine Journal answers this question. According to information from a study done by Local SEO Guide, reviews are the most important local SEO ranking factor in 2017. The study looked at businesses who had good rankings in Google’s local packs, examining more than 200 different factors. It found that businesses with relatively poor link profiles were still able to rank prominently in local search results if they had a decent number of reviews from customers.
Businesses that have high numbers of reviews on Google My Business are seen as more popular by the search engine and thus rewarded with higher positions in local packs. The study also found that while the quantity of reviews definitely plays a big part, their content also matters. Local companies whose Google My Business reviews often mentioned a keyword or the name of their city did even better in local search results.
Even though it appears that businesses with few high-quality links pointing to their website are still able to perform well in local search results, this doesn’t mean that links are now completely unimportant. Businesses who make the effort to build backlinks from reputable sources are able to rank well in regular organic search results. The same goes for those who pay attention to the quality of their website and regularly update it with fresh content. Ranking well in organic results has been found to have a correlation with high rankings in local packs.
Simply put, business owners who want to do better in local search results should encourage their customers to leave reviews on their Google My Business page, while at the same time optimizing the content of their website and building a solid backlink profile.