Why Getting Reviews Is So Important In Local SEO (They’re Also A Ranking Factor)

Reviews local seo

There’s no doubt reviews are a huge part of local SEO. They show up in Google Maps, when people search your business name, and they’re 8.9% of Google’s local search ranking factors.

I’m not here to share statistics on how important reviews are since I’m sure already know that. But which profiles are most important? Have you ran your business through Moz Local and created complete, consistent profiles on the top listing websites? How do you avoid the Yelp review filter, and how do you respond to negative reviews while thanking people for the good ones? This is the kind of (actually useful) stuff I’ll be going over. So let’s get right into it…

Table Of Contents

  1. Reviews Are 8.4% Of Local Search Ranking Factors
  2. Google My Business Is (Usually) The Most Important Profile
  3. Avoiding The Yelp Review Filter
  4. Respond To Reviews
  5. Where Reviews Appear Online
  6. Websites To Get Listed On
  7. Add User Reviews To Your Website


1. Reviews Are 8.4% Of Local Search Ranking Factors

Reviews are 8.4% of Google’s local search ranking factors and even though that may seem small, you know about 90% of people use reviews to decide who they’re doing business with.


Review Ranking Factors

  • Quantity of native Google Maps reviews (with text)
  • Quantity of third-party traditional reviews
  • Overall velocity of reviews (native + third-party)
  • Product/service keywords in reviews
  • Quantity of reviews by authority reviewers
  • Authority of third-party sites on which reviews are present
  • Velocity of native Google Maps reviews
  • Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present


2. Google My Business Is (Usually) The Most Important Profile

Reviews on your Google My Business Page appear in Google Maps and on the right side of search results when people search your business name. You need about 5 reviews on Google My Business for the stars to show up. If Google Maps are the main listings you’re targeting, you should ideally have more reviews than all competitors. If you Google “Chicago Wedding Photographer” you’ll see one business has 49 reviews with a 5 star rating. This is a competitive keyword so these businesses will have a lot of reviews, but ideally you would have more. This alone can make or break your business since these reviews are often the first thing people see.

Google my business seo


3. Avoiding The Yelp Review Filter

Unlike Google, Yelp has a review filter which can make legitimate reviews not get published. Thankfully there are many ways around this to make sure those reviews don’t get filtered out.


Don’t send people a link to your Yelp page – when people follow a direct link to your Yelp page, Yelp knows you are soliciting them and the review will probably not get published. Instead, Google your business name and send people to that link (see an example here).

Ask people who already have a Yelp account – new Yelpers won’t have their profile filled out, their Facebook account won’t be connected, and they won’t have Yelp friends or existing reviews. You’re best off asking people who already have a Yelp account and are active on it.

Encourage descriptive reviews – short reviews aren’t useful and will probably get filtered.

Respond and interact with the reviewer – respond to their review (eg. saying thanks), add them as a friend, and send them a message. You can even vote their review as useful. By engaging with reviewers you are sending a signal to Yelp saying the review is legitimate.

Don’t offer financial incentives – this can cause your Yelp page to get a consumer alert if they catch you which can completely ruin your business. You’re better off not taking the chance and simply asking people who have had an awesome experience with your business.


4. Respond To Reviews

Most websites give you the option to respond to reviews which you should be doing for ALL them (both positive and negative). People like to see you’re trying to make it right. Responding to positive reviews encourage conversion and can get you even MORE reviews (just like you would respond to a comment on your blog, only this is even more important).



5. Where Reviews Appear Online

When People Search Your Business Name – if that doesn’t help your branding, I don’t know what does. All you need is a Google My Business page, fill out your profile completely, then get about 5 reviews. Notice these reviews can show up twice in search results, once on the right side of the page and once under your website. If you get enough reviews on the other review websites, those stars should also appear in your search results (like Yelp does in this photo).

Google reviews

When People Search Local Keywords – if Google Maps appear for most of your keywords, reviews should be a key part of your local SEO strategy (especially on Google My Business). This will be the first impression of your business for a LOT of people. Can’t stress this enough.


When People Search Yelp – Yelp even has a “Highest Rated” and “Most Reviewed” filter:

Yelp filters

When People Search Groupon – If you’re running a Groupon, reviews from different websites can show up when people view your Groupon listing. These websites can be different for each industry, for example, UrbanSpoon will likely show up for restaurants. Research where your competitors are (or see these top citations by category) and get reviews on those profiles.

Groupon reviews

On Mobile – even when people use their phone, reviews are one of the first things they see.



6. Websites To Get Listed On

Citations (fancy name for your online profiles) are the #2, #5, and #14 ranking factors in Google Maps (see local stack factors below). Quantity, quality, consistency, and profile completeness are essential, plus you should delete duplicates that can penalize your other profiles. Here are the resources you need to correct existing profiles, and to build new ones.


Google My Businessenhance your Google My Business Page by verifying your profile, getting a custom URL, adding photos, and using consistent NAP (business name, address, phone) as listed on your website. Follow that link for tips on optimizing Google My Business.

Moz LocalMoz Local analyzes your top 15 citations and tells you how to fix them. This alone can SIGNIFICANTLY improve rankings and I highly recommended spending an hour gathering logins and doing this. You will be signing up for new profiles, making existing profiles more complete, correcting inconsistent listings, and deleting duplicates. This is a must for local SEO.

Moz local

Moz local citations

Whitespark Citation Lists – browse top citations by category, country, and city. These lists are from Whitespark who is the industry leader in citations. Since citations are so important you ideally want a LOT of these (like, hundreds). I know it sounds ridiculous but this is exactly why businesses with 37 reviews are able to outrank businesses with 49 reviews in Google Maps.

Whitespark Citation Building Service – if you don’t have time to create listings, Whitespark has a citation building service for $4-5 per citation. They have 120+ reviews on their Google page – so you know they’re legit. I’ve invested over $2,000 in their citation building to help my clients rank in the top position of Google’s local results. These are manual submissions and one-time fees whereas Yext is automated (not good) and has a recurring free (also not good). With Whitespark you fill out an intake with your business information and they will complete the job in 1-3 weeks. You will be sent a report with the new citation URLs and one universal login to all the profiles. Here’s my review of Whitespark’s citation building if you’re interested.


7. Add User Reviews To Your Website

If you have courses or services you want people to review on your website, this can make you stand out by adding review stars to your snippets. These are called rich snippets and is done through schema markup (often through a plugin, like WP Rich Snippets as explained my tutorial). It sounds technical but it’s really not – just make sure you have a separate page for whatever you want people to review, add the plugin, then follow their instructions for marking up the page (just fill out the fields they ask you). It’s an easy way to generate more SEO traffic.



See also: WordPress Local SEO: How To Rank Higher In Google Maps + Organic Results

If you have any questions or feedback just leave me a comment below. And if you found my article helpful, please consider sharing it with a friend. I would really appreciate that.


Tom signature



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  1. Does anyone know of any good google review services that are worth checking out?
    For clarification, I am interested in being a re-seller and selling the google review service to my clients.

  2. It’s the best strategy for full-time bloggers to get organic traffic with or without SEO. I actually don’t concentrate that much on SEO other than catchy titles, giving attention to sections of quality content, and maybe it includes a header or two in the blog post itself.

    All you need to notice from this kind of articles is what I & most of the others newbies focusing on the SEO link-building. I have seen many bloggers spending time on different ways of SEO link building instead of providing the value to the content and its social promotions. You may call it ignoring the Google, but we all know that the Google bot doesn’t ignore anchored dofollow or nofollow backlinks to calculate your PageRank.

    With my experience, about 65% of my traffic comes from search engines, & the rest is from social sites that include referrals & direct traffic. Communicating with similar kind of blogger is the best way to get traffic. It’s just like going to relevant sites comes under the micro niche site to you and ultimately making you get the direct quality traffic to you. Anyhow, it will then affect our keyword ranking and PageRank according to the Google guidelines. To get higher search rankings, you need not only focus on SEO but other factors to make you drive more attention to readers online. Thanks for this page, that will help me a lot and for other newbies too…

  3. I’ve gone to places that will have an IPad handy to write reviews and I saw that you mentioned that in-store are more effective but does having multiple reviews from the same IP address seem spammy to Google? Also when most business owners learn that reviews can help them they are typically advised to send an email to ask for reviews so in some cases if the customer is willing to write the review they do it same day so my point is never having review then getting 15 in one day then maybe 1 every other 2 or 3 days seem a little spammy to Google as well right? The problem is that typically how its done so thats when the authority reviewers come into play but not everyone you send an invite to write a review is authoritative. Sounds pretty complicated. lol What do you think?

  4. Hey Tom

    Slightly off topic but did you also know that when you show Google Seller Ratings on your paid ads, you get a 17% increase in click-through rates? So those stars make a massive difference. (source: Google https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2375474?hl=en-GB)

    They (Google) show them as Rich Snippets too in organic results, no data on CTR on those though, obviously, but if it’s anything like the paid figure they quote, that’s a big difference.

    I wrote a blog post about it if you are interested: https://blog.reviews.co.uk/how-to-get-google-reviews-increase-google-shopping-conversions/

  5. Great stuff.

    You say in #7 about reviews on your website that “It’s an easy way to generate more SEO traffic.” I’m looking for some data that says that. Do you know of anything?


    • Thanks Chris. Here’s a tutorial by Search Engine Land that says rich snippets can increase CTR by 30%. This looks like it was for retailers and they don’t have a link to the specific source, but SEL is a very credible site.


    what do you consider an ‘authority reviewer’ for quantity of reviewers? Does Google differentiate between one Google reviewer and another? Or do you just mean between Yelp & Google and others…

    • Hey Kyle,

      Sorry for the late reply. “Quantity of reviews by authority reviewers” just means that if someone reviews your business, the more reviews they have already written, the better it is for you. If the person hasn’t written any reviews then writes one for you, it’s not AS valuable.

  7. … now if they were so easy to get. I work with dentists and everybody knows that reviews are the king but so many people say they will do a review but they rarely happen. I think that the majority of people have never done and online review and they truly don’t know what to do. We are constantly looking for ways to make the reviews easier to do. This is why people try to cheat and get bogus reviews out of the country. These will never work. Google is way to smart!

    • Agreed Bob. Yep, getting customers to write reviews can definitely be tricky. I sent my requests through email and even provided screen shots. I got some but asking in-person seems to always work best.


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