How Positive Reviews Improve Local SEO For Businesses (Hint: They’re 8.9% Of SEO But Show In A TON Of Places)

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



20 Top Online Directories For Local Business SEO (And How To Use Whitespark Citation Resources To Build Even More)


Online directories (called citations) are about 25% of Google’s local search ranking factors.

Google My Business is 14.7% by itself but ideally you want to list your business on hundreds of directories especially if you’re targeting Google Maps. I know it sounds ridiculous, however if you look at this pie chart under the “top local stack / snack pack factors” (aka Google Maps), you can see online directories / citations are both the #2, #5, and #14 local ranking factors…



Top 20 Online Directories

1. Google My Business
2. Yahoo Local
3. Bing Places
4. Yelp
5. Foursquare
6. Express Update
7. Neustar
8. Acxiom
9. Chamber of Commerce
10. CitySearch
11. Factual
12. Yellowpages
13. Merchant Circle
14. Manta
15. BBB
16. Kudzu
17. Superpages
18. Mapquest
18. Yellowbot
20. Yellowbook
Top Directories For Industries, Countries, Cities – my list includes the top 20 online directories for United States. If you are in a different country (or you just want to see the most extensive lists available online), see Whitespark’s top citations by category, city, and country.

NAP Consistency – NAP stands for business name, address, phone. Keeping this consistent across your directories (and website) is the #2 ranking factor in Google Maps.

Google Maps Optimization – my process for ranking here is: Google My Business → Moz Local → Whitespark → Reviews. This works VERY well and is the same process I used to rank clients #1 for “Chicago Graphic Design Classes” and other competitive keywords on my work page. I provided tips below and you can also see my local SEO guide (specific to WordPress but most recommendations are universal) for tips on finding local keywords, creating geo-targeted pages, mobile speed optimization, and other items from Google’s local search ranking factors.

Google My Business – your most important directory. Fill this out 100%, upload photos and the “photos” tab, verify your page, set a custom URL, and list ALL relevant categories with your primary category listed first. Get a 360° tour from a Googled preferred vendor if applicable.


Moz Local – run your business through Moz Local to fix errors on top directories. You will see 4 tabs which will help you fix incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate listings.

Moz Local Citations

Whitespark – hire Whitespark to build more directories since these are so important for Google Maps. Whitespark’s citation building service is $4-5 per directory. You basically fill out an intake with your business information, order around $300 worth of directories, and in around 2-3 months you should see an improvement in your Map rankings (they will send you a report once it’s complete). Whitespark has 4.9/5 reviews stars on Google with 120+ reviews and I’ve invested over $2,000 for both myself and clients. Whitespark does manual submissions + one-time fees unlike Yext which is automated, has recurring fees, and is terrible.


Reviews – Google My Business is usually the most important place to get reviews on (you need about 5 to get those stars showing up). You can avoid the Yelp review filter by asking customers who already have a Yelp account and engaging with people who left a review (adding them as a friend, voting their review as useful, etc).  This will avoid the Yelp filter.


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