How Reviews Affect Google Rankings
The relationship between search engine optimization (SEO) and review sites continues to evolve. Reviews are the most powerful element in local SEO, which is why it’s important to manage them properly. But how does Google treat reviews? What do businesses need to know about their impact on rankings?
Reviews Can Influence Rankings in Many Ways
Google didn’t always include review sites in its index. As of 2009, Google began taking them into account, and their impact on rankings has only increased as review sites (and user-generated content) have become more prevalent.
If Google takes user-generated content into account when determining rankings, it stands to reason that the site itself will help determine where a page ranks. And if Google determines rank based on website authority and relevance, those pages with more reviews are likely to be even better indicators of where any given page should fall within search results. This is backed up by data from Moz that shows that websites with higher-ranking pages also tend to receive more reviews. The effect seems especially powerful for local searches.
There’s no denying that having many reviews is a very good thing for your website. After all, this is why most review websites exist in the first place. But Google doesn’t always use reviews to determine rankings. Reviews are just one part of Google’s algorithm, which ultimately uses hundreds of factors when ranking search results.
Reviews Can Influence Rankings Without Ever Showing Up on Page One
What’s more, reviews aren’t found on every page of a site. A page titled “Coffee Beans” (for example) likely won’t show reviews. However, those pages that do receive reviews – such as those referred to as “collection” pages by Google – can see very significant boosts in their rankings. And it’s not just individual businesses that benefit: the area where a particular business is located and geographical searches connected to that review will also be positively affected.
Reviews and Ratings Can Help Your Site Appear More Relevant to Search Engines
On many types of websites, including news websites and e-commerce sites, other users’ reviews are only one of many factors that go into determining how high a given page will rank. But on review sites, reviews and ratings are the primary marks of relevance. The more reviews your site receives, the more likely it is that people will find you when they search for businesses like yours.
Reviews Can Impact Rankings Long-Term
Pages with good reviews tend to maintain their rankings and authority over time. As mentioned above, this holds true even if a website goes through an extended period without receiving any new reviews or updates of any kind.
Websites that struggle to receive any positive feedback from users may see their rankings drop or fail to rank altogether – but only temporarily. After all, Google has access to all of its user data and can easily determine how interested people are in a particular subject by monitoring the number of reviews they find.
If your site receives many reviews, even if it’s been years since the last update, you will likely maintain your rankings without any difficulties. If your site isn’t receiving reviews, however, users are unlikely to search for businesses like yours when looking for places to shop or go out in that area – which is obviously not a recipe for high SERP positions.
Reviews Can Impact Rankings in the Short-Term
Over time, positive reviews can build up enough trust and authority within Google’s algorithm to help your website rank well in SERPs. But how quickly does this actually happen? Google says that most positive feedback has no immediate effect on rankings at all, but there have been instances where pages with little to no authority – pages that were buried in SERPs despite having little to no traffic or history – jumped into the top three positions after only a few days.
This is most likely due to Google’s tracking of review signals; if your page began receiving hundreds of reviews within a short period, it could quickly rise up the ranks. But keep in mind that this isn’t guaranteed to work for every site, and may not even happen at all. We’ve also seen examples where pages with many positive reviews but similar authority still couldn’t outrank an older page with fewer reviews but better overall rankings.
Reviews are Important for Google Ranking
Reviews play an important role in determining how well a page ranks, but it’s also very important to make sure your site is doing everything else right. If Google says that reviews are one of the most “important” ranking factors for review sites, that means there are other factors just as – or even more – important.
Make sure you have quality content on each page of your website and link back to those pages from other pages on your site where possible. Keep working on building up authority by getting other people to talk about your business online through blog posts, social media updates, and other activities. And always remember to fill out all relevant information in your Google My Business listings so users can find you no matter what they’re looking for.
Reviews are an important ranking factor, but they may not be the only one Google uses to determine how high a page ranks. But even if reviews aren’t usually all that effective short term, they can make your website more relevant long-term if you take steps to increase your review count. And doing everything else right – providing great services, having good content, and building up your authority – will help improve user experience, which is why it’s so important to keep all of these elements in balance over time.