Thursday 20 March 2014

User Reviews: why they’re essential for e-commerce SEO and how to encourage your customers to leave reviews

Enabling customer reviews on your e-commerce website can both help your SEO and positively influence your customers' buying decisions. In this blog post we'll talk about why reviews are so important and how to encourage your customers to leave them.

Why are customer reviews important?

BrightLocal carried out a survey in 2013 where they asked 3,600 consumers various questions about how reviews impacted their buying behaviour, they found that:

  • 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more.
  • 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 49% of local consumers are more likely to use a business that has positive reviews.

Reviews matter to consumers when they’re deciding whether or not to make a purchase. They present the customer with real insight into what the product is actually like. Customers identify with these reviews and have begun to expect them.

Do online reviews have the same impact as personal recommendations? This is a very important question as there would be no use in reviews if other customers didn't believe them. The second statistic above shows that nearly 8 out of 10 people do. Customers tend to trust a review even more if the author is similar to them, as we all take advice more readily from those our own age and in similar life situations.

How do customer reviews help your SEO?

Reviews = UGC: You may have noticed that we talk a lot about content. That’s because it is arguably the single most important factor when Google determines where to rank a website in its search results. Content is the backbone of SEO. Reviews allow users to add their own content to your website; this is called User Generated Content (UGC for short).

This additional unique content makes a real difference to your SEO. For example, two e-commerce websites selling the same product are likely to have very similar product descriptions; product reviews give you the opportunity to have completely unique, product specific content for each product page.

Regularly updated website: Customer reviews mean that your website will be regularly updated, without you having to do anything. This is beneficial because to Google, a regularly updated website is a useful one. Google will crawl updated pages more regularly and this aids your Google rankings.

Increased CTR: Google has started to include consumer reviews in its search engine results displayed as star ratings under the website link. These little stars draw the attention of the searcher, causing the proportion of people who click through to the website (the Click Through Rate) to increase. This not only gets you more visitors but it also helps your rankings.

Increased conversion rates: If visitors arriving at your website see that other customers were pleased with a product then they are much more likely to make a purchase, therefore increasing your conversion rate. This means that you receive more business from the same number of visitors. saw their conversion rate increase by 14.2% when their product pages featured reviews.

Broader range of LSI keywords (words with similar meanings): Customers will use their own phrases to describe the product, purely because they’re not you! This adds keyword diversity to a product page, which Google thinks is a good thing.

What happens if I get a bad review?

Publish it. Customers need to see authenticity to trust reviews, not cherry picking just the best reviews will show customers that the good reviews are genuine.

It is really important that you respond publically to all negative reviews. This shows the rest of your customers that you’re listening, you do care about their custom and that you’re quick to resolve an issue.

Negative reviews could alert you to an issue you may not have been aware of, e.g. If your delivery company is grumpy and unhelpful, this allows you to fix the issue.

How to ask people to review my website?

One great opportunity to ask customers to review a product is in their post product emails (make sure to include social links in this email in case the customer wants to share the product). You could also follow up this email with a friendly call.

Offering an incentive for leaving a review works well to encourage customers. Incentives don’t always mean giving something away for free; gamification techniques such as customer status are very powerful incentives which can be used to increase engagement. (If you want to read more about gamification - which means making an experience more game like - Gabe Zichermann talks about it here.)

Make sure that it’s really easy to leave a review. If a customer is already logged into an account, do you need to ask them to fill out a CAPATCHA?

It is really important that you don’t duplicate external reviews in your website review system as Google will be able to tell that the content is not original and Google penalises duplicate content.

Make sure your reviews are accessible for Google to index. This means avoiding Java script, flash, images or frames. It is also very important that Google can match the review with the product – otherwise all the SEO benefits will be wasted.

With the online world becoming increasingly competitive, any advantage you can get over competitors is worth seriously considering. In 2014 customer reviews are an e-commerce website ‘must have’. They aid your SEO = more visitors. And they increase conversion = more business from those visitors. It's win win.

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