You work tirelessly to create an image for your business through authoritative, insightful content. Unfortunately, this is rarely enough. Customers are more likely to believe others who say a business offers a great service than the company itself. This is why reviews are critical to your online success.

Not only do 90 percent of consumers read reviews before visiting a business (according to Dimensional Research), Google cares, too. Reviews can improve your SEO for several reasons.

  1. Fresh Content

Reviews fulfill around 9.8 percent of total ranking factors. For instance, they are unique, they are often relevant to search queries, they are useful, they provide unique value, they are easy to read on any device, and they are the kind of content others want to share.

  1. Long-Tail Keywords

The people leaving reviews for products and services share many of the same characteristics as those who are looking for your business offerings. This means they use many of the same terms to describe your company and offerings. In other words, they use the same long-tail keywords.

  1. Rich Snippets

When you adhere to schema standards, Google favors your site. In terms of reviews, schema means Google can create rich snippets. These often appear at the top of search engine results. They feature the name of the product, its star rating, the number of reviews, and a brief summary of the top pros and cons. These rich snippets are highly-clickable.

  1. Higher Rankings for Other Pages

One of the best ways to prove your authority is to be backed up by other sources. If the majority of your reviews are positive, Google will take this to mean that your brand is popular. This will boost rankings for many of the page on your site. However, for this to be effective, you need to increase both the number of reviews you receive and the percentage of positive reviews.

  1. Third-Party Star Ratings

Google looks at reviews on your own website and on third-party pages. Ideally, you should maintain a high star ranking (at least 3.5 stars) on the most important third-party site for your industry. You should to aim for at least 30 unique reviews in the last 12 months.

Creating a Review Strategy

If you just wait for reviews to pour in, you’ll definitely be disappointed. No matter how great your service is, only a small minority of customers will leave reviews without a push or incentive from you. Worse still, if customers do have a bad experience, they may feel obliged to share it with the world. This can lead to a skewed number of negative reviews, leading to a distorted picture of your business that negatively impacts SEO.

To ensure reviews have a positive effect on SEO, you need a strategy.

Ask for Reviews

Ask satisfied customers to leave you reviews whenever they have a positive experience with your company. You can send an email after a purchase or invite users on your website and social media accounts. Asking for reviews needs to be a constant campaign — it is always beneficial to have new reviews.

Clearly state where you want reviews. The most important place is usually Google My Business, as these reviews appear on Google Maps and in Google search results. You need at least five reviews on Google My Business before you will even see a star rating in the search.

Win at Yelp

Another important third-party site for many types of businesses is Yelp. Be warned: this site is smart — it knows when reviews are likely illegitimate are hides them. To make sure the reviews you ask from your customers are published, never provide direct links to your Yelp page. Instead, ask customers to Google your business name and look for it on Yelp. Also tell customers to leave descriptive reviews, as Yelp ignores those that are too short.

Social Media

Some social media platforms allow users to leave reviews on brands’ pages. You can incorporate more reviews by using them as part of your social media strategy. Among other strategies, post your best reviews to make sure they become highly-visible to prospects and to start conversations.

Respond to Negative Reviews

Responding to negative reviews is your chance to address what went wrong and apologize or justify the situation. Never be defensive — this will only make things worse. Instead, see what you can do to make things right. This demonstrates that you care to potential customers.

Reviews have the potential to boost your SEO, but there is always the risk that they ruin your company’s reputation online. With a large number of positive reviews, you can dominate the search results for long-tail keywords that relate to your offerings. To achieve this, it is critical you have a strategy to receive the right types of reviews.