We know that online reviews can make or break your local business. They are a huge part of your online reputation and good reviews can even cause consumers to spend more money while negative reviews tarnish your online reputation and cause consumers to lose trust.

Reviews can even improve your local search ranking. But, until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of research on how those reviews can affect your click-through rates (CTR).

A recent study, though, found that online reviews, good and bad, directly affect whether or not a consumer will click on your business’s listing in local search results.

Let’s look at the findings.

How Online Reviews Affect Your Local Search CTR

The study used local search results (the local pack/map results) as well as localized organic results and listed businesses with the following variations:

  • No star rating
  • Low star rating (1-2)
  • Higher star rating (3-5)

Using 18 variations of search results containing the types of star ratings listed above, a panel of 6,283 participants viewed search results and were told to click on the business that seemed like the best choice.

And, the results are not surprising. Here’s what they found:

Reviews are the Main Reason Consumers Click on Your Listing

Participants were asked why they chose to click certain listings, from reasons like “I liked the business name,” to “It was the top result.”

The most common answer, by far, was “It had positive reviews and star ratings.” In fact, 56 percent of people gave this reason for choosing a business while only 10 percent of participants gave the next most common answer, “I liked the business name.”

A measly 9 percent chose a business just because it was the top listing, meaning that it’s better to show up lower and have good reviews than to show up at the top of the local search results but have a bad star rating.

A Higher Star Rating Increases Your CTR

Listings with five stars got the most clicks (nearly 70 percent!) from the local pack while each decrease in star rating meant fewer clicks. Listings with four stars got 59 percent of the clicks and if a business had 3 stars, it got 44 percent of the clicks.

The good news is that improving your star rating improves your CTR. Boosting your rating from 3 stars to 5 stars gets you 25 percent more clicks.

Low Star Ratings Decrease Your Local Search CTR

It’s no surprise that low star ratings will make consumers less likely to choose your business. The study found that having a one-star rating decreases your clicks by 11 percent.

What is surprising, though, is that listings that only had a one-or-two-star rating received fewer clicks than listings with no rating at all. So, it’s better to have no reviews than to have a low star rating, not that we would recommend neglecting your review marketing and reputation management.

Final Thoughts

To increase your CTR in local search results, drive traffic to your website and bring in new customers, you need a positive star rating. This study showed that if your star rating is low, consumers will look right past your business and toward the competition, so now is the time to improve your star rating.

To understand how to improve your star rating, you’ll need to first know why consumers leave negative reviews. Once you have that down, you should start replying to your online reviews. Follow this up by actively working to get more reviews and you’ll be well on your way.