Recent studies show that over 75% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as word of mouth recommendations. For this reason, maintaining a positive online reputation is a vital component of your digital footprint.

Reviews are a blessing and a curse, but they are a part of online business that unfortunately can’t be avoided. Review sites like Yelp receive a lot of traffic and are buzzing with social interaction, which in turn influences search engine results for businesses listed in their directory.

Today we’ll review the ways in which online reviews affect SEO, as well as best practices for managing your online reputation.

How Reviews Affect SEO

1. They Affect Brand Perception

Reviews can have a powerful impact on how your brand or businesses is perceived. Positive reviews build consumer trust and confidence, which has a trickle down effect on your overarching online presence.

Trusted brands have legions of followers and fans that act as online ambassadors. These ambassadors consume and share branded content, which in turn sends signals to search engines that your brand is a credible source of information. If your brand has a negative perception, it most likely will not garner much engagement from your target audience.

Google has declared that it prefers “brands” because they are recognizable sources vetted by real people. As Google and other search engines become more human-like and strive to return only the most relevant results, the importance of brands will continue to rise.

2. They Affect Brand Perception

When I read a glowing review of a restaurant or local business, I often check out their website to learn more about who they are and what they offer. As the online landscape becomes increasingly flooded with options, your audience is bound to do more comparison shopping and fact checking before making a decision.

Positive reviews will encourage people to visit your website to verify that you are indeed a legitimate option. Referral traffic from reviews sites like Yelp is a great way of attracting potential customers.

3. They Can Influence Social Sharing

As mentioned earlier, favorable reviews contribute to positive brand perception, which leads to social endorsements. The impact of a positive online reputation extends beyond the bounds of Yelp and other review sites.

Often, a customer will visit a business based on reviews they have read online. If they have a positive offline experience and become a repeat customer, they will begin to utilize other social channels to promote the business. For example, FourSquare and Facebook offer “check in” features that allow consumers to broadcast the fact that they ate at “Bob’s Bar & Grill”, for example.

Other  massively popular social platforms used by consumers to promote brands and businesses are Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Having an arm of dedicated brand loyalists that promote your business for you results in free PR and advertising. What’s not to like about that?

4. They Can Influence Search Rankings

A byproduct of the above three points is improved placement in search results. In 2013, factors that influence SEO go beyond inbound links or the number of keywords stuffed into your title tags. Major search engines are looking for signals that real people are engaging with and trust your brand or business.

If your brand or business has a healthy online reputation backed by devoted fans or followers, search engines will reward you.

by Fuze November 22, 2013