What with all the changes in SEO and social media, there is nothing new about customer reviews for online businesses. For years now businesses have used client feedback to better serve new and potential customers. Obviously, customers are key to a successful business and happy customers often refer new clients to your business. We know now that prospective customers like to research businesses before they spend their hard-earned cash.
What Is Better For SEO – Backlinks Or Social Reviews
Those older digital marketeers out there familiar with old style SEO will remember that backlinks where a key part of keyword rankings in Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Backlinks are basically “pats on the back” from one website to another. In other words, if your website gets a backlink from a related website, the search engines consider that a “positive vote” for your website and denotes it a quality and trustworthy place to visit.
Therefore, as Google uses robots to gather information and decide what’s good from the bad, a relevant backlink is a sensible way to evaluate the value of a website for a particular keyword or phrase. Google tallies these from websites around the world and then decides what websites are the most valuable for a keyword search and rewards accordingly.
What Is A Backlink
We are not trying to explain in detail what a backlink is but hopefully it outlines why backlinks are important to the search engines and your website. Unfortunately, grey and black-hat digital marketing agencies used to spam backlinks in order to achieve rankings and Google has battled these tactics for over fifteen years now. In fact, there have been incidents of business owners using negative press to build backlinks and successfully gain rankings. Now using penalties and ranking suppression this sort of negative SEO is becoming a thing of the past!
2014 brought about a major change in how Google treats backlinks. We know that backlinks are treated differently than they were in 2013 and backlinks are still valuable. However, their value according to Google has changed drastically. Gone are the days where massive and expensive backlink strategies are necessary to rank in the search engines (thankfully).
Using Social Media As A Ranking Factor
So it should not come as a surprise that social media has become a real factor and signal in SERPs. Social media is best described as any site that involves user interaction and engagement to drive traffic to the site. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all social media platforms.
Now that social media is becoming more of a driving force behind internet traffic, it makes sense that the search engines are using social media interactions as a positive ranking signal. Google tracks the user behaviour and determines if a user’s discussion about a website is good or bad. Therefore, it makes sense that Google will increasingly rely on real users to tell their robots what sites are good, and equally what sites are bad. Though this has been the holy grail for search engines, it has not been available or reliable until now.
Are Social Reviews The New Backlinks
We feel that customer reviews translate into backlinks and that Google can even evaluate the strength of a review based on the actions and history of the person that left the review. Google actually can do that! In fact, Klout was one of the first companies to assign a value to social media accounts and Google has followed suit.
A client review that has an established account with Google or Facebook and is active on social media can have a significant impact on its website’s rankings. And now with Schema (What is Schema?), we will be seeing major changes in how the search engines evaluate and rank websites and customer reviews will be one of the largest driving forces behind keyword rankings. Just as fake backlinks will eventually trigger a penalty with the search engines, any manipulation of the reviews system Google has in place will also soon trigger penalties. If you’re going to encourage your clients to leave reviews, make sure you aren’t attempting to fool Google with fake, paid, or extravagant statements. These types of tactics will harm your website in the near future and will be considered black hat.
How Social Reviews Can Help With Local SEO
By taking a positive and active approach to customer reviews will pay huge dividends in the coming years and will be visible in the SERPs. Google, over time, will continue to phase out backlinks as the strongest ranking signal and will slowly replace backlinks with customer reviews and positive engagement for your local business website.
Social Reviews And SEO Agencies Near Me
We are an SEO company in Exeter: offering affordable local SEO services to boost your web presence. Talk to us about SEO, Web Design, Facebook Advertising, Google Ads/Display, Bing Ads and Review Packages. Give Search4Local a call on 01392 409159 and we will be happy to discuss why customer reviews are important for ranking.