Value of Google and Yelp Reviews
As marketers and business owners, we are constantly looking for ways to separate ourselves from the competition. Word of mouth continues to be one of the strongest forms of trust building and lead generation. With the proliferation of online review sites and sources, it can be challenging to keep up with all avenues available. The two most important platforms for user reviews are Yelp and Google (with Facebook a strong third). Clients and friends frequently ask which is most important to focus on. To help answer this question, we’ll look into review quality, how each platform impacts SEO (search engine optimization), and then some advice on utilizing those reviews.
A blog could easily be dedicated to this topic alone; the reviews themselves. Let’s begin with Yelp. There is a lot of hostility towards Yelp reviews and more importantly the Yelp algorithm. Business owners frequently ask about lost reviews. After much research, while I understand the frustration, the logic behind the Yelp filter makes sense. Essentially Yelp says we keep the reviews that are most useful to the end user (not the business). You can see the explanation here. This is meant to help Yelp users get the most relevant information about the business. Quality of reviewers is valued over volume of reviewers on Yelp’s end.
Because of this, the reviews that appear on Yelp tend to be richer in detail, making it valuable to the next potential customer. Also, Yelp reviewers tend to go out of their way to write a review. This means the reviews tend to be on the end of the spectrum of either the best or worst experience.
Google is different than Yelp in almost every way. Perhaps at the core of differentiation is that while Yelp says you cannot solicit reviews, Google encourages the practice. From here, Google makes it easier for a user to write a review. Chances are you are already signed into your Google account and using some Google product. Google allows users to leave only star reviews without comment. It can be your first review or hundredth and Google will post the review to the business. This creates more generic reviews but the ease allows less emotional reviews. The theory is that through volume, general consensus can be achieved.
Strong reviews on both Google and Yelp will help you in the SERP (search engine results page); only in different ways. With Google, the positive impacts are more tangible. Google reviews are a major factor in local SEO rankings. Logically it makes sense too. Google is built to show searchers the most relevant and useful information so if someone is looking for a local sandwich, a sandwich shop with a high volume and high rating of reviews is probably a good business to show in the local pack. And as Google is using more features in the SERP, appearing in the featured sections will be become even more of a priority.
Yelp reviews do help you in SEO only in a different way. Yelp has a high volume of traffic and information searchers find helpful. While Google may not like Yelp taking traffic away from them, for now, they have to respect that users like Yelp. This means Yelp tends to rank well in many search results. If you are ranking well in Yelp, Google searches who click on the highly ranked Yelp page will find you when they click through to Yelp. Yelp is also used as a source for citation and verification in Local SEO which provides some direct SEO value.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Yelp and Google reviews are both important. If your competitors are accumulating reviews and you are not, you’re probably losing out on customers. If your competition is not generating reviews and it’s within your brand to use that platform, you just found an advantage. It’s now time to use these reviews to generate traffic. More specifically, make sure they are on your website assuming they are good.
You don’t need to be a blue-chip company to take advantage of the value of reviews on your site. A great example of this is from a local transmission shop near Golden, CO. They use a WordPress plugin which feeds Google reviews directly to their site. It’s really simple to install and immediately helps traffic on your site convert from middle of the funnel to a sale. There are some great tools out there that allow you to make customizations from most recent reviews to filter out low-quality reviews. A good plugin will bring in reviews from all sources to your website.
For most businesses, the conversation should not be if I need to focus on Google or Yelp reviews. Both have challenges and both have major payoffs. If you need to focus on one more than the other, check your market conditions. Weak Yelp presence? Maybe do some ads to generate traffic to your Yelp page. Competitors not generating Google reviews? Stop reading this article and get to work. Once you have established reviews on both platforms, make sure you’re utilizing those reviews on your website.
Sam White, MBA is a senior account manager and search engine optimizer for New Dimension, a digital marketing agency located in San Diego, CA. Over his career, he has worked in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the US on initiatives including both education and marketing. He focuses his efforts on turning complex ideas into actionable and measurable steps.