Do reviews affect your organic Google rankings?

Do reviews affect your organic Google rankings?

The evidence suggests yes!

Another frequently asked question from dentists to the team here at the Dental Media office is “do reviews on Google affect where my website appears in the search results?”

Before we go into detail, let’s break this down a little bit more. When we talk about “organic” search results, we essentially mean the index of results which appear on page one of Google which are not from the paid channel i.e. not Google Ads. This can then be broken down a little bit further into the “map/local” results (the 3 results which appear with extra annotations e.g maps etc) near the top of the page, and also the “traditional” free search results (typically 10 although this can now vary).

It has long been known that reviews do influence whether a business appears in the “local/map” results and just how important this is; but more recently, there is increasing evidence that reviews also influence the rest of the traditional ranking results as well.

Whilst Google has neither confirmed or denied this, the evidence suggests that it is indeed so. The SEO team at Dental Media looks after search marketing for lots of dentists across the UK and as part of this remit we regularly check search positions, number of reviews etc and try to correlate what we see. And what we see is that, in general, reviews can indeed influence traditional search ranking as well as the local/map results.

Is this definite?

As with all things associated with Google, unless they confirm it directly, we can never be 100% sure; we can simply report trends and apparent correlations. Consequently we cannot guarantee that lots of good (or indeed bad) reviews will definitely affect your search positions. However, we can say with a degree of certainty, that in most cases, this does appear to be so. Those websites/businesses which accrue lots of positive reviews do seem to fare quite a lot better with their organic search positions.

There is also some logic to this. If you consider that Google is trying to surface the most appropriate results to satisfy a user’s queries, why wouldn’t they use reviews as a quality signal?

That said, there are also the usual anomalies which crop up from time to time. For example we have seen businesses steadily gain reviews over time and fail to get into the local/map positions for a long time. We have also seen dental businesses accrue reviews very quickly (contrary to advice) and been apparently red-flagged by Google for doing so. More of this below.

A recap on managing the Google review process

Given that reviews having a wide-reaching, positive effect for getting your business found in the search results, it makes good sense to have a procedure for managing it. This includes allocating responsibility within the local team, training and measuring results. You have to be persistent but also ensure that you don’t go overboard and upset your patients because of constant pestering. Reviews can be accrued on other platforms and not just Google. Facebook is also important as are some of the more specific dental related websites. The “signals” generated by these reviews and references are all useful for SEO generally and hence should be pursued.

One word of caution here. There are several third-party services which claim to manage the review process for you and charge a pretty penny for the privilege. But it’s absolutely critical to understand that they only do part of the job. The key element, i.e. actually placing the review, cannot be done by these services and must be done by the patient on their own device and using their own Google account – so if the review service promises something else, they are being less than truthful. Treat these types of services with caution and please check before signing up. Please don’t hesitate to call us for advice if you are unsure.

Don’t be over zealous when chasing reviews

Another key element in the review management process is the rate at which reviews are accrued. Too fast and you will trip Google’s filters as the process will look unnatural. Remember that Google scrutinises this process very closely and anything which looks out-of-the-ordinary can easily be penalised. So don’t try to game the system and make sure that your review process is above board.

Summary

Evidence suggests that reviews on Google are becoming even more important than previously and now also influence the traditional organic rankings as well as the local/map results. If you don’t already have a solid procedure for managing the review process, then now is certainly the time to get moving. It’s likely that the web marketing astute practices nearby you are already on the case and hence you may have some catching up to do, but don’t let that put you off. Several months of hard work will get you back in the game and you should see your ranking results, website traffic and new patient enquiries benefit as a result!

Do you need help with this or any other aspect of online digital marketing for dentists? If so, then please call the team at Dental Media on 01332 672548 for impartial advice.