It’s clear online customer reviews influence the way people see your homebuilding business, but it may not be fully clear how those reviews could affect your ability to be seen by people online at all.
This guide will help you understand how Google reviews can influence your Google search ranking.
What is Google ranking?
First things first.
There are almost two billion websites on the internet and hundreds of billions of web pages. Even when you narrow it down to a specific search, you can imagine how many pages still remain. To sort through all of this information and make it easy for internet users to find exactly what they need, Google uses a ranking system made up of different algorithms. These algorithms work together to determine which information is most relevant and of the highest quality for the search term used.
Google ranking refers to the position your webpage sits when someone searches for a specific term related to your website’s information, based on how relevant your page content is to that search. For homebuilders this might be “homebuilders near me,” or “best homebuilders in (insert your city here)”. Ideally, you want your business to show up on the first page of Google search results because 75% of users never go to the second page.
So how do Google reviews relate to all this?
How Google reviews impact your place in local Google rankings
As a homebuilder, the vitality of your company likely relies greatly on referrals and customer reviews. Reviews on Google tell potential customers about your business, but more importantly, they help tell Google where to rank your company website in the search engine – accounting for over 15% of how Google ranks local businesses.
Here’s how Google reviews help your rankings:
1. Google trusts what people say about businesses
Having customer reviews on Google tells the search engine that your business is not only real, but that others have actually interacted with you. Google is big on trust, so businesses with proof of legitimacy will be given better search visibility. To help guarantee reviews can be trusted, Google uses a spam detection algorithm and will remove reviews that don’t meet their review content guidelines.
Google also uses reviews to determine if your company is satisfying your customers and should be promoted to more people. The more positive reviews and high star ratings you have the greater the signal to Google that your business is giving customers what they want. Think of it as Google’s personal referral. When customers say a lot of positive things about your business Google’s algorithm wants to award you with more search visibility, so more people can find you and benefit from your service.
Related: Why Online Reviews Matter: A Guide for Housing Industry Professionals
2. Google loves relevant and optimized content
To build a searchable index of content to rank in the first place, Google uses its own web crawler software called Googlebot that “crawls” the content of each URL it finds. Once the bots read the information on a webpage – your content and coding – it’s stored and organized as a result for relevant search queries. When someone performs a search, Google combs through the entire index to pull the most relevant content based on what it believes will be most helpful to the query.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website and all its pages to rank higher in Google search. One part of improving your SEO is creating relevant content. And one part of that is using optimized keywords. Leveraging customer reviews on your website and generating them on Google My Business adds additional SEO keywords and phrases for Googlebot to identify. Customers also tell Google more about your business and can actually help fill in gaps of information for Googlebot to read that you may not have included on your website.
3. Google favors websites with higher site traffic
People trust online reviews. The more great reviews you have, the more likely a potential customer is to click on your website link, which improves your click through rate (CTR). If your website is receiving more traffic, Google sees this as a signal that your business is providing a solution to what people are searching for (remember Google trusts consumers), and you’ll be rewarded for that with a higher ranking.
A Note on Google Maps
While reviews can play a part in your Google search ranking, it’s also important to recognize the importance of your reviews and ratings for Maps. When a potential customer searches for a homebuilder in their area, the first thing to show up on Google below the advertisements are the highest ranked Google Map listings. This list automatically filters out businesses with reviews under a 4.0, which emphasizes the importance of having good ratings. 80% of people don’t really trust businesses with less than 4 stars. It also only shows the top three businesses, until users click on “More businesses” at the bottom.
Keep in mind though, top three doesn’t mean users won’t look at more businesses. Customers require a business to have at least 40 reviews on average before they consider their star rating a true representation of the brand.
Ways to improve your Google ranking using Google reviews
Because Google reviews are an important factor in your Google search ranking, you should try to enhance them. Here are a few steps to take:
1. Ask for a Google review at the right time
It’s best to invite your customers to leave a review for you on Google as soon as possible after a good interaction with them. Their satisfaction with you will be fresh on their mind, so they’ll be more likely to deliver a positive, detailed review – great for SEO. As a homebuilder, the best time to ask is after the home is built and keys are handed over. If the homebuyer had a good experience, chances are high they’ll happily leave you a great review and star rating.
2. Make it easy for customers to leave a review
Almost 70% of customers will leave a review if asked to. Take advantage of this by making the review process as simple as possible and eliminate barriers that could stop people from leaving one. Using Google reviews is one of the easiest ways to do this, since over 1 billion people have a Google+ account. Google provides a solution to this, with the option to create a link you can send to customers allowing them to leave reviews and rate your business online effortlessly.
3. Manage and reply to your Google reviews
Google has actually stated that one way to improve your Google ranking is to interact with customers who leave you reviews. Responding to all reviews shows your customers you care about their feedback. Displaying appreciation for positive reviews indicates you value your customers, while offering empathy and a solution for problems in negative reviews shows you care about customer satisfaction.
Related: Reacting vs. Responding to Online Reviews
Google ranking, SEO, keywords, crawling bots – It can all be a bit confusing. So take things one step at a time and work on optimizing your building website’s content gradually. Focus on the pieces of the puzzle you can control, like making sure your business is listed on Google and getting more positive reviews to proudly display.