It’s a simple enough question – do customer ratings improve search engine results? Can you influence your website’s breakout on top search engines? Do your customers’ opinions have the power to push you to the top or erase you from the top of Google’s front page?

If you only look at mainstream SEO opinions you might conclude that reviews don’t matter as much as good links, updated sites, and anchor rich text ( What many small business owners are learning the hard way is that the mainstream opinions are wrong. Reviews not only drive search engine results, but they can also profoundly influence your business’ placement amongst local internet users. What’s so great about reviews and why should your small business focus on them?

Reviews that are written by highly motivated customers are passionate and rich in content. The fact that the reports often originate from your neighbors makes the data highly relevant to internet users near your business. When massive search engine companies evaluate what your neighbors are reading and decide where to place your website amongst those results, they love nothing more than when you have a robust web presence filled with real people writing actual reviews. It’s so apparent when you consider the value search engines place on organic content that it’s no wonder that this is precisely how the most prominent search engines work (

Second, regardless of search engine rankings, customers are reading reviews online before they buy anything. A recent market survey shows that nearly 90% of all first-time customers read online reviews ( before they even step foot in a business. Nothing creates action like action, and when it comes to online search engine rankings and driving customers into your doors, you need to have a web presence that has a ton of reviews.

Third organically written reviews by motivated customers provide content and in-links that force your site up the search result page. Whether you’re dealing with a company like Yelp! or a traditional search engine, reviews that use tons of photos and links to products build credibility and increase the relevance of your site amongst search companies. All of this directly translates to superior results.

Finally, reviews are the least expensive way to build buzz around your business. Customers are willing to share their opinions with others when they’re thrilled with the service and products they’ve received. They want to feel like their opinions are valued, so doing something as simple as asking for reviews is typically enough to get a strong feedback. If you’re smart, engage with unhappy customers and take their criticisms seriously. They will often return for a second visit and update reviews to reflect their positive experiences.

The verdict is clear: when it comes to SEO one of the most efficient ways to drive results is to encourage your customers to write exciting reviews, link to your website, and connect with your business on social media.

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