November 21

The Weekly Briefing: Ask Politely, Get Reviews

Senior SEO Manager Hannah Scherrer talked about the importance of ratings and reviews for local business searches…

There’s no avoiding it: reputation management is something every business needs to be doing today. According to a recent BrightLocal consumer review survey, 87% of people want to see three- to five-star reviews before they will consider using a product or service from a company. Now consider the fact that every time a person searches for a local business, they see the company’s star rating (on a scale of zero to five stars) front and center. Google is even rolling third-party star ratings below their own, to give customers even more reviews to consider. There is a clear trend of increasing review importance among consumers:

  • 68% of people are more likely to use a local business after reading positive reviews
  • 83% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, as long as they seem authentic
  • 54% of people will visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews

This is the sixth year that BrightLocal has conducted the survey, and there is a clear trend of increasing review importance by the year. As more people put more trust into those all-important stars, it’s clear that cherry-picked positive testimonials on websites no longer cut it. There is hope for businesses that have avoided an online reputation strategy, because a startling 71% of customers stated they would leave an online review for a business if asked. If you know your customers are happy with your services, don’t be afraid to pop the (review) question!

Hannah Scherrer wasn’t quite finished bringing her SEO findings to the discussion. She explained how to utilize Google’s new mobile-first index…

A recent article from Search Engine Land reminded business owners and SEO specialists that Google is rolling out a mobile-first search index. This means that the ranking algorithm will analyze a website’s mobile version, rather than the desktop version, to determine where a page should rank on the results page. Needless to say, this is a huge shift in the way the search engine works, and it’s essential to optimize for mobile now more than ever before. The article outlined five easy ways for people to do this:

  1. Increase site speed: less redirects and code, more optimized images
  2. Don’t block CSS, JavaScript or images: No longer necessary for mobile
  3. Improve mobile design: No flash or popups
  4. On-page optimization: Less room means more concise content
  5. Optimize for local: More important for mobile than desktop searches

As more than half of Google’s searches now come from mobile devices, we have reached a tipping point where the search giant caters to these users first and foremost. There is no need to panic, as many of the changes that improve SEO for mobile are quick fixes that are easy to implement. The changes make sense from a user experience perspective, because nobody wants to visit a mobile site that takes forever to load. People are beginning to expect more from their mobile internet experience, and it’s up to search marketers to make it happen.

Account Manager Chip Fox discussed the importance of optimizing a crawl budget to improve SEO results…

According to a recent Search Engine Land article, SEO agencies tend to focus on things like keywords, content and intuitive design – but there is another search animal that should never be forgotten: spiders. We’re talking about the digital variety of spiders (also known as web crawler bots), such as Googlebot, that automatically scour the web and analyze a website’s content. They use the information they gather to index the pages for search rankings. It’s a technology that ensures SERPs are always changing, because the bots never stop crawling. It’s important for SEO agencies to make websites accessible not only to users, but to these spiders as well. The process is called crawl budget optimization, and there are many ways to get started:

  • Ensure pages are crawlable by configuring robots.txt correctly
  • Be careful with rich media files, they’re not always crawlable
  • Avoid redirect chains: they take up valuable crawl budget
  • Repair broken links
  • Give dynamic URLs specific parameters
  • Make sure your sitemap is clean and intuitive
  • Take advantage of feeds like RSS (Googlebot crawls these often)
  • Increase high-authority external links
  • Improve internal link integrity

Good practices in SEO typically align with good practices for your crawl budget. It’s possible to be blissfully unaware of spiders, yet still improve your site’s crawlability. It’s worth being aware of the things that spiders like Googlebot look for when they’re analyzing a page. The more often your site is crawled, the more all of your hard SEO work will pay off. Everyone wants a quick jump in the rankings, but that won’t happen if search engines can’t easily navigate your site. Turn your crawls into opportunities with improved optimization.