Online Reviews Are The Human Backlink

The world of search engine optimization has long been fueled by the power and authority of backlinks.  Gaining a link to your website from a trusted website passes on some of their greatness to you.

I gave a talk at the Integrated Marketing Summit in Minneapolis this week that looked at online reviews as the human backlink, the equivalent of websites gaining links.  My talk on centered around these main points outlined below my embedded presentation.


Reviews Rank & Structure The Human Web

Search engines, especially Google understand more about who we are and what we do or say than ever before.  our online profiles speak volumes about our knowledge, our network, our interests and more.  Our social activity exposes our opinions, our check-ins, our photos, our reviews and more.

reviews rank

The base here is that Google and other review sites know who we are and what we do, who is credible, trusted and worthy of listening to.  Online reviews and the people who leave them are known points of data and well structured. It’s heading past just the 4.2 out of 5 stars ranking a business might have as sentiment and context will continue to gain weight.

Reviews Tie Offline & Online Together

Writing a review of your car buying experience, customer service experience or recent dinner outing directly brings your real world brick and mortar experience to the web. When this happens in dozens or hundreds of instances for a business, you can also draw averages and consistencies from them. In Google’s quest to build a “human-like” experience of search and discovery, this is as good as it gets.

online reviews

Reviews Influence Customers

The stats are in from BrightLocal’s 2015 Consumer Review Survey and the strong numbers aren’t surprising at all.  Reviews are a major part of forming an opinion on a business, customers consume them often, use multiple reviews to form an opinion and want to see recent reviews to perceive credibility.  Here are the BrightLocal Survey stats I outlined in my presentation.

  • 73% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1 – 6 online reviews
  • 69% of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant
  • Only 13% of consumers will consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating

review relevancy in age

Make It Happen, Don’t Wait

You have to have a customer feedback strategy to do business today.  You can’t just hope that customers will tell you how you’re doing and leave strong reviews on Google, Yelp or Facebook.  Working off of Mary Bowling’s MOZ Con graphic of The Map to Local Search Success, I broke down the four areas of a good review profile Mary highlighted.

  1. Work to first get 5 reviews on Google so your stars are visible, then work past 10 reviews for a slight bump in ranking
  2. Form a review strategy. Most importantly ASK EVERY CUSTOMER how you are doing.  We’ll consider you smart if you use a feedback platform like GetFiveStars, but there are manual review tools than can work here to.  Again, the bottom line is to make it happen.
  3. Fix business problems.  The best companies focus on optimizing their customer service, not optimizing their reviews.  Customer service is the core of a great review, so if you really want more reviews, start with the reason WHY anyone would review you.  We help you capture your Net Promoter Score so you can truly evaluate your customer service with a data point, not a guess.
  4. Make sure you are getting reviews at a number of sites.  Don’t ONLY focus on Google, make sure you offer ways and allow customers to review you where it’s easiest for them.  Having a handful of reviews at various review sites and industry sites builds you a  much stronger review profile than having all of them on one site.




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