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Navigating SEO is a DrivingSales.com exclusive series by Timothy Martell, CEO of Wikimotive. In this series, Tim breaks down ways dealers can improve their SEO and offers insight into how it will benefit business.
In business, you are your reputation. And if your reputation is suffering, you're losing business. That's because the first thing people often see associated with your dealership is reviews. Google prominently displays reviews in local search packs, which provide users with an easy way of finding local businesses based on their search query. (A search for "car dealers in [CITY/STATE]" will pull this up on your screen.)
If you're showing up here and your reviews show a low rating, how do you think that's going to affect consumer perception?
Even if you show up first, you're going to lose a lot of visitors to the bottom two results because your reviews are worse. Nobody wants to buy a product that has bad reviews, and they certainly don't want to make one of their biggest purchases from a dealership with a low overall rating.
But that's just consumer perception, right? How do bad reviews actually affect your local SEO rankings and traffic? Let's find out!
In a recent post on Moz, Casey Meraz performed a few click-through tests with ten everyday people. Each were given a scenario and instructions to search for a type of business via Google and pick the business they'd choose based on the scenario.
Most immediately jumped into action, reading the local packs first. But instead of just blindly clicking on the first result, they looked at the businesses' ratings and ultimately made a decision based on which business had the best rating in the local pack.
For dealerships, this information should be eye opening. Because when someone searches for car dealers in your area, many of those people are going to visit the site with the best reviews. It doesn't matter if you're in the #1 spot or the #3 spot in the local pack, high ratings attract clicks.
On top of this, you should know that the number of reviews also affects your conversion rate. After analyzing 2.5 million online reviews, Reevoo, a company that provides independent ratings and review software, found that adding more reviews actually increases your overall conversion rate. In their example, 10 reviews averaged a 3.0% conversion rate, while 50 reviews averaged a 4.0% conversion. Reevoo also mentioned that there was no cap to this advantage. The more reviews a site garnered, the better the conversion rate.
You'd think a poor rating affecting your overall CTR would be enough pain and suffering, but that's not the Google way. The company isn't in the business of displaying bad results, and they certainly don't want to show results that people skip over.
While still heavily debated amongst SEO professionals, most industry experts agree that click-through rate is a ranking factor. In fact, Google's former search quality chief, Udi Manber, testified this to the FTC:
"The ranking itself is affected by the click data. If we discover that, for a particular query, hypothetically, 80 percent of people click on Result No.2 and only 10 percent click on Result No. 1, after a while we figure probably Result 2 is the one people want. So we'll switch it."
You might also think that Google is somehow using the review ratings as a ranking factor, but that's not the case. By design, the click-through rate data takes care of poor results, including businesses with bad reviews.
Instead, for increased local pack rankings, you want to concentrate on the quantity, velocity, and diversity. This means you want a lot of reviews coming in regularly from a variety of sources.
And now the question is, how do you accomplish that?
The funny thing about reviews is, we all use them to make decisions on purchases but most of us never think to leave one of our own. So an easy way to start receiving more online reviews is to simply ask your customers.
An easy way to do this is to have automated emails sent out from your salespeople asking their customers to follow up with any issues and politely ask them to leave a review on one of their favorite sites, linking to Google, Facebook, Cars.com, Yelp, etc. These are the reviews that typically come up on page one results when searching your business's name, so it's best to send people to those sites in order to build up reviews.
It's an incredibly simple way to help your dealership's reputation and build trust with car buyers.
And finally, don't just ignore negative reviews as if they'll go away with time. People look for negative reviews because they expect quality service. They want to know about the bad experiences people have had so they find a reason to visit another store. You might not be able to sway everyone, but by responding to a bad review, you can show potential customers that your business takes complaints very seriously and strives to improve.
Don't worry, I'm not just saying this: it's backed up by data. A Bazaarvoice study showed that 7 out 10 reviewers changed their opinion about a business after seeing a response to a negative review. All you have to do to salvage your relationship with these car buyers is let them know you care!
Have a question about online reviews? Did your dealership have success improving its online presence through reviews? Let's talk in the comments below!