And that’s a wrap! December brought the curtain down on another eventful year in local search, and there were no major updates and releases during what is a major holiday season in large parts of the world. Holiday shopping, after all, is all about sticking to what’s tried and true so that no disasters occur during the golden quarter.
While IT departments at Google and other directories prayed that no servers crashed during their vacation time, others in the local search space came forward to provide valuable research on the temporarily stable online ecosystem—including crucial new insights into online reviews and reputation management, the two hot topics of 2022 (and, most likely, 2023 as well). Let’s take a look.
Reviews with photos rank better (and last longer)
We already knew that reviews with photos get preferential treatment on Google, but only now do we understand the extent of it. Factors such as review length, freshness, and keywords all go into ordering reviews relevant to the user, but it that appears photos have a disproportionate valuation in that algorithm.
Whenever possible, Google only uses reviews with photos to populate the top 10 reviews for any local business. It is such a major ranking factor that new reviews are pushed down by older reviews if an image is added to the latter retroactively. As such, business owners could even push down new negative reviews by encouraging previous customers to add images to their old positive reviews.
Google is putting a very heavy emphasis on photos both in the business profile and now in reviews as well. This is certainly something for every business owner to consider when trying to improve the visibility and performance of their local listings.
Upvoted reviews and longer reviews stay at the top of local listings longer
For those unaware, upvotes are the “thumbs up” or “likes” left on online reviews. For Google, these upvotes have a threshold that increases their rankings significantly. Reviews with at least two upvotes stay in the top ten, on average, for almost 100 days more than reviews with zero or one upvote. There’s no distinction between upvotes awarded by Google users or the business owner themselves. That means if you have even just one positive review with an upvote, you should add another upvote of your own to reach Google’s two-vote threshold.
Listing owners and managers should also be encouraging users to leave longer reviews. Why? Because it has been shown that reviews of 100+ words rank higher and remain highly visible for longer compared to shorter reviews, even when controlling for keywords. This fact, combined with the insight into photos boosting review visibility, should give brands a good idea of which reviews will rank above all others. While recency and other factors still exist, as of the end of 2022, photos, upvotes, and review length are the most crucial in a business’s reputation management strategy on Google.
Yelp releases the results of its review survey
A research project led by Yelp and conducted by Material surveyed 2,000 Americans on their views on review trustworthiness. The respondents say they read, on average, five reviews about a business to inform their spending decisions, and 77% say they’re reading more online reviews now than they ever have before. Other key findings include:
- Respondents say they research and consider online reviews more for restaurants (67%), household repairs/work (57%), car repair/services (55%), medical needs (51%), and professional services (42%).
- When respondents think they’ve spotted a fake online review, they will read other reviews to gather additional opinions (49%), ignore the potentially fake review (34%), find another business (27%), or report the review (24%).
- Only 28% of respondents are looking out for incentivised reviews, but 71% say they would no longer visit a business if they learned the business has fake or compensated online reviews.
- 85% of respondents trust reviews with written text over star ratings alone (Yelp requires that ratings be accompanied by actual review text).
- 88% of respondents say it’s important that they understand how online review platforms determine which reviews are reliable and which are less trustworthy.
- 79% of respondents would prefer to see all the reviews for a business or product, including those that the review platform believes are fake or untrustworthy.
Last year saw local search continue to change and evolve, especially in the fast-moving world of reviews and reputation. If you’re not changing and evolving alongside these increasingly vital channels and platforms, you’ll only be left behind. Schedule a friendly chat with our local search experts and find out just how much more you local listings can do for you in 2023 and beyond.