1. Google is in Love with Reviews

reviews?!Seriously – they are. Have you done a branded search lately? Reviews ratings are literally the first thing my eyes are drawn to on virtually any Google search. And this is not a coincidence. Google has recently lowered the visibility of links and ads, and created a more universal way of laying out (and aggregating) their reviews by finally switching to stars.And this all makes sense. With Google Freshness – Google demonstrated a preference for fresh, up-to-date content. And, as you know, Google exists by assigning endorsements from real people to specific websites. With Google’s ever-improving ability to assign credibility to entities BEYOND simple links, it’s entirely possible that reviews could become the new links for businesses.

2. Google is moving more and more towards favoring reviews websites in Local Listings

Like a lot of SEOs, I’m intimately familiar with a handful of SERPs from projects past, present and future. Over the last several months, I, as well as other SEOs, have noticed review sites like Yelp gaining preference in non-branded searches. In some cases, I’ve seen a Yelp business page outrank a brand’s Google local listing for a specific query. Yelp, Google, and other websites that accept reviews, aren’t just for branded searches anymore!

3. Google Authorship, Google+ and Reviews

We’ve all read stories about Google+ and how great it is for local businesses. Built within Google+ is a way to review local businesses. And, why this seems like just another reviews platform, within Google’s framework, it can be so much more.

Consider: Google Authorship rank is centered on the Google+ platform. This means when someone uses the Google+ platform to review businesses, share a link, or write a blog with authorship markup applied, Google knows about it and who to credit it to. This, and related technologies, give Google the ability to assign a type of Google authority to folks who by definition, are active, social, and influential in various online arenas. Imagine the day when your business will court specific Google reviewers to simply take a look at your business and give an honest opinion online?! An individual with a high authorship rank who reviews your website, could be the equivalent of a link from a Page Rank 8 website. Welcome to the next phase of SEO.

4. The Framework Already Exists for Google to Rank

Google’s been pulling in reviews for years. They know how to do it, and they know which sites get the most relevant traction. In addition, recent advances in markup text like Schema.org make it even simpler for sites like Google to find, extract, unite and apply reviews data from multiple sources. Also, Google FINALLY switched to the standard review display – away from the Zagat, proprietary model. Now it’s simply a matter of fine-tuning if and how much they affect rankings.

5. They’re Increasingly Harder to Game

One does not simply game GoogleAs discussed above, Google is pretty good at uniting the actions of individuals across the Internet. Also, with the wealth of data at their fingertips, it’s pretty easy to determine, as they do with links, an unnatural amount of reviews over a given time period (or even by a specific person now). With these safeguards in place, it’s very logical for Google to assume any review is a sign of engagement or endorsement for a business. That, along with the specific rating itself, provides Google a logical framework for applying or adjusting rankings. It’s coming.

All of this goes without saying, but reviews in the search engine results help your click through rate – and Google considers click through rate and time on page in rankings too! Work on a reviews strategy and Google will reward you for it.