Updated April 20th, 2016
If you’re trying to rank well in local SEO, then reviews are an important part of that mix.
But when you look at search results in Google, you’ll notice that review stars don’t always show up.
Here’s a couple of quick facts about the Google Review Stars that might some questions you’ve been meaning to ask.
Understanding Geo-Located Search Queries
So, the way Google is set up now, if you’re searching for a service using the city as part of the search query (city + service), you’ll usually see the top three map results at the top. After these top three results (the Local Pack), the regular top ten organic results follow.
The stars from Google reviews only show on these map results now. A couple of years ago, you would see Google star ratings in the organic search results, but that isn’t the case in 2016.
So the goal in local SEO is to get to the top three map results, and also get review stars to show. Customers are more likely to click on a result with rating stars, as opposed to a result without stars. The better your click-through rate, the more confidence Google has in placing your business higher in results.
So, in Google Maps, and in the Local Pack on Page 1, you’ll only see rating stars if you have five or more Google reviews.
The results with less than five reviews have a text link with the number of reviews, but no visible star rating.
So, that’s the first thing you need to know. You need five reviews for the yellow stars to be visible.
Why Does My Google Review Score Start At 4.8?
Okay, so you’ve got five customer to leave you a five star review. But you start out at 4.8instead of 5.0.
Why does Google show a 4.8 rating when you have all 5 star reviews?
The best explanation that I’ve found is that they are extrapolating what your score mightlook like if you had more reviews.
Since five reviews is a pretty small sample size to have perfect confidence in the rating, it automatically factors in for error until you get to ten reviews.
There’s a lot of statistical mathematics involved in the Google algorithm, but the concept of extrapolating the results is known as a Bayesian average. Basically, once you get to ten reviews, Google has more confidence in the data around your business when it comes to ratings. You can read more about the theory at LocalU.org.
So, the next goal is to get ten 5-star reviews for your business.
Sending Customers Your Review Link
Not that long ago, you could send customers to your Google My Business (Google+) page and have them leave a review under the About tab.
Recently, Google changed their Google+ layout again, and reviews don’t even show up on Google My Business anymore. Now you have to go through Google Maps. They started changing this for the iPhone in 2015, but now in 2016, it’s universal.
For customers to leave a review for your business, you have to send them to Google Maps.
There are a couple of ways you can do this.
Finding Your Google Review Link On Desktop
One way that almost always works is to Google the name of your business, with the address from the regular Google page. On desktop, you should see your Google My Business profile show up in the right hand column.
There should be a link that either says Be the first to review or Write a review, depending on whether you have reviews or not yet. If you have reviews, you can also click the link that shows how many reviews you have.
Clicking these links will trigger a modal window that allows the user to write a review.
Copy the URL in your browser’s address bar and send that to your customer. Or use it as a link on your site, so people don’t have to figure this out on their own.
Finding Your Google Review Link On Mobile
There are two ways you can get to a Google business review link on mobile.
One way is to go into Google Maps and search for the business you want to review. Click on the link at the bottom left that shows how many reviews the business has.
Notice the text link at the bottom left of the screen? This will either say No Reviews or the number of reviews the business has.
You’ll open up the Google Maps/Google My Business profile for that business. Scroll to the bottom of the profile, and the review link will be at the bottom.
FindYour Google Review Link On Mobile: Part Deux
The second way to leave a Google review for a business on mobile is to go to regular Google search, and search for that business using the business name, and the city or address.
The Google Map result should be the first result in search. At the bottom of this result will be a link for More Info.
See that blue button with the downward facing arrow, and More info about…? Click this, and you should see the whole Google profile. The Google review link will be at the bottom of the profile, just like in the example we showed above.
Getting To The Local Pack Map
Getting to the top three (Local Map Pack) seems to be a much harder target.
Obviously, this is where everyone wants to be. The things that seem to influence what goes here most are the local organic search results. Geo-location (GPS) seems to play a small role as well.
Reviews alone won’t get you to the three pack local map results. To get there, you’ll need better content, more local links and local mentions, better links from reputable sources, more link diversity (more than one type of link source), link velocity, social shares, stronger brand signals, and local relevance.
Let’s say you’ve done a lot of work on your site, and you feel like you have a really strong site that should be ranking above other sites that have weaker profiles. You might want to check out this Moz Whiteboard Friday that discusses why you might be losing rank to sites with weaker profiles.