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Study: How Google Reviews, Star Ratings Impact Local SEO Rankings

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While online reviews are heavily used by consumers to make purchase decisions, they have also become  a crucial local ranking factor.

A recent study from BrightLocal explored Google reviews from over 93,000 businesses over 26 industries. The data included the number of reviews, average star ratings, as well as how both components factor into local rankings on Google. It also looked at what star ratings were the most common in Google’s local ranking positions.

A few key findings included:

  • 74% of local businesses have at least one Google review
  • Local businesses have an average of 53 Google reviews
  • Local businesses have 4.4 stars, on average

Although the average number of reviews for local businesses is 39, that number varies tremendously by industry. The businesses with the highest average number of reviews included hotels and B&Bs, restaurants and cafés and bars and pubs. Conversely, accountants and finance businesses, landscaping and gardening businesses and senior living services revealed the fewest reviews.

From this data, it’s implied that businesses with greater customer frequency (like those within the hospitality industry) are likely to gain more reviews than those rarely sought by consumers (niche businesses).

It’s not controversial to say that the more positive Google reviews there are, the more a business will benefit in local SERPs. This is reflected from the data within the study, as local businesses who ranked within the top 3 positions of Google Local possessed an average of 47 reviews. Moreover, businesses in positions 4-6 averaged 40 reviews and 7-10 reported 38 reviews.

However, it’s important to note that volume of reviews doesn’t necessarily translate into higher overall ratings. In fact, hotels and B&Bs, which, as specified earlier, possessed the highest average number of reviews, had one of the lowest average star ratings of all the industries, as seen below.

Avg-google-star-ratings-by-industry-1

The study also highlights that most average star ratings on Google are high, with 61% of local businesses possessing a rating between 4 and 5, and only 5% having a rating of below 3 stars.

In terms of the impact of average ratings on local ranking position, higher ratings do appear to correlate with better rankings. For instance, businesses with an average of 4.47 stars occupied the top 3 positions, while those with a 4.46 rating held the 4-6 positions and 4.45 rounded out the remaining top 10.

However, 20% of businesses within the top 3 Google Local spots had zero reviews. It’s therefore important to remember that other factors beyond reviews (links, on-page signals) help determine rankings.

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