The first thing people look at on a web page containing reviews is the ratings. The ratings tell the reader how good or how bad the business is. Businesses with a high rating will attract more customers, while a business with low ratings will lose customers. Ratings are an easy way to gauge the quality of a business when comparing it to dozens of similar businesses. Most ratings are displayed on a scale. For example, a web design business could be rated 4 stars out of 5. This business would most likely be selected over another business that offers web design services by an Internet user because it is highly rated.

Ratings aren’t that important in local pack rankings, however. This criteria is #24 in this year’s Local Search Ranking Factors. Recently, Google began testing a ‘highly rated’ snippet for hotel rankings. They also are defaulting queries for ‘best X in city’ to local results featuring businesses with a minimum average rating of 4 stars. This indicates that Google is placing more relevance on numeric ratings in its search engine.

Since Google is placing more importance on ratings, businesses should focus on improving customer service. If customers are satisfied with their service, they are more likely to give a high rating on review sites. Yelp is an example of a review site that customers visit to submit ratings for a business. It’s popular in South Florida and the surrounding areas. If your web design business isn’t doing well in this region, it’s most likely due to negative reviews.

One way to see how reviews are affecting your business is by conducting a professional review audit. This involves curating reviews from popular review sites, such as Google and Yelp. It’s recommended to sort the reviews by negative sentiments. For example, categorize reviews focusing on ‘time expectations’ in one column and ‘quality control issues’ in another. Another sentiment you could sort is ’employee behavior.’

Customer reviews are important. According to one survey, only 13% of people will choose a business with a rating of 1-2 stars. The question is will this translate to improved search results for highly rated businesses. Popular brands still rank higher than highly rated businesses. This may soon change.

One obstacle to ratings becoming the dominant search engine criteria is fake reviews. There are several spam networks that create fake reviews for businesses. The average Internet user may make a decision based on a fake review. If it leads to bad products or services, then it could lower the trust people have in online reviews. This could affect businesses that have legitimate reviews and ultimately, it could affect Google. Google needs to balance the importance of legitimate reviews with the negative consequences of fake reviews. Ratings are one bit of location data that still needs fine tuning