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Does the Number of Google Reviews Impact Ranking? [Case Study]

It’s the age-old question, will getting reviews help my Google listing rank higher?  We’ve heard it for years that reviews are a ranking factor in local search, but what does that really mean?

As you probably know, Google allows listings for the business as well as practitioners’ listings for certain industries (dentists, doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, etc.).  Many businesses set up practitioner listings and then do nothing with them, so we wanted to see if we could get a boost in rankings for the listing if we got more reviews on it.

The Test:

So, we decided to test this out.  We have an insurance agent who has a listing for the business as well as a practitioner listing for the agent himself.  It was a listing that he had not done much with as it only had 3 reviews. The listing was also targeting completely different keywords than the main listing for the practice.  We asked the client to try to get some more reviews on this listing to see what would happen.

The Results:

As you will see in the image below, we noticed a ranking increase when the listing went from 3 to 16 reviews.  However, there really is not a ranking increase when the listing went from 16 to 31 reviews.

The Law of Diminishing Returns:

The Law of Diminishing Returns is very common in marketing.  You may do something (in this case get more reviews on a listing) and get a great result (in this case a ranking boost).  But, that doesn’t mean that if you keep doing it you will get the same results.  In this case, we concluded that there is a ranking boost, but the boost does not necessarily continue if you keep getting more reviews.  Joel Headley, co-founder of Leadferno, (who formerly worked at Patient Pop) mentioned ten could be the “magic number.”  Joel stated, “At Patient Pop, [we saw] an increase in appointment leads when there were over ten reviews.” Similarly, Mike Bluementhal mentioned at a LocalU event years ago that there was a ranking boost with ten reviews.  So, we have come to a similar conclusion as these two; once you hit ten reviews there is a ranking boost.  At Sterling Sky, we have repeated this test many many times with our clients, so we are very confident in this conclusion.

Rankings are More Than Just Reviews:

Rankings are based on a variety of factors, so just because you have a ton of reviews does not mean you are going to rank the best.  In the image below, you will see this in effect — the blue line shows the number of reviews and the red shows the number of top 3 rankings.

This graph shows a personal injury attorney who was killing it with reviews, but they were not ranking well at all.  So, reviews are only one piece of the puzzle.  Just because you have a lot of reviews does not mean you will rank well.

TL;DR:

There does appear to be a ranking boost once a listing has ten reviews.  So, it is important for a listing to get a minimum of ten reviews.  However, continuing to get more and more reviews does not seem to yield the same ranking boost.  In addition, rankings are affected by a variety of factors.  Just because a listing has a ton of reviews, does not mean it will rank well.  In addition, we are not suggesting only getting ten reviews for a listing.  Even though there may not be a ranking boost, getting more reviews helps in other ways like building trust and conversions.

 

Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Hi. Maybe it was not the number of reviews but the increased average rating was the ranking boost? Did you study it in this context?

  2. Wouldn’t it also depend on how many reviews their competitors have? If they go from 16 to 31 reviews, but their top competitors (rankings 1-4/5) have more than 31 reviews, wouldn’t it be possible that their increase in ranking slowed because everyone else was still ahead of them in reviews? Since this context wasn’t mentioned I thought it might be worth mentioning.

    1. Not necessarily. I suspect what goes on is that large review amounts are more likely to reflect the age and offline prominence (i.e. high-profile translates to high volume of clients and thus higher amounts of reviews) of the profile.

    2. I don’t think so because it varies a ton. I just checked the keyword I was looking at and when searching from one location, the listing with the most reviews has 598, the one with the least has 5, and the average is 104. So he was way below average. I think the number of reviews (who has the most etc) likely has an impact on the click-through rate but it’s too difficult to measure that since you can’t even track clicks properly from the local pack in search console. I have definitely seen anecdotal evidence that the age of a review seems to matter. I’ve also seen reviews moving over from merged listings can impact rankings (point #4 here – https://searchengineland.com/cannot-ignore-practitioner-listings-gmb-case-study-253314). I also forgot I wrote a different case study on this topic years ago here: https://searchengineland.com/do-google-reviews-impact-local-ranking-301946

  3. Perhaps I missed this in the article but was the website optimized up to Google’s high standards, i.e. speed, health, backlinks etc.? I assume that more reviews cannot compensate for a website that isn’t in tip top condition.

    1. Yes, the site was optimized. The specific page this listing was pointing to hadn’t had anything altered on it in a very long time. I see plenty of listings rank with terrible websites though, so it’s definitely possible to rank without a good site if you have other factors in play.

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