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Online Reviews, SEO & SEM

Making search engines and reviews work for your business 

Home > Small Business Toolkit > Online Reviews, SEO & SEM

Online Reviews, SEO & SEM

Establishing an online presence 

Online reviews and search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) have become highly important to day-to-day business activities. Here, you can learn a bit about reviews, SEO and SEM, and ways you can use these features to your advantage to boost your business.  

A worker is serving a customer and both people appear to be very happy

It's important to hear customer feedback so you can keep improving your business. Photo: Unsplash

Reviews important

Why are online reviews important?

Research has shown that 91% of people will regularly or often read online reviews, and that 84% trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation. Those who do read them will also decide very quickly how they feel about the business, with 68% of readers forming an opinion after reading 1-6 reviews online. As the world becomes more and more integrated, those numbers are sure to go up!  


Online reviews can impact your business in the following ways: 

1. Influence Sales and Build Credibility 


Ultimately, the more information a potential customer is able to find about your business, the more likely they will trust that they can gauge the quality of the products or services you provide. That means that the more positive reviews that your business has, the more likely the reader will think you are a reputable brand. However, this also means that many negative reviews can have a negative influence on your sales. 

2. Create Brand Awareness, Loyalty and Engagement 


Online reviews are an effective marketing tool in encouraging others to create more reviews. If many people are leaving reviews, then it is guaranteed that your brand name will spread and draw in the attention of other potential customers. Those happy customers leaving positive reviews are giving you free marketing, which is almost always a good thing! Also, those leaving good reviews are more likely to have a feeling of loyalty with your brand are more likely to be repeat customers. If another reviewer agrees with that same review and replies to the original reviewer, that will again boost your brand and create positive customer engagement – which is awesome in getting your business noticed. 

3. Access to Consumer Feedback 


The accessibility of the internet allows you to communicate closer with your consumer faster than ever before. This meaning that you can improve your product or service quicker based on consumer feedback. 

A busy cafe and two staff are engaged in cheeful conversation

Customers and clients are always more loyal if they like you and how you operate. Photo: unsplash

Where to find reviews

Where to find reviews

Google Reviews 


Google is usually the first place people start when searching for a product, service or a business.  This meant that it could be the deciding factor for when people are choosing whether or not to use your business. Imagine if a potential customer did a search for your product or service, and both your business and your competitor reviews came up. If your business had highly rated reviews appear in the Google search results and your competitor did not, it is more likely to persuade the potential customer to use your business, instead of your competitor’s. 


To start getting Google Reviews, first you’ll need a Google account, where you can get started here. Then, you will need to sign up for Google My Business 

A magnifying glass over Google's logo

You can find reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, and other online platforms. Photo: Unsplash

Facebook Reviews 


Long ago, Facebook was only used by American college student, however, that is no longer the case. Today, Facebook is one of the easiest platforms that your customers have access to use, with over 1.73 billion daily active users of the social media site. As Facebook is most likely to be integrated with their forms of communication, it only takes a minute to leave a review which could impact your business!  


Once you have created a business Facebook page, be sure to upkeep the communication that will occur on your page. This will help keep your page’s ratings and reviews high. 

Someone is using a facebook business page whilst holding a mobile phone with multiple applications open

Respond to negative reviews politely and invite them to contact your directly. Photo: Unsplash

Other Review Sites 


There are many other review sites to be conscious of, and they may vary depending on the type of business you have. Here is a list of review sites that may be useful to your business: 


  • Tripadvisor – a travel site which has reviews on hotels, restaurants, tours and attractions and more! 

  • White Pages – great reviewing website for all business, especially services-based ones. 

  • Yelp – user reviews of the best restaurants, shopping and entertainment 

  • Trustpilot – a site with broad reviews for all products and services 

Taking Charge

Taking charge of reviews

That’s great and all, but how do you get started? Online reviews can be posted on many channels, including Google, Facebook and Yelp and White Pages. Here are a few tips to help you get as many online reviews as possible! 

1. Make It Easy for Your Customers to Leave Reviews 


Encourage customers to leave reviews for your business by implementing review management software. These applications help streamline the review process and allows you to quickly pre-screen your customers, e.g. did they have a good or a bad experience? Then from there direct them to the appropriate review channel. Otherwise, simply asking them to leave a review is also effective! 


2. Reply to All Reviews – Both Positive and Negative 


Customers like their time and effort being acknowledged. Ask whether there was any way to improve their experience in the future. Regardless of whether they have left a good or bad review, respond as positively and professionally as possible and thank them for taking out their time to complete the review. Bad reviews can be seen as an opportunity to help turn around their past experience. By focusing on solving the problem, e.g. offering them a refund or a discount, you have another chance to make them change their mind. 


These are some tips when managing negative online reviews: 

a) Respond quickly – time is of the essence in these situations 

b) Always respond – even if you do not win this customer over, future potential customers will see how you respond 

c) Don’t take it personally – if you do, you might risk responding back too harshly which could scare potential future customers 

d) Introduce yourself and your connection to the team – the response becomes more personal and sincere for the customer who left the negative review 

e) Thank the customer for their time – let them customer know that you appreciate them taking time out of their day to write about their experience 

f) Show empathy and be understanding – try to understand the perspective from your customer’s shoes 

g) Apologise and be genuine – apologise that the customer had a negative experience with your business, even if you don’t think you did anything wrong. Sympathy helps diffuse the situation and can go a long way in the long run! 

h) Move the situation offline – ask for the reviewer’s email address to see if you can move the conversation offline. Here, you can turn around their negative experience by offering a discount or promotion on their next purchase, or a full refund. 




If you are stuck for words when responding to reviews, here are a few templates to help get you started! 

3.Incentivise (Don’t Buy) Genuine Customer Reviews 


Sometimes your customers need a little incentive to take that time out of their day to leave a review. Offering your customer an incentive a great way to show your appreciation for writing their review, whether it is positive or negative. Make sure that you make it clear that the incentive is available to all those who leave genuine reviews, and not just those who leave positive reviews, as you risk breaching the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Examples of incentives you can use include offering a discount with the reviewer’s next purchase, or sending out a goodie upon completion of the review. 

Three people are laughing whilst in a meeting in a restaurant. Two people have laptops open while the third person has a notepad open

Encourage feedback from customers, clientele, and even staff! Photo: Unsplash

What is SEO?
Step-By-Step Guide

What is SEO and why is it so important?

You might have heard the term SEO being thrown around, but what is it really? SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization’ which refers to the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through techniques that help rank your website higher in search engine results – for example Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. There are lots of methods that constantly change which can help you achieve great results. These techniques help you include relevant content from your website that has higher potential to get it noticed through organic (non-paid), online searches. 


First, it is important that the writing on the website is clear, helpful and descriptive. Make sure the language that you use is simple and easy-to-read. Also include keywords that you would use when searching for a product or services similar to your own. Search engines pick up these keywords from elements including title tags, image tags and links. 

The letters SEO spelled out in

SEO means Search Engine Optimisation. Photo: Unsplash

A step-by-step guide to SEO 

1. Choose Your Domain Name 


domain name is the name of the address of your website that people type into the URL bar in the browser to access it. When choosing a domain name, select one that is relevant, easy to remember and includes the main keyword that you want your website to show up in search engine results for. Try and select a name that is not too generic, as you may risk your website getting lost in a sea of many results. 


You can compare the top 7 domain name registrars in Australia here

2. Create and Submit a Sitemap 


By creating a sitemap that shows how your site is structured, it allows for search engines to detect all of the content on your site – this is necessary for both old and new websites.  This sitemap should clarify your websites purpose and goals, avoid duplicating content, streamline your conversion funnel. It should make it easier for viewers to navigate your site by minimising the number of steps from point A to point B, and it should also get everyone on the same page. 


If you are unsure about how to create a sitemap that flows well, you can find a list of tools that will create one for you here

3. Choose a Reliable Web Hosting Provider 


Choosing a web hosting provider has a major impact on how quickly your website will load up. In today’s day and age, no one likes having to wait more than five seconds for a webpage to load up, and search engines rank this as an important factor for SEO. 


Here is a list of the top web hosting providers in Australia to help you decide. 

4. Conduct Keyword Research 


One of the key factors of engaging in SEO effectively is knowing how to do keyword research. You will need to have a clear idea of the main terms and aspects that you would like to focus your SEO research and methods. These keywords must be relative to your site since the battle for top spot is search engine results is a competitive one. 


Google AdWords: Keyword Planner is a top-rated Keyword research tool, and it can also be used for free.  Get started with Google AdWords here, alternatively, here is list of other free research tools that are not by Google. 

5. Use a Mobile-Friendly Design 


In the past seven years, internet traffic is up 222%, which is why it is especially important that your website is fully accessible from many different devices. A website that looks good on your computer might not necessarily look good on an iPhone, a website that looks good on an iPhone may not necessarily look good on an Android, and so on.  


Google provide their own ‘mobile-friendly’ test which you can access here. MobiReady also provide a test which you can use here

6. Optimise Images 


The images you choose to include on your site should take up as little storage space as possible without compromising the quality of the picture. Images with higher resolution mean that it will take up more space on your site, which causes it to load slower. Tips for optimising images on your site include using relevant images that match the text, choosing a good file name for the image, reducing file size for better loading, and adding a caption (where possible) for easier scanning of the page.  

Here is a list of a tools that can assist you in optimising images for your website. 

7. Optimise Headings, Text and Title Tags 


With all that research that you had previously completed in the steps above, it is important you use this when creating the content on your website. Headings and title tags are a great way for you to organise your content, for visitors to navigate your site and act as a signal for search engines as to what your website is actually about. Google will only show 50 to 60 characters on the results page. As stated before, it is important you keep these keywords relevant, as too many irrelevant keywords is classed as ‘keyword stuffing’, which search engines try to stamp out. 

8. Perform a Site Audit 


A website audit will analyse all the elements of your website and the factors that can affect its visibility. This will give you a useful insight into any website, its traffic and the individual pages.  


SEMRush provide a useful site audit tool which you can use, here. It will analyse your site and give you an overall SEO score, as well as point out any SEO errors and suggestions. 

9. Create Unique Meta Descriptions 


A meta description is a HTML summary of your website in 160 characters or less. It’s the grey text that appears below the hyperlink to your website. Search engines say there is no direct benefit from the meta description, it does however, help the viewer gauge what sort of content is included on your site. 

If you haven't heard of the term 'meta description' before, you can find an example below:

10. Share Content on Your Social Media Channels 


Sharing your website to your social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram will help kick-start traffic incoming on your website, which will help your page rank higher in search engine results! 

What is SEM?

What is SEM and why is it important?

If you’ve heard the term SEO, you’ve most likely heard of SEM, but what is it? 


SEM stands for ‘Search Engine Marketing’ and is the practice of using paid ads to increase the visibility of your website through search engine results. These paid ads can be found on most search engine results pages.  
They are generally placed on the top and bottom of the search results page. These ads will always have ‘ad’ or ‘sponsored on the post, to let you know that it was paid for. 


When setting up an SEM campaign you can choose which keyword you would like to target, and which keywords you would like to avoid. There are four types of keywords you can use in your SEM campaign: 

  • Broad match keywords which target all the variations of a word. This includes phrases that are similar, singular or plural forms of the search term, misspellings, or synonyms of the searched term. As an example, broad match keywords for “jacket” could include coats, jackets and jacit

  • Phrase match keywords will target the exact phrase that is being searched for, and also includes other phrases that come before and after. An example of this would be if your keywords were “blue shirt”, your ad would show up in searches such as “blue shirts for women” or “cotton blue shirts”, but it would not show up in searches such as “blue and yellow shirts” or “shirts in blue”.  

  • Exact match keywords will only show your ad if the exact search query matches the targeted keyword you have used. An example, if your targeted keywords are “soft toy” then the search results will only show your ad on queries that include “soft toy” and will not show searches for “soft teddy” or “soft teddy bear toy”

  • Negative keywords help you exclude search results that you do not want your ad associated with. An example of this is if you did not want your ad to show up when the term “free” is used, then you would add it to your negative keywords list. 

Useful SEM tools

Useful SEM tools 

There are many useful tools to help you conduct SEM. Unsurprisingly, Google offer one of the most highly rated SEM tools, which you can learn how to set up here.

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