More threads by Garrett Sussman

Mar 15, 2016
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How Online Reviews Can Impact Rank and CTR on SERPs


When it comes to digital media, the rules are always changing. In a world where yesterday?s breakthrough is today?s gimmick, small businesses need to be ready to change strategies at a moment?s notice.

Despite all this potential for change, there?s one golden rule in the world of digital media marketing: if Google doesn?t know who you are, no one does. So if a small business owner wants to stay relevant today, they?re going to need an online presence (and a strong one, at that).

When we talk about online reviews, we typically look at it in a vacuum. By pointing to statistics like nearly 90% of consumers read reviews before visiting a local business or that 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, agencies are able to show small businesses that online reviews are a critical component of expanding your marketing strategy.

But what if online reviews are even more important than that? What if they could empower the rest of a small business owner?s marketing strategy and become the driving force behind their online presence?

There?s no doubt that online reviews matter to the modern consumer. But to prove that online reviews have the potential to be the cornerstone of a successful digital media marketing campaign, we need to determine exactly how online reviews affect an online presence.

RankBrain and Organic Click Through Rate (CTR)

We get it: organic CTR seems like a strange place to start when it comes to SEO strategy. But isn?t that the goal of digital marketing? To get people to your website?

This disconnect occurred because as digital media marketing strategies continued to evolve over the years, people?s perceived importance of organic click-through rates on Google steadily declined. Instead, SEO metrics like inbound links have taken center stage.

But make no mistake?organic CTR matters (quite a bit more than you might think). To understand why primary metric takes center stage, first we need to understand a bit more about how Google determines search rankings. Google uses several algorithms, each with fun code names like Penguin, Possum, even Hummingbird. RankBrain itself is something a bit different. The easiest way to think of it is that RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system working within Hummingbird that helps Google process search results. the one we?ll be focusing on today.

Essentially, it?s a way for Google to deliver more relevant results by interpreting the meaning of entire keyword phrases instead of focusing on individual keywords. Sounds straightforward enough, right?

Here?s where things get a bit strange: Google does not favor transparency when it comes to their algorithms, so SEO experts need to extrapolate what?s important to Google.

Google?s official representatives have gone on record time and time again saying that there?s no way to optimize your website for RankBrain. But with each study conducted, we gain a better understanding of how RankBrain actually works. So to avoid speculation, we?ll just be focusing on the data that?s been collected.

While there are a number of key factors in play when it comes to Google?s search results, it?s become clear that organic CTR can have a massive impact on the popularity of a website. To prove this, let?s take a look at a study that Moz featured in one of their articles.

In an effort to better understand how RankBrain operates, the study starts by recognizing that Google would be using CTR as the deciding factor on how pages should rank. Why? Well, because the majority of pages having zero external links pointing to them, CTR ends up being your most accurate indicator of engagement and relevance.

The study goes on to examine a variety of other scenarios, but here?s the takeaway: RankBrain boosts the search rankings of pages that have higher organic click-through rates. Increasing your CTR by a measly 3% is enough to move up one position in Google?s ranking.

Read the rest of Brian's article here, where he delves into how positive Online Reviews help develop the virtuous cycle of increased CTR and Rank.

I love articles about CTR, as we know it can move the needle. Interesting to see data about how it correlates with RankBrain.

Thanks for sharing Garrett!
Thanks Linda! I agree that CTR, Rankbrain and Online Reviews are still a bit of a riddle, but there's an impact worth capitalizing on for local businesses.

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