- Posted by Richard Iurilli
- On August 26, 2015
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: No matter where you rank in the new local pack, your star rating—or lack thereof—could very well be the difference between a prospective patient clicking on one of your physicians or a competitor’s.
Casey Meraz over at Moz went so far as to call reviews “magical” and write that “if you don’t have review stars—and don’t plan on putting in processes to get legitimate reviews—you’re making a bad business decision.”
That bold statement is based on a heat map survey he conducted for Moz in which he gave participants a search engine results page (SERP) and then tracked where they clicked.
While the survey results are meant to be anecdotal due to sample size and numerous search variables, with real users performing real searches, there are still real takeaways. The biggest by far of those takeaways is the impact of review stars upon searcher decision-making.
Users almost always zeroed in on the local pack listings with enough reviews to display star ratings next to their names. When the three-pack was displayed above any organic search results, nearly half—44 percent—of searchers clicked on one of the three listings. By far the darkest areas on the heat maps—meaning the areas with the most clicks—were on those with reviews.
The three-pack appears in the #1 position above any organic results (but below Google Adwords results) on a whopping 93 percent of results pages, so the actions of users presented with that layout are of particular importance.
In addition to the heat maps, Moz also conducted in-person tests with specific search scenarios, tracking the keywords they used as well as the process they used to pick a result. Whenever they clicked on a three-pack result, it was invariably due to the star rating next to the name.
You don’t need data from millions of users to see that reviews set listings apart more often than not—which is a huge advantage in the ultra competitive local search landscape. If you’ve done the optimization work to get yourself into that coveted spot in the three-pack, you don’t want searchers passing you by and clicking on competing physicians or services just because they have more reviews on Google My Business.
With Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, and even Yelp all vying for the attention of doctors and patients, it’s easy to pass over those Google reviews. But if you don’t have them, you’re almost certainly losing traffic and appointments to other providers.
Your online reputation management efforts may well focus on one or two sites for practicality and scalability, but getting the five reviews you need for those ultra-influential stars to appear should be at or near the top of your local SEO to-do list.