Search has changed the consumer journey forever. Search gave people the ability to instantly research a need, answer a question, or find a product. In the past, the brand that answered these questions had a competitive advantage over the brands that didn’t.

Today, the competition for businesses to stand out on Google is so high, they must rely upon something more to stand out from the crowd. Busy consumers don’t have time to scroll through pages of results – they need a quick trust signal and then click. Reviews are that trust signal for search. Reviews have now changed the search journey forever.

With a survey finding that reviews now influence most buying decisions, it’s clear they’ve transformed commerce in ways few predicted. Reviews create buyer confidence, which is why companies continue to ask consumers to write them despite there being hundreds of millions of existing reviews.

What‘s less understood about reviews is how they’re used at the beginning of the consumer journey—the online search – and the impact they can have. Considering 9 out of 10 consumers first use search engines when researching products, leveraging the trust signal provided by online reviews can boost your traffic from both organic and paid search.

How do consumer reviews specifically help each component of search?

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Let’s start with organic search

Improved search results
Search engines reward fresh, unique content with higher search results. Because reviews offer a consistent stream of content about your products and services, they can improve your ranking in search results, driving up to a 28% increase in organic traffic to product pages in some cases.

Broader keywords
Reviews also help you become relevant to a broader set of keywords. This is important, as 15% of all searches have never been seen before according to Google. Reviews can also help your rankings in long tail searches, when users type longer and more specific words and phrases. They often don’t just rely on the keywords in a brand’s marketing copy when conducting long tail searches – and the text in consumer reviews nicely compliments the static brand content.

Rich snippet stars boost click throughs
Rich snippet stars next to search results provide powerful trust signals to shoppers. Bazaarvoice recently researched rich snippet stars’ impact through feedback from over 1,000 web users globally.

Some of our key findings:

  • For well-known brands receiving top search result rankings with certain terms, the presence of stars increases user intent to click by up to 7%.
  • For brands displaying in the middle to the end of the first page of search results, stars can increase intent to click by up to 30 to 78%. Benefits were shown to apply both to less well known brands competing against well known brands (like Amazon) and also to services business (such as windshield repair).
  • Interestingly, our study also found that “more is more” when it comes to the number of reviews. While 10 reviews sends a trust signal compared to zero, 100 sends a stronger signal, and 1,000 is even stronger…and the intent to click continued to increase.

Seller ratings also boost AdWords
Just as product reviews provide consumers with confidence when selecting a product, seller ratings can provide a trust signal for the merchant. Google cites up to 17% improvements in click-through-rates when advertisers include seller ratings in Ad Words accounts.

Reviews improve Product Listing Ads and Shopping
Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads drove 20% of all traffic to e-commerce retailers during the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period in 2013. Even small improvements in click through rates can make a big difference here. This is another area reviews promote user trust.  Our research found that ratings in Product Listing Ads and in Shopping units can improve intent to click up to 11.6%.

Conclusion
As you can see, the trust signals that consumer reviews help convey can drive improved click through rates and traffic across all areas of the search page. Is your company leveraging reviews to win in Search?