In the world of local businesses, customer reviews play a pivotal role in search visibility, shaping public perceptions and influencing consumer decisions.

Darren Shaw and Whitespark's analysis of a million local Google Business Profiles offers valuable insights into the distribution of reviews across local business categories. This article delves into the findings and their implications for local marketers.

Here are some key insights from the data:

  1. Category-Wise Distribution of Reviews. The research highlights a predictable trend in the average number of reviews across different categories. Historical landmarks, restaurants, hotels, and car dealerships lead with the highest average number of reviews. This is unsurprising, considering the high customer engagement these sectors typically receive.
  2. Surprising Findings in Long Tail Categories. Interestingly, some less obvious categories also boasted a high number of average reviews. For instance, orthotics and prosthetic services averaged 212 reviews, while ophthalmology clinics had 211, and welding supply stores had 155. This indicates a broader engagement in review activity across a range of niches, not just mainstream, high customer volume verticals.
  3. Explosion of Google's Review Corpus. A significant takeaway from the research is the expansion of Google's review corpus, even in long-tail categories that might not have a strong presence on platforms like Yelp. This growing base of reviews yields a lot of possible algorithmic fodder for Google.
  4. 'Your Money or Your Life' Categories. Categories related to finance and healthcare, such as financial planning or specialty medical clinics, showed a relatively lower average number of reviews. Given the high lifetime value of customers in these sectors, the data suggests that even a few reviews could significantly, positively impact such businesses.
  5. Geography and Category-Based Research. The disparity in review numbers across different categories and locations emphasizes the need for businesses to conduct category and geography-specific research. Understanding the competitive landscape in terms of average star ratings and review volumes is crucial for local businesses aiming to enhance their online presence and successfully compete.

Whitespark's data presents a nuanced picture of the local business review landscape. The findings highlight the importance of reviews in a wider range of business categories than we previously suspected and the need for tailored strategies based on category and location.

Reviews are central to success in virtually every category. Near Media research has found that most consumers tend to look at review counts and star ratings rather than delve deeply into the content of the reviews. Additionally, recent reviews are valued more; they're considered more relevant to the current state of the business.

For local businesses, understanding and leveraging these insights can be a key driver in enhancing their online presence and attracting more customers.

David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal are co-founders of Near Media.