Review Aggregators and the Power of Reputation

There’s strength in numbers, an old saying goes and while this is true in real life it goes double on the Internet where the ability to connect with others is made so much easier by technology. And while the endorsement of a single person that we look up to might carry a lot of weight in our psyche we are designed to acknowledge the power of group decision-making. The latest Whiteboard Friday by SEOMoz’s own Rand Fishkin addresses this exact issue: the power of social proof and when social proof works best.

Rand argues that social proof works best when highly targeted towards a group that we identify with. A general statement along the lines of ‘ x many people use this product’ is a lot less effective than highly targeted statements or statements associated with people that we know. Seeing that a product is used by two or three or your peers is a lot more effective that knowing that a hundred strangers use it. This of course can be reduced to the aforementioned example of a single person who’s opinions we hold in high regard but the most interesting aspect, and the one that should be targeted by any search engine optimization agency lie at the other end of the scale: the large numbers.

The social proof by proximity argument works best in the case of specific products or situations. You might eat at a restaurant because a friend recommended or you might go see a movie because your friends are raving over it but what about the case of an unfamiliar situation? What do you do if you want to go to Sri Lanka but you don’t have anybody in your social proximity that has ever been there? Or you want to see an indie movie that none of your friends have seen? Why, you turn to the Internet of course and immediately reach for a social aggregator like or Metacritic and while you may delve into individual reviews, the general result can often serve as enough of a factor to make a decision. In many cities and countries, for instance, restaurants, hotels and even some cultural venues proudly display their Tripadvisor rating on the door like they once donned travel guide reviews. A review aggregate is, for better or worse, a business’ quantifiable reputation.

This should be prime material for anybody in the field of optimization. Now, you of course can’t falsify aggregators by spamming rave reviews for your client as not only is this against the TOS of most aggregator sites but also quite hard to achieve and very ‘black hat’. But you can instead offer incentives for any type of review or encourage your client’s customers to ‘like’ their various social profiles. You are likely doing this already for small customers that are mostly found through Google local but in this age of contextual search you’ll be surprised to see just how much impact aggregated reviews can have on results pages.

Aggregators today are pretty basic but as technology evolves and the web becomes more and more contextual perhaps we’ll see personal aggregates tailor-made based on an individual’s profile. That will likely be the day that the social proof offered by a Results Page will become more accurate than that of your close friends. Until then, we have Yelp.

About Paul Escott

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  1. When it comes to any online business, the reputation of the company is just as important as the effectiveness of the product it offers. What’s more challenging is dedicating years to establish a credible reputation.

  2. Nice article..keep it up

  3. Nice article! I have also posted about online reputation recently. Check it out on my website.

  4. Excellent read! Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative post here. Keep posting!!

  5. Yeah I saw this one and it was really great. Simple and to the point: social proof works well when you set it up. You can put the recommendation in the right place at the right time (and recommended by the right person) to give you some momentum. But you can also achieve this by just having a great product

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