Local SEO is going to be the “new” thing in 2013, and as many work with different SEO agencies and/or try to create their own strategy, they are finding that customer reviews are actually quite important. Customer reviews work twofold because your prospective customers will be able to get a good idea about the success of your company, and now we’re finding that they also look good in the eyes of Google. Fortunately, getting started is incredibly easy.Why Online Customer Reviews Matter to Local SEOGoogle loves to see customer reviews because people love to see customer reviews. SEO is all about optimizing your website for Google, but Google should be about optimizing your website for users. A few things important in regards to customer reviews and SEO include:Quantity. The number of reviews that you have on your website is important. Google likes to see a good amount of reviews, somewhere between at least ten and twenty; just make sure you don’t get too crazy and create a cluttered website.Ratings. Although it may sound obvious, it’s important to remember that the actual ratings you’re given in your reviews are good. It’s certainly OK to put some less-than-perfect reviews on your page because you don’t want to appear untruthful, but do remember that Google looks at the quality as well as the quantity.Keywords. If you have your product name and/or keywords in the customer reviews, Google bots will surely find your site relevant and start placing it at the top. Keywords are important for SEO in every aspect of your website, so customer reviews are just another place to make it happen.Competition. Your competitors will have customer reviews on their sites, so they will have an edge when it comes to a local SERP for the reasons discussed above. However, it’s important to remember that just because they got started first doesn’t mean they’re going to finish first. You still have plenty of time to get a strategy together and outrank your competitors.The next step in understanding customer reviews is actually making them happen. It’s important to get started right away so you can start accumulating these local SEO benefits for the New Year. Google sometimes takes a while to update their algorithm and show you the results of your work, so the sooner you can start, the better.How to Increase Your Number of Customer ReviewsGetting customer reviews in the first place as well as increasing your number isn’t difficult, but just a bit time consuming. Below are the three tips and tricks to making it happen:Be quick. Waiting to ask people to send you reviews is never a good idea because people will be “over it” by then. Asking someone for a review right away gives you a better chance of success.Be easy. The last thing your customers want is to be asked to review your company through some complicated form or procedure. The best way to ask for reviews is when you have the customer face to face just before they leave your business. If this isn’t possible, sending an email with a simple survey should work well.Be persistent. If someone doesn’t review your company right away, send a follow up email three or four days later.In the end, it’s important to remember that your customers should enjoy giving you reviews. It’s never good to force a review out of someone or try to fake it. If customers don’t want to give your reviews or you’re not getting the results you want, go back and change some things about your business. Moral of the story: Use customer reviews as more than just a local SEO perk.