For any small business in the twenty-first century, Google’s user generated reviews are just as important to driving customers into your doors as a good product is. In the day and age of internet verification, a batch of quality Google reviews can go a long way in helping legitimize your business and its products, while also pushing you a notch above other small businesses that may have erroneously neglected their online presence on Google, its local listings database, and other online business directories.
Though many small business owners may understand the importance of good business reviews, many more are divided on the best practices to employ in order to get those reviews on Google’s complex platform. Ask for Google reviews too often, and you risk burning out customers, or even eliciting a few less-than-favorable reviews. On the contrary, if your small business doesn’t ask for Google reviews enough, it could lose out on important clientele that’s only interested in visiting or purchasing from Google’s most highly rated companies and organizations.
Fortunately, asking for and receiving good, quality Google reviews is a balancing act that can be mastered with time, a bit of trial and error, and a lot of best practices. With some patience, unlocking the formula for Google reviews can lead to amazing ROI for your business!
There are somewhere between sixty and seventy thousand Google searches a second. And while all of that traffic certainly isn’t focused on one particular industry, the sheer volume of searches should lead any small business owner to believe that much of the new business directed to his or her company likely involved the search engine behemoth at one point in time.
Simply put, good Google reviews can provide an instant and significant credibility booster to any business that provides services or products for pretty much anything. And as prospective customers put more and more trust into Google’s platform to deliver accurate, efficient answers in seconds, maintaining a high review rating on the platform can ensure your business continues to get the traffic it needs to be successful– particularly from organic search. Google reviews can do an excellent job in verifying your legitimacy to the masses, which can often result in a boost to business.
Google reviews are also important because prospective customers are often bombarded with so much messaging that they tend to rely on platforms like Google (and Yelp), to help them make decisions when they need a second opinion. With over one trillion searches a year, Google has established itself as an authority that many prospects rely on to help them sift through the fancy rhetoric, marketing strategy, and too-good-to-be-true deals that can catch their eye and influence such decisions. One of the ways Google does this is by displaying a business’s review rating prominently underneath the business’s name. Several good Google reviews boost a business’s rating, thus making it more appealing to a prospect. Few or bad Google reviews tend to do the exact opposite, and can even hurt your business’s online reputation.
Finally, Google reviews are so important because of the tremendous search engine optimization boost they can grant your local SEO ranking. Google’s search results rank your business based on a number of factors– and legitimacy is one such factor. Great Google reviews can help your business profile rank higher when people search for businesses in your industry. Many small businesses dream about landing on that coveted first page of Google search engine results. Solid Google reviews can help your business get that much closer.
If there ever was a “secret sauce” to more traffic for a small business, it would have to include good reviews on the world’s number one search engine. And if there ever was a secret ingredient in that sauce, it would have to be a little something called a Google business listing.
The Google business listing platform, known as Google My Business, is Google’s bread and butter for sharing relevant business information with prospective customers looking for companies, businesses, products or services within a certain industry and a certain area. The way it works is simple: a prospective customer keys in the information they’re looking for, and if your company is within a certain proximity, “ranks highly” for that keyed-in information (as measured in Google’s database of search engine ranking positions, or SERP), fits the particular business category, and is a good match for the prospect according to Google’s standards, your Google business listing could show up as the most valuable option for that prospect. Any ranking factor based in part on your location is known as a location-based ranking factor.
Fortunately, because Google wants structured data to help optimize experiences for its users, there aren’t any fancy hoops to jump through to set up a Google business account for your small business. As a matter of fact, creating your listing takes minutes, and typically includes nothing more than some general information about the business – including things like your business name, business location (or physical address), industry, contact info, business hours, website details, and images. It’s also free.
By creating your free business listing, your business becomes eligible to appear as one of Google’s suggested businesses whenever a searcher is looking for a business in your area and industry. It also unlocks the all-important Google reviews feature– an important tool in boosting search ranking. If you don’t have one already, create your Google My Business listing for free here!
Once you’ve created a business listing for your small business on Google, it’s time to start asking for reviews. As a best practice, it’s recommended to only ask folks that have used your service or product and expressed satisfaction with it to leave a review. That means that in the beginning (and, for some small businesses, for quite some time), you should personally ask customers that you trust to leave a favorable review. It may seem easier to slap a review request on a receipt, or to include a prominent review button in email follow-ups, but the personal connection you make by asking particular customers to leave a review in person can go a long way towards making sure you get the good, quality Google review that will make your Google business listing shine. If you don’t deal with many customers in person, it could be worth your time to surf social media for positive mentions of your company, and send personal requests to these customers. When requesting reviews, a personal touch typically works brilliantly.
Most small businesses aren’t physically able to ask every one of their customers to leave a request for a review. The good news is that you can use digital platforms to make review requests easy! By sending a simple Google review link to customers, they can quickly and easily submit a review of your business, as long as they have a Google account.
The first step to sending a request for a review is to search for your Google business listing. You can usually find this by typing your business name into Google. If your business name is relatively common, you may need to enter a location as well.
Once you’ve found your business listing, click the “Write a Review” button. This will direct you to a page of reviews for your business. Copy the URL address in the address bar at the top of your screen.
Finally, use a free URL shortener like bit.ly to convert your link into something easy for customers to remember. Including directive phrases like “review(company name)” is a great way to tell your customers exactly where the link will send them.
You can insert the link you’ve created into any page, email, or other correspondence to make it easy for customers to review you online!
Even though there are some best practices to follow in order to get that ideal customer to leave a review, a bigger question many small businesses have is how to encourage good reviews on a larger, more continuous scale. Google has set policies that champion a fair, unbiased review environment, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to ask for reviews from lots of people– so long as you do it fairly. The gist of Google’s review policy hinges on businesses refraining from any activities that intentionally favor, promote, or request good over bad reviews. The means of interpreting that policy varies from business to business.
While Google has banned incentivization as a means of soliciting reviews, there are several ways to encourage your customers to leave a positive review while still adhering to Google’s guidelines for fairness across the board.
Provide stellar service.
While Google advises against massive mailing campaigns asking for reviews, sometimes the best way to elicit good reviews from your customer base is to provide them with a service or product that’s second to none. Many customers use Google and Yelp platforms regularly, and won’t hesitate to spread the good news about your business organically!
Include a “review button” in correspondence.
Massive email campaigns for reviews may be frowned upon, but including a review link in the footer of the emails you send is a great way to passively remind recipients to leave a review, without being overly pushy.
Cultivate reviews through smart filters.
“Review gates,” or the act of soliciting reviews, then sending negative reviews to a private form and positive reviews to Google is prohibited by Google because it screens negative reviews. However, filtering negative reviews to a separate page to address concerns before sending them to Google via the same route is acceptable. Essentially, asking everyone for reviews, then adding a filter designed to fix the problems behind negative reviews can be done as long as negative reviewers are asked to share their opinions on Google just as much as positive reviewers. With this filter, the goal is to change those negative reviews into positive reviews before they’re submitted online.
Overall, the best system for consistently encouraging reviews is the one that doesn’t incentivize reviews, but instead convinces customers to leave a great review based on the quality of service or product received!
The best time to ask for a Google review is when your product or service is still fresh in your customer’s mind. If you own a restaurant, that could be after they’ve finished their meal. If an auto body shop, perhaps once your customer has gotten his or her car back and test driven it. Be careful not to ask for a review before a customer has used your product or service, if you can help it. If the customer ends up not liking it, they may leave an unfavorable review, and that’s definitely not what you want!
There are various schools of thought on the appropriate frequency when asking customers for reviews. Typically, a small business may want to ask for reviews more frequently when first starting out, and ease off a bit when they’ve accumulated quite a few. Keeping the customer satisfied is the biggest thing to focus on here. Gauge the customer, and ask accordingly. Some folks may need more than one gentle reminder to leave a review. Others may remember that you asked for a review, but simply not feel like doing the work of leaving the review on Google. And new customers can often be hit or miss, depending on their experiences prior to visiting your business. Each customer is unique, but with practice, you’ll be able to spot the ones that are the perfect candidates for Google reviews.
Again, for any small business in the twenty-first century, Google reviews can make or break success. By following a few tried and true best practices, you can make sure your small business stays on top of its own Google review game– and far ahead of the competition’s.