Why Google Reviews Matter in Local Search (And What You Can Do About It)
One of the most important (and often overlooked) factors for local search ranking is your Google review score–not only the number of people who left a review on your Google My Business listing, but also the average rating.
And it makes sense. Research shows that people trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends, coworkers, or family. Reviews provide the social proof that people need to feel comfortable with their purchasing decision. So naturally, search engines like Google put a strong emphasis on reviews in their ranking algorithm.
Despite the drastic effect this review score has on a business’s local search ranking, many business owners don’t incorporate review management into their SEO strategy because they think it’s out of their control. Either people leave or a review or they don’t, right?
Taking Control of Your Online Reputation
Maybe 99.9% of your customers leave your business feeling happy and satisfied, but if that 0.1% is the only group that's reviewing, your reputation is going to take a hit. #MichaelsWilder #localsearch Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, people naturally tend to share the word only when they’ve had a bad experience at a business. If they’ve had an average (or even good) experience, they’re less likely to spread the news. Maybe 99.9% of your customers leave your business feeling happy and satisfied, but if that 0.1% is the only group that’s reviewing, your reputation is going to take a hit.
Thankfully, you can do something about it. Research shows that 68% of people leave a review if they’re asked, and although they may need a little reminder, people are often happy to take a minute to leave a quick review if they’ve had a positive experience.
Just taking that small extra step to ask for a review is one of the most important things you can do to boost your local search ranking and improve your online reputation.
There’s a catch, though: You need to do it the right way.
The Dos and Don’ts of Asking for Reviews
1. Pay attention to timing.
They say timing is everything, and that’s definitely true when it comes to asking for reviews.
If you ask too early—before the customer receives their product or before the transaction is completed—they don’t have enough information to leave a helpful review. If you ask too late, the customer may not remember the details of the interaction.
Right after you make the sale, while everything is still fresh in your customer’s mind, is the best time to ask.
Not only does this help you to get the best possible review from each of your customers, it also helps you personalize the process. Generally, Google frowns upon mass solicitation of reviews, so talking to customers and following up individually keeps you from running afoul of this rule.
2. Use more than one strategy.
For maximum exposure, you’ll want to create multiple inroads for your customers to find out about your review page.
Sure, you can ask your customers in-person to leave a review on Google, but how likely is it that they will follow up on it? It’s a great way to add a personal touch, but, without a reminder email, you’re unlikely to get as many responses.
Your best bet is to personally ask customers to write a review and let them know that you’ll be sending an email with a link and instructions. For your more forgetful or less tech-savvy customers, this extra step is essential in driving them to your Google review page.
But why stop there? Here are three more ideas for creating inroads for your customers to review:
- Use in-store signage and explanatory handouts as reminders. This is especially helpful if your business does not collect customers’ emails.
- Create a “Review Us” page on your website (or talk to our team from Michaels Wilder to set one up for you). Here, you can include testimonials and links to your review pages.
- Electronic tablets are becoming more popular in local businesses for ordering, entertainment, payment, and more. If you’re looking for a more techie solution, consider asking for customers to review your business from a tablet at the end their visit.
3. Link directly to your review page.
If you’re asking for a review online, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to complete the review process. Whether you stick your link in an email or put it up on your website, you’ll need a way for customers to get where you want them to go.
To create a link to your business’s Google review page, you can use Google’s Place ID finder.
Simply copy the Place ID, and paste it in this URL:
After that, you can plug it into Google’s link shortener. Your shortened link will not only be much nicer to look at, it will also track how many times people click it.
1. Incentivize reviews.
If you’ve ever gone to a fast food or chain restaurant, you’ll see how common it is for a business to offer a discount in exchange for survey feedback. For this reason, many small business owners don’t realize that, although offering incentives is perfectly fine for private surveys and feedback forms, this strategy is strictly prohibited by Google.
However, many customers are still happy to leave a review just to help out a local business.
2. Ask employees to review.
For obvious reasons, owners, employees, and former employees are not allowed to review their place of work. Reviewing your competitors is also off-limits.
You and your employees have a vested interest in keeping your review rating high and your competitors’ ratings low. This conflict of interest means that these reviews—even if they’re sincere—can be removed.
3. Pay an agency to generate false reviews.
Beyond being morally dubious, generating false reviews is strictly against at least 3 of Google’s content policies (1. fake content, 2. impersonation, 3. conflict of interest).
Beyond that, fake reviews never sound like the real deal, and most customers have a pretty good sense of when things sound too good to be true. It’s natural to have some mixed reviews (we’re all only human, after all), so when people see a large volume of glowing, uncritical reviews with few specific details, they’ll likely be tipped off to the fact that the reviews aren’t all genuine.
4. Publish a review on a customer’s behalf.
Even if the customer wrote the review him/herself, you are not permitted to post it on their behalf. Unfortunately, if you post a review on a customer’s behalf, there’s no way for Google to tell if the review is real or not, so it will be removed. That’s why each the customer must use their own account to write and publish their review.
One More Thing…
Do ask for help!
With all your new reviews, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the thought of managing your online reputation. That’s where we come in.
At Michaels Wilder, we have the expertise to help you effectively manage, monitor, and respond to your online reviews. Whether it’s one review or one billion, we can help you navigate your options and put your best (digital) foot forward. Contact us today for more information or to set up an appointment.