Customer reviews are a fundamental part of your local marketing efforts and online reputation. If you can get enough good ones, they can go a long ways. A slew of good reviews can boost both your local search ranking as well as click-through rate (CTR), which should ultimately lead to converting more customers.
90% of consumers say an online review is as important as a personal recommendation while 72% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
Below is a breakdown of some of the things that our team, and other industry experts, have found to be effective tactics in building high-value customer reviews for your business.
Tips on Building Customer Reviews (in no particular order)
- Politely ask
You should coach your staff to notice when you have a highly satisfied customer, and to politely ask, “Would you be willing to leave us a review?” If you have the customer’s email, personally send them a link (see Tip #2) to your Google My Business page. You can do this in while also handing out a business card or flyer, with a QR code on it that directs them to your GMB page.
- Tee up the URL
Don't count on customers tracking down your listing(s). If you give them the exact URL, they will be more likely to go ahead and leave a review. You want to make the process as easy as possible.
You can add a URL to a flyer by going to your Google My Business page and clicking on the share review form button on the home page. This will pull up a short link that you can easily add to a flyer or email.
Google wants to know what the local community is saying about your business so you should make it as easy as possible for your customers to socially engage. Add links on your website, add the URL to your email signature, on your customer thank you letters, receipts, social media, etc.
EZlocal’s Customer Voice service makes it easy for you to reach out to all your customers via email or text!
- Seek unbiased reviews from real customers
Make those real customers with established Google accounts. Business owners who write their own (fake) reviews can end up in Google purgatory. Google employs a number of measures to prevent fake reviews including checking to see if reviews are being left by an email address tied to the business's domain or stemming from the same or similar IP address.
Be wary of reputation management services that promise to generate reviews for your business. This strategy could quickly backfire. Google is also specific about not incentivizing for reviews.
An excerpt from Google’s review guidelines:
Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. For instance, as a business owner or employee you should not review your own business or current place of work. Don’t offer money or product to others to write reviews for your business or write negative reviews about a competitor. We also discourage specialized review stations or kiosks set up at your place of business for the sole purpose of soliciting reviews. As a reviewer, you should not accept money or product from a business to write a review about them. Additionally, don’t feel compelled to review a certain way just because an employee of that business asked you to do so. Finally, don’t post reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with the place you are reviewing.
Make sure you've taken a look at the entire review content guidelines and understand the difference between asking customers to review on their own time (like handing out printed QR codes or sending reminder emails), which is okay, and incentivizing with free gifts or discounts, which is discouraged.
- Tortoise vs hare approach
Aim for a continuous stream of reviews, but be mindful of how quickly you generate them. You don’t want to be penalized for a Fiverr-like surge. This is what we in the industry refer to as the "velocity" signal. Google will likely consider a high velocity of review gathering and social activity (i.e., +1's, check-ins, and shares/likes) suspicious. This is just another way Google determines whether a review has been gained from a reliable source. So if possible, don't get them all in one day!
- Spread ‘em out (beyond Google)
Local reviews have become increasingly important as a ranking factor. However, you shouldn’t just focus on Google reviews; ask customers to review you elsewhere, too. Search engines look for corroborating review data across the local ecosystem. Reviews on relevant third-party sites such as yelp are important to your Google local ranking. Focus on targeting niche review sites that are popular for your business type.
- Don't sweat bad reviews
Nobody expects your business to be perfect. In fact, if your business has nothing but 5-star gushing reviews, it might strike consumers as a bit suspect. Do the reviews sound normal? Consumers want to read genuine reviews from real people. Getting a mediocre or bad review is not necessarily a bad thing. If searchers see a less than perfect review among many other positive reviews, they might find that more believable.
Your local ranking won’t be affected much by the occasional bad review, as long as the overall sentiment is positive. From an SEO perspective, quantity of reviews still seems to trump quality. The best way to bury bad reviews is to get positive ones.
- Respond to reviews
Responding to reviews, both positive and negative, is very important. By responding and engaging with customers is important to show you care while also giving you a chance to market your business. When replying to negative reviews, you are not just responding to the reviewer. You're speaking to everyone who reads this review, including potential future customers. Treat a negative review like you would handle a complaint in person. Apologize, keep it short, and attempt to take the conversation offline.