Reviews have become table stakes for most small businesses.
Without a reasonable number of reviews, you can’t compete. People expect to find them and learn about the experiences others have had with your business. If you don’t have many, prospective customers may wonder why or, even worse, assume it’s because your service is bad.
There is overwhelming evidence to support the importance of reviews in gaining trust. Most people know that. What most business owners do not know is that reviews improve your local business rankings in google, leading to greater visibility and success.
Why, therefore, do so many business owners and marketers neglect this crucial aspect of their marketing? The google review system is free so the only cost is your time.
Some fascinating insights emerged from a recent survey by Moz – The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior.
Every small business owner and marketer should read the survey and then put this review strategy into practice.
Key insights from the Moz survey
- 96% of people read reviews.
- For gauging trust, 86% of consumers say reviews are either “the most” important or “somewhat” important factor.
- After reading reviews, 91% of consumers’ next steps occur in areas completely controlled by the business, such as the company’s website, premises and direct contact options.
- Sharing experiences and gratitude drive the overwhelming majority of reviews.
- 39% of review writers have not received a direct review request in the past 5 years.
- If asked, more than half of your customers will always or usually write a review.
- The top reason customers don’t review your business is because they forget.
- 90%+ consumers are influenced to a moderate or extreme degree by owner responses to reviews.
- 62% of negative reviewers would give a local brand a second chance after an owner response solves their problem.
- 63% of consumers will update their negative review or low-star rating once an owner response resolves their complaint.
- 79% spend more time reading reviews in google than on other platforms.
- 64% of consumers require 4 review stars to consider doing business.
- 70% of customers read between 5 and 20 positive reviews before deciding a business is worth a try
- 68% trust what the public says about a business more than what the business says about itself.
- Only 14% of respondents never write reviews.
If you’re not already, make sure you’re aware of google’s guidelines for representing your business on google.
Google review strategy
The first step is deciding to take some kind of action. Without taking a first step, you may forget all about this post immediately after reading it!
First actions might be as simple as deciding to start a review acquisition campaign, making a note in your diary right now and then saving this blog post as a browser bookmark favourite for ease of reference.
I added a recurring appointment in my Outlook calendar to provide repeated prompts.
Create a list of targets
Compile a list of people you can ask for a review. Creating a list in Excel which you can update with details such as when you asked them, when they replied etc. can be very useful.
You can legitimately ask anyone who has had a real experience of your business. They do not have to have become a customer. They might be a business partner, associate, supplier etc. Remember that some people will leave a bad review for a business just because they couldn’t get through on the phone or because they witnessed one of your vans being driven badly. Google accepts reviews from people who have had experiences with your business no matter what that experience.
Get your google review link
Make sure you know where to get a link that you can send people to make it easy for them. If they click on your google review link, they’ll be presented with google’s review pop-up form so they don’t have to find it themselves. If they’re signed in to their google account, they can post a review straightaway.
Here’s how to get your google review link.
Note that, if you’re signed in to your google account, the button in your knowledge panel will read “Get more reviews”. If you’re not signed in, it’ll read “Write a review”.
Draft your email
It’s really worth spending some time on this to try and create an email that is engaging so it does not get ignored.
Try and make it resonate with your client to motivate them to help you.
Remember to include in your email your google review link and also some guidance about what makes a good review.
The easier you make it for them, the less they’ll have to think themselves.
A very small percentage of people don’t leave reviews because they’re not sure what to write. Help them with some tips about what makes a good review. A 4-star rating with a brief but informative review is more valuable than a 5-star rating with no review comments. Ratings without any review comment are ignored by google when calculating your average review score. You could offer some tips in the email you send requesting the review or send them a link to an article. I created a separate page “How to leave us a google review” for that exact purpose so that I only have to send a link to it in my review request email instead of including all of it in every email.
Make your request
A request by email is the method preferred by most according to the Moz survey. It also has the advantage over a verbal request that it may be less likely to be forgotten. However, if you find yourself face-to-face, don’t hesitate to test that method too.
Do not review your own business and do not ask friends and family. People can often see through that and it erodes trust.
Identify touch points
Consider all the points at which you and your staff come into contact with your customers and other potential reviewers. These are all opportunities to ask for a review.
Think online, offline, face-to-face, email, website, social media. It may make sense to offer a review link at all these touch points.
Test your approach
When I received a review request from BrightLocal, I left a review for them straightaway. That was partly due to their great products and services. What probably tipped the balance though was the extraordinarily engaging email they sent with carefully crafted wording and an amusing animated gif image of Leonardo Di Caprio.
I decided to replicate this approach and received 6 or 7 reviews from 8 emails, including 1 from a person I had asked before but didn’t reply.
Here’s the wording I used in my email.
You’ve been a great customer for a while now and I wanted to ask you for a small favour. We’re currently trying to grow our online reviews and it would be fantastic if you could leave us a star rating in Google.
If you click on the link below, you will see the “Write a review” button in the information panel about AdJuice and can leave a review, once you’re signed in to your Google account.
If you took just 90 seconds to scribble out 2-3 sentences to help other people evaluate our services – and to help us improve them – we would be enormously grateful!
If you have asked people and some didn’t reply, consider sending them another request using different wording.
Strike while the iron is hot
If somebody praises your service, that’s a great time to ask for a review. They’ve already demonstrated they’re willing to give credit where it’s due.
Don’t pass up that opportunity.
Embed the review mindset throughout your organisation. This may not only remind them to acquire reviews but also remind them of the importance of providing a great service to everyone who comes into contact with your business.
When I went to buy some gym equipment just before the first covid lockdown, the staff had signs stuck on their tills with reminders to ask every customer for a review. Of course, I agreed and did so immediately on my return home.
These staff told me they had been incentivised by their employer to acquire reviews.
Reply to every review
If you’re not sure what to say in your reply, it doesn’t matter too much. Any reply tells the reviewer you have seen and acknowledge their review which makes it more rewarding for them and demonstrates your concern.
If there is a problem to fix, respond constructively and positively. Other people who may be considering your services will see your replies and know that you are proactive and take an interest in protecting the reputation of your business.
Every time a review is left against your Google Business Profile, you will receive an email notification from google. That’s the best time to reply.
Make a diary note to review your target list periodically and complete any outstanding actions.
The top reason customers don’t review your business is because they forget.
After a reasonable period of time, send a gentle reminder, perhaps using different wording in your email.
Re-publish reviews on your website
Not everyone will see your reviews in google before reaching your website. Some may arrive on your site directly and you want to make sure those reviews are visible to these people as well.
There are plugins for WordPress sites that make doing this easy. Here is how one plugin displays my reviews.
Don’t put it off. If your first review is a 1-star review, it sticks out like a sore thumb and your average review rating will – of course – be 1. If you already had a handful of good reviews, the impact of the bad review might have lowered your average review score by only half a point from 5.0 to 4.5.
Even a small number of good reviews will soften the blow of a bad one.
People like helping
Sharing experiences and gratitude drive the overwhelming majority of reviews.
I had one client tell me his customers were not the sort of people who left reviews. I refused to accept it and persuaded him at least to try. A year later, he had 20-30 good reviews and his business was receiving so many enquiries we had to put up a ‘fully booked for 3 months’ notice on his website’s home page.
The gamification of review writing by google’s global Local Guide program ensures there is an army of eager reviewers waiting to share their experiences.
I signed up to the google local guide program myself. After a tasty plate of sardines in 2017 at a small restaurant in Tavira, Portugal, I went to leave a review for the business only to find they were not listed on google maps. I added the business myself, uploaded some photos and left their first review. The result is that other diners who would not otherwise have been able to find and review the business in google were able to do so. At time of writing this, the business has 281 google reviews. It’s gratifying to know I was able to reward their excellent service so richly!
Check your reviews
If you have a relatively small number of reviews, periodically check them to make sure none has disappeared. Reviews can disappear for a number of reasons including google accounts that are deleted, accidental review deletions etc.
Pro tip 1
Use your Excel list to serve as a record of all your reviews so that if any disappear, you can go back to the client and ask them to write another review.
Pro tip 2
Sometimes GBP accounts get suspended and all of the reviews may be lost, even after the suspension is lifted. Some of the WordPress plugins retain a record of your reviews in the WP database so if any or all of your reviews disappear, you’ll still have a copy of all the review details in your WP database.
Don’t ignore other platforms
If someone doesn’t like leaving reviews in google, you should still encourage them to leave one on another platform like Bing, Facebook, Yell.com etc. (if your business is listed on those platforms).
If it isn’t listed on Bing or Yell, it should be, so add that to your action list.
See anything important missing?
Please help me improve this guide by leaving your comment below!
Thanks for reading.