Encouraging Google Reviews in 2017

Jon Baglow

Senior SEO Specialist

If your company isn’t on Google My Business (GMB) yet, you’re missing out on free and highly valuable exposure.

Since 2014, GMB has provided a direct way for you to tell Google - the search engine used in 87% of UK web searches - where your business is and what it does. It also provides access to a review platform that is embedded into Google Search results, Google Maps and Google Local Guides.

hand

Making sure that your customers leave a review is a must, especially if your business serves a local customer base. The recent BrightLocal survey of 1,062 people offers compelling statistics:

84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendation, and 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a business review if asked. Focusing on getting more Google My Business reviews is surely a no-brainer in 2017.

Think of things from your customer’s point of view: I’m new to Falmouth and want to go to the gym. I search  ‘Gym Falmouth’ online and see this:

star ratings

The first result is out of town but has a higher number of positive reviews – I’m at least going to make further enquiries as to whether this place is worth traveling for.

As a business owner, also remember that you’ll achieve a visibility boost from having a greater amount of positive reviews – as stated in this recent Moz study,  "locations with a lot of reviews tend to rank higher".

Note: This advice focuses on the single-location business. Multi-location businesses provide a whole new set of considerations and often require specialist help.

Star rating threshold

The biggest development of 2017 to date has to be Google’s change to the star rating threshold. Now, search results deliver as little as one review rather than the previous minimum of five reviews. This means that earning a star rating is now far more achievable than before. We have outlined a before and after scenario below:

Google reviews

If you have fewer than five reviews, this advancement is a double-edged sword for your business. Receive just one good review and you have an attractive star rating, but get just one bad review and you’ll see your potential customers scroll through to the next listing. Below is an example of a local business that’s been badly impacted by this change:

1 star Google review

Collecting more reviews

So enough about why GMB reviews are important; now you’re probably wondering how to get more. Here are some tips to help you gain more positive reviews, and ultimately more customers.

1. Make it as easy as possible

You’re already asking a lot from your customers to leave a review; it takes their time and integrity to leave a review, and there is little benefit for them. Therefore, you need to make it as easy as possible. The following examples are tried and tested methods we employ:

Note: A Google-enabled account will need to be used to leave Google My Business reviews. Gmail accounts are automatically eligible, whereas any other email addresses need to visit this link to convert them for free.

2. There's no harm in asking

Have you ever asked a customer face-to-face to leave you a review? It depends on the existing relationship with your customers of course, but always consider asking those whom you have a good rapport with to leave you a review.  

3. Leverage your tools

Do you have a database of customer details to which you’re already sending a monthly email or text? Why not slip in a sentence prompting a review, along with your newly created link from above.

If you have a lot of email contacts in your database, try just sending to @gmail and @googlemail email addresses first.

4. Train staff

Training staff on what GMB reviews are, and how to leave them, is key. Imagine the scenario: in your restaurant, a couple had the best steak they’ve ever eaten and they want to leave a review.

“We saw that poster about leaving you a review and tried, but we can’t seem to find you on Google”, they explain.  

Make sure your staff can walk them through the process right there and then, because your customers are less likely to do it later.

5. Respond to reviews

Have you received a negative review? Firstly, check if it falls foul of Google’s review policies, and if you think it does, report it immediately. If not, and the customer has left some feedback, always reply. Some great advice on how to phrase your response can be found here.

Responding to bad reviews shows that you care about your customers, and will give you more credibility than all those universally 5-star businesses. Relish the bad review and turn it around.

6. A word of warning...

Don’t incentivise reviews, but do remind customers to leave them. Google’s policies dictate that reviews must not be biased, and to that end, providing money or services for a review is a conflict of interest. The consequences? Kiss goodbye to your other good work on GMB.

How to get more 5-star reviews

Ultimately, to get more 5-star reviews, you need to make sure you’re worthy. It doesn’t matter how well you implement the above pointers, the fact of the matter is, you need to deserve it.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it give your water a 5-star review.

In short, make your business awesome, and make it as easy as possible for your customers to leave reviews.

Do you work with 3WhiteHats? Don’t forget to leave us a review! https://bit.do/review-3whitehats

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