Google business reviews directly from clients and customers are one of the most effective ways to promote trust and confidence in your business and is one of the most essential ranking signals for local SEO.
Zendesk recently published results from a widely distributed survey which discovered that 90% of respondents claimed that positive reviews directly influenced their purchasing decisions. Interestingly, 86% said negative reviews were also an influence. Crucially, reviews (both positive and negative) influence customers purchasing decisions and are one of the most fundamental tools at our disposal to attracting more customers.
Brian Solis puts it very well when he says:
“Welcome to a new era of marketing and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.”
In this article, I want to explore why Google business reviews are so important and how to get your customers to write and publish them without breaking any of Google’s guidelines. With Google dominating online search it makes sense that you put a lot of your focus into getting reviews on your Google My Business page – especially as My Business profiles are a leading influencer for local SEO.
What is Google My Business and why is it Important?
Google My Business is effectively an updated version of what used to be referred to as Google Places for Business with features from Google Plus thrown into the mix. Businesses which complete their profile benefit from being shown in Google Maps and Google Search more frequently and in a number of more attractive ways.
With local search results, google will commonly show a series of businesses in the users physical location through what is known as the ‘local pack’. It is through this pack that potential customers will see pieces of information about your business such as its address, phone number, photographs and (importantly) customer reviews.
Not only do reviews appear next to the search results, taking up screen real-estate, but it also appears in a section between Paid adverts and Organic search results, increasing click-through-rates and driving more potential customers through to your website.
There are countless websites which can collect customer reviews for you, there are none which are as important as Google My Business. With the majority of search traffic coming from Google it pays to focus your energies here to begin with. Google are truly local business advocates and have created a lot of information on setting up and verifying your business profile, so if you haven’t done already you’ll need to do this. Once your business is setup on Google My Business, it’s time to start thinking about getting some reviews.
5 Stars (3 Stars…..or 1 Star!)
Internet users trust and are influenced by online reviews. The more trusted the host, the more trusted the feedback and consequently, the higher the influence. Having an indication of the quality of your services in Google Search will result in a powerful level of influence in those searching for your services. It can be a tremendously valuable method of standing out from the crowd.
Until recently Google’s Local Pack only displayed review starts once your business had received 5 reviews. This was changed and removed so that even businesses with just one review can now start showing them through their Google My Business profile. Even more reason to start approaching customers to persuade them to contribute their feedback and start increasing your click-through-rate (perhaps even up to 20%).
These stars and an excerpt from each review also appear in the Knowledge Graph. Search for a business using it’s name and if they have completed the relevant information as part of their Google My Business profile, you’ll see how much of the search results screen is consumed by the businesses information. The Google My Business profile has also started to share a basic overview of reviews deposited on other trusted 3rd party sites such as Facebook, Yelp & Review Center so don’t limit yourself on just Google reviews.
In our experience, for some sectors some reviews are being left out. Search for the term ‘removals Cambridge’ and you’ll see the 3 pack without any review stars. Even though at least 2 of the businesses returned have way over 5 reviews.
If you’re technical, there’s also another option to think about. Structured Data is a standard set of code which provides you with the ability to markup your website so that is makes a number of different aspects abundantly clear to Google’s bots. This can help you to get reviews and stars for your products and services onto the organic search results – directly underneath a link to your website. Consider the benefit of this when you can show your page in relevant search results, adjacent to competitor pages, but your page can have 5/5 stars next to it. Which one would you click? The one with or without customer reviews?
How to ask for Google My Business Reviews
The most genuine and natural looking reviews are the ones that customers leave without any prompting. That’s certainly not to say that prompting someone into writing a review by asking them directly what they thought of doing business with you and if they minded leaving a review. Far from incentivising, engaging with someone directly about their experience is actually great customer service and will often prompt a positive review on your Google My Business page.
Google is rather keen to ensure the feedback mechanisms within their search products remain honest and helpful. Needless to say, your customers will need a Google account to be able to leave one and it is against Google policy to request a piece of feedback in return for a gift. Most people have a Google account these days but even if they don’t, it’s child’s play to sign-up and importantly it’s also free. Think of it this way, if they have a gmail account, they’ll have a Google account.
Of course, there are some steps you can take to make this an easier and more likely outcome.
Timing is crucial This comes down to holding the line between avoiding asking too early and not asking too late. Too early and your customer may not have experienced the full value from your service and may simply not have an opinion yet and too late, that initial sense of wonderment or impressiveness you invited may have already faded.
Make it simple to leave review It may be a little obvious but it’s amazing how many businesses fail to make it easy for customers to leave feedback in the right way. Your website and social media accounts shouldn’t just be encouraging people to leave feedback but actively showing them how by linking to it. Make it easy to find the right place to leave feedback concerning your business/services.
Integrate with popular communication methods If you are running an email marketing campaign and you’re not using this to draw in more feedback, you’re missing a trick. If customers are still communicating with your business, chances are they’re happy with your services and are perfect candidates for providing feedback. You could incorporate a call-to-action (CTA) within your emails signature or perhaps create a specific email campaign encouraging customer feedback.
Linking to your Google My Business Review Form The best way you can request feedback is to provide a direct link which when clicked, brings up the review form for Google My Business. Fortunately, Google have thought of this and provide you with the ability to create a URL which will take you through to the feedback submission form – no further clicks required.
If you run a business which relies on local search traffic to your website then you will, to a large extent also rely on reviews. The internet has had a prefound impact on small businesses 0 it’s opened all of us up and made it simple find how others feel about their friends, family and importantly, businesses they’ve done business with. Harnessing this information and presenting it in a user-friendly way is crucial to building trust and converting more visitors into customers.
Whilst reviews can be a mixed bag and won’t always be entirely positive (learning how to respond to negative reviews warrants an entire article all by itself!) they have become an extremely important tool to influence potential customers who make buying decisions every day. Harness the feedback and you’ll create more customers.