Most customers are now turning to Google to find businesses. From a simple search to locating businesses “near me” to comparing different businesses, many of us consult Google before deciding who we want to do business with. And believe it or not, that decision often weighs heavily on the individual businesses’ Google reviews, which allow us to consult other people’s experiences before making our decision.
Google Reviews allow customers to write reviews directly on the business’s Google or Google Maps listings. And since Google will obviously favor its own review system, the Google reviews show up on every relevant search. If a business would like to grow their presence on Google, a good place to start is through getting more reviews. And if you don’t think those reviews matter, think again: 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
For an easy example of how these reviews can impact your business, think about someone who is new to an area or traveling, but is looking for a local restaurant to visit that evening. One of the first places that person will visit is Google to search for restaurants in the area. The search engine will pull up relevant results, and also display the Google rating for each of them. Do you think this person is more likely to visit the restaurant with the glowing 5-star reviews, or the ones with a lower rating?
For small businesses, online reviews can help build trust. But if you’re just starting out, those reviews may be hard to come by. Here are 4 ways to grow your business’s Google reviews.
1. Claim Your Google Business Listing
Google My Business is a free listing from Google that businesses can use to manage their company’s information across Google Search and Google Maps. It’s important to keep this information up to date so that potential customers can find your business when using the search engine. Once you claim your business listing through Google My Business, Google will verify the information (name, address, phone number, etc.) by postcard or phone call. Google shows favor to verified businesses, so this is an easy and necessary step to building your local search results — a major factor in SEO.
Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing also increases your likelihood of appearing in Google’s Local 3-Pack. In this feature, three local businesses are prominently displayed on Google’s results page, giving local businesses the ability to appear on the first page of results even if they’re not performing well organically.
2. Promote Thyself
There is no shame in turning to your social media accounts to point people to your Google+ page or to encourage your followers to leave you a review. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to leave a review, especially if they’ve had a positive experience with your business. A simple message such as “Check out our Google+ page and give us some feedback” with a link to your page is enough of a gentle nudge to encourage some customers to act on it.
3. Include a CTA
Why not target people who are already interacting with your business online? If you have an email list that customers are subscribed to, try including a call-to-action (CTA) button on your next email asking people to visit your Google+ page and leave a review. You can also display a CTA on your website or at the bottom of recent blog posts.
4. Ask Customers Directly
Online reviews are a great way to receive open and honest feedback directly from your customers. But an unfortunate trend of online reviews is that people are more motivated to leave a negative review than a positive one. If someone has a positive experience with your business, they’re more likely to leave it at that — enjoy the experience and then move on (or, hopefully, come back for repeat business). But if someone has a negative experience, they are more emboldened to let people know about it! To counteract this trend, reach out directly to people who you know have had a good experience with you to ask if they’d be willing to leave you a review. Let them know how valuable their feedback is to you.
Once you start to grow your Google rating, it’s important to implement best practices to get the most out of those positive reviews. For example:
- Respond to negative reviews immediately: Most people who leave a negative review are just looking to be heard, so let them know that you hear their feedback and offer to do everything in your power — within reason — to make it right.
- On that note, respond to every review: No matter if the feedback is positive or negative, it’s important to take the time to respond to each review individually. Engaging with your customers shows other potential customers that you care about their experience. And respond to each review quickly — don’t let them sit for weeks or months on end. If someone has left a positive review, thank them and invite them back!
- Track your reviews: Set reminders to yourself to check Google Reviews, Yelp, Glassdoor, and other outlets for new reviews. Knowing what customers are saying about your business and managing response time will help you grow your business.
Google reviews play an important factor for many small businesses. Those positive reviews can be enough to push more customers to your business because they build trust. In fact, it’s been reported that 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more.