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Optimize My Business Using Google Reviews
Have you just eaten the best-truffled mac and cheese of your life? Did your massage therapist have magic hands? Or was that ballroom class so intoxicating that you made like David Bowie and danced, magic danced? Google users would sure love to know, as more than 6 in 10 consumers, a whopping 64% to be exact, look to Google for reviews when making a decision. These are your potential customers. It almost goes without saying, that if 64% of people are looking at online reviews prior to making a decision, you should put some effort into making sure that you have some good reviews so that your potential customers can see just how awesome your business is. Collecting positive reviews can have a massive impact on your business’ influence, reputation, and bottom line – and a little effort can go a long way. We’re here to help. We’ve created the ultimate guide for Google Reviews – let’s dive in.
There are several questions that business owners have about Google reviews. Our goal is to make this article a comprehensive guide to mastering the art if getting reviews for your business on Google. Here are the things you can expect to learn in this article:
-A Step By Step Process to get reviews from Your Customers
- Providing an amazing customer experience
- Making reviews easy for customers
- How to ask for Reviews
-How to optimize your Google My Business page
-Why incentivizing reviews is a bad idea
-Can Google Reviews be removed
How to Get Google Reviews From Your Customers
Step 1: Providing an Excellent Customer Experience (Don’t Skim Over This)
In the movie Ocean’s 11, Danny Ocean approaches his ex-wife, Tess, in an effort to win her back from her new boyfriend, casino owner Terry Benedict. Tess, trying to get rid of Danny before Terry shows up to dinner, says, “I’m with Terry now”. Danny responds by asking, “Does he make you laugh?” to which Tess responds, “He doesn’t make me cry.”
If you’ve seen the movie, you know who Tess ends up with. (If not, spoiler alert, she ends up back with Danny.)
You may be asking what Ocean’s 11 has to do with reviews, and the answer is almost everything. When business owners respond to questions about their ability to gather reviews and referrals, they often think their customers are rarely upset. But as the scene above laid out for us, there is a difference between providing a great experience and not providing a bad experience.
Long before a customer submits a review, they have their first interactions with your business. You can only control so much, thus it is imperative that everything your company does, down to the smallest detail, has value, purpose and ultimately plays into the experience you desire for your customer. There’s little margin for error, and each team member has an effect. Success takes everyone working together– emanating reliability.
Reliability is a big deal (and it’s a big deal in relation to the kinds of reviews you’ll receive online– it’s relevant). Reliability goes beyond being on time or delivering a consistent product. Reliability is the thread that ideally goes through each part of your proverbial assembly line. Think of the different parts of your business. Is there synchronicity within each layer? Is your branding consistent with your product? Do you deliver the product the way you’ve marketed to your customers? Do you deliver when you say you will?
The Values Institute’s study about business reputations said these five values increase feelings of trust and reliability in a brand:
- ability to perform
- concern for consumers, employees and community
- connection in value systems
- consistency and dependability of product or service
Not surprisingly, negative reviews almost always have to do with a lack in one or more of those values. So let’s get on board with ability, concern, connection, consistency, and sincerity.
While reliability is on our minds, there are a few more ways you can control the consistency of your online presence. In addition to asking your happy customers to write a review, consider doing the following:
- Make sure all company information is updated on all reviews websites
- Have customer service easily accessible on your website
- Respond to your customers across your various social media platforms, even complaints (but allow a few days to pass for an unhappy customer to cool down before responding)
- Use Google Alerts to help with reputation management and review management
- Utilize your website to showcase testimonials (given you have permission), awards, or validation/press from other media sources
- Be open about your story and the history of your company– vulnerability creates the connection that will further bond your customers to you
Step 2: Make Google Business Reviews Easy for Customers
No matter how amazing your customer experience is, there will always be an inverse correlation between the number of reviews that you get and the difficulty that a customer faces when leaving a review. You want to make your process of leaving a review as simple as possible. Here are some easy options to go about this:
Find a Review Software that Automates the Process
In an ideal world, everyone would have automated review software like Weave that allows customers to easily provide feedback by way of Google reviews. You can typically set these up to send requests to everyone who has an interaction with your business, or you can opt to send those requests manually to customers that you know have had an amazing experience. Statistically, an automated system will allow you to generate the highest number of reviews when compared to any other option.
Generate a Simple Reviews Link for Your Business
There are a lot of questions regarding how to generate a custom Google Review link for your business. There is a long, somewhat complicated process that we could walk you through to set it this up yourself… but we’ll just make it easy for you. Use this tool from Whitespark to generate a custom Google Reviews link in seconds.
Teach Your Customers How to Write a Review
While this will definitely be the route with the lowest success, it is still possible. Writing a Google Review is not extremely simple without automation. Below we’ve written steps that you’re free to copy and paste to hand out to your customers should you choose to go this route.
Let’s start at the ground level. There are two devices you can do this from: your computer or your smartphone. The process is different for each, and your customers will need a Google account to do it.
Write a Google Review from your computer:
- Log into your Google account, search for the business you’re reviewing.
- Find the reviews area (next to the star rating in your search results, or under the establishment’s name in the sidebar in Google search) and click on the blue font that says “WRITE A REVIEW.”
- Rate the business from 1 to 5 stars (the greater numbers indicate a positive experience), write about your experience and click “POST.”
Write a Google Review from your smartphone:
- In your cell phone’s browser, go to Google’s main webpage and search for the business you’re going to review.
- The right side of the results page will pull up the business. Scroll down to the “WRITE A REVIEW” button and click on it.
- Select the star rating that correlates with your experience, write a little about it and click “POST.”
Write a review from the Google Maps app:
- In the Google Maps app on your phone, search for the business that you want to review.
- Maps will return a result with a map that includes a banner at the bottom about the business. Click that banner.
- Scroll down in the window that pops up until you get to the reviews section. You will see five stars unpopulated with your profile picture above them. Click on the number of stars you would like to leave for the business and proceed to write about your experience.
- Click “POST.
Writing a review is a simple process. But driving your customers to do it is more of a challenge… you’ll need to get used to asking for reviews, which brings us to step three.
Step 3: How to Ask for Reviews
Asking for reviews can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. You could say something simple like, “Hey, would you be willing to leave a review about your experience?” However, if you want to get the best response rate possible, there are some psychological aspects that you should consider when you are putting together your review script.
Ask your customers if they would be willing to do you a favor
Studies show that providing support to others is an essential aspect of happiness. Asking for a favor not only shows trust in the person from whom you are asking the favor, but it also allows them the opportunity to provide support to another person. Thus contributing to their happiness (and a well-meant review of your business).
Remind your customers that they had a good experience
Reminding the customer that they enjoyed their experience invokes good thoughts and memories for them. The importance here is evident. This reminder also gives them the chance to let you know if their experience wasn’t what you thought it was.
Give them a reason to write a review
This goes far deeper psychologically than thinking that providing a good experience is a sufficient reason for customers to want to leave a review. Studies performed by a Harvard professor in 1978 revealed the power of the word because.
It went like this: participants of the study would ask to go in front of someone in a line to use a copy machine. The first group would ask, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” The second group would ask, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” The third group would ask, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”
The results of this study were very interesting: The success rate of the first group was 60%. The success rate of the second group, although they were saying almost exactly the same thing was an astounding 93%. The success rate of the fourth group, even though their reason seemed a lot more legitimate, was 94%.
The conclusion of the study is that giving someone a reason for a request will increase your success rate no matter the reason.
Thank them for being willing to leave a review
Gratitude, in general, is always a good idea. In a cold email response study, response rates increased dramatically when gratitude was expressed in advance.
Here’s each tip, put together in a script (again, you’re welcome to copy this):
“Hey __________ (customer name), thanks for coming in today! I was wondering if you could do me a favor?”
(customer responds affirmatively)
“It seems like you had a good experience today, is that right?”
(customer responds affirmatively)
“Good, I’m glad to hear that! Would you mind writing a review about your experience? Because it really helps other customers make the decision to come here.”
(customer responds affirmatively)
“Thanks! I really appreciate you being willing to do that! You will get a review request from our office. You can just follow the link that we send you. It makes it really simple!”
A happy customer is likely to reciprocate the positivity if you just ask. By making the process simple and introducing a little bit of psychology into the equation, you’re well on your way to acquiring a bank of positive reviews.
Set up Google My Business so people can find your reviews.
Your Google My Business page is one of your most valuable online assets. Optimizing it properly will help your business be found in both map and organic searches within Google, and, in turn, allow more people to see your awesome reviews. This is a major aspect of what SEO professionals call local SEO or local search. This goes far beyond just claiming your page. Here is your all-inclusive guide to setting up your business page.
Verify Your Business on Google
If you have not already done this, you will need to do so before you can accomplish many of the steps we will go through here. To verify your business on Google, start by logging into the Google account that you would like to manage the page with. Be sure that this is an account that you will have continual access to. Otherwise, you could lose control of your Google My Business page.
Once you are logged in, go to https://www.google.com/business. You will land on a page that looks like this:
Click on the “MANAGE NOW” button. If you are already managing your business, this will take you to your Google My Business dashboard. If not, you will see a page that looks like this:
Type the name of your business and then click the “Next” button. From there you will see a page that looks like this:
Click the “Finish” button. Google is going to give you a way to verify that you do indeed own the business that you are trying to claim. Sometimes this will be as simple as Google calling the phone number associated with the business and providing you a code, but other times you will need to receive a postcard at the business address listed. That screen will look like this:
If Google gives you the phone number option, you can be immediately verified and begin managing your Google My Business profile. If you are given the postcard option, you will get the postcard in the mail within about a week. Don’t worry, you can still make all of the changes that we are going over in this article, they just might not show up until you enter the verification code on the postcard.
Complete Your Business Info
Right off the bat, at the top of the left-hand side menu, you will see posts. We will get into these later, so ignore the posts for now.
The first thing you will want to do is navigate to the info section on the left-hand side menu.
This will open up a window where you can enter almost everything about your business. Fill this in as thoroughly as possible. Here’s a breakdown, section by section:
Make sure your business name is correct and that it matches everything else that people can find about your business online.
Select all categories your business can fit under. For example, if you are a dentist, your main category is dentist. But you could also select dental clinic, dental hygienist, cosmetic dentist, pediatric dentist, dental implants, periodontist, etc. This goes without saying, but only choose the categories that actually pertain to your business. You can have up to 7 categories.
This is more for businesses who travel to their customers. If you have a physical location, don’t bother with adding a service area. Google already knows where you are.
Enter the hours that your business is open, and make sure that they match the hours on your website. Correct hours are extremely important. Prospective customers get frustrated when they call at a time that Google says you are open when you actually aren’t. The idea of a seamless, multi-platform customer experience is what you need to think of here. Consistency with everything your business creates is of the utmost importance.
This probably goes without saying, but make sure that your phone number is correct and that it matches what’s listed on your website. This should be the same as all of your other business profiles like Yelp, Facebook, etc. Consistent name, address and phone number across the internet will help your business rank better in the maps.
If you are a single location business, use the homepage of your website here. If you are a multi-location business, use the location page of your website–because that’s where customers can find the location closest to them. Make sure to include the complete URL. The easiest way to do this is to navigate to your website and then copy the URL from the top bar of your browser. This will copy over the correct format.
If you have a page where customers can book appointments online, include that here. If not, link the page with your contact form and contact information.
If you have simple pricing for services, add those here. You are required to add a price, and prospective customers can see this, so be careful what you put here if your prices vary based on insurance. It is ok to leave these blank by not adding services at all.
This is fairly self-explanatory, but add all of the applicable attributes that pertain to your business. There are nine listed for you to choose from.
Add Business Description:
This section deserves the most attention (aside from making sure that all information is accurate). You get 750 characters to describe your business–so use them all. Include your city and variants of your keyword, but be careful not to overdo it. If you are a dentist in Los Angeles, include a variant that looks something like dental care in LA, or dental services in Los Angeles. Include interesting information about your business history and location.
There is nothing to fill out in the insights section, but it will give you some great information about how people are interacting with your Google My Business page online. You can find out how many people found you in search, how many people asked for directions, how many people went to your website and how many people called you using the search.
The reviews section is where you will respond to and manage reviews about your business. We will get to that later in the post, but just know that this is where you would do that. There is nothing that you need to fill out here.
You have the option to set up messaging so that people can chat with your business. If you choose to do this, be sure that you have someone on the other end of the chat as often as possible. These are typically people who want to get in soon–so if your business has the capacity, this is always a good idea.
Photos can make a huge impact on your ranking in maps. Be sure not to skip over this part. First things first: when it comes to photos, make sure every single photo is unique to your business. Don’t use stock photos in your Google My Business. There are different sections that your photos fall under. Here is a snapshot of what those look like:
Add photos under every section except for “By Owner”; “By Owner” will automatically populate with anything that you upload.
360 photo: On any smartphone, download the Google Street View app and upload photos according to the instructions in the app. Do this in a few locations around the building and even inside the building.
Interior, exterior, at work and team are fairly self-explanatory. Make sure that you are uploading the correct photos to each section. If you take 4-6 photographs per section you’ll be in the right range for the number of photos. Aim for a total of 20-30 photos of your business.
If you have a booking software, connect it here. That will allow customers to book directly from your Google My Business knowledge panel or from your map listing. Here is what this looks like:
If you are not using a booking software, you will typically see an image of a phone to click on that gives the viewer the option to call. Decide for your business which route is best, or test both and see which works best for your goals.
This is the section where you can create a Google site. You should definitely do this, however, make sure that you do not select to have this be your primary website. Think of this website as a longer version of the business description that you filled in earlier, or as an “about page” on your website. Link to all of your social media profiles and review sites so that Google associates those listings together. Think Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, Twitter, etc.. A properly structured Google Site can add a lot of value to your Google My Business listing.
Google My Business Posts
Now that your Google My Business page is set up, you can keep the content fresh by using the post feature. You can use the post to feature reviews, services or community events.
Successful Reputation Management
Although it would be awesome to never have to worry about what customers are finding online, there is a lot of truth to the idea that you can’t make everyone happy. There is no getting around the fact that you might have a dissatisfied customer. Bad reviews will likely find their way into your business. Sometimes these are warranted, while other times they might be completely unfounded. This does not change the fact that the bad reviews are going to be showing up on your Google profile. These situations can call for reputation management services. Reputation management has everything to do with helping customers find the right reviews in the right places when they are looking for your business. Google is definitely one of the places that you want to have good reviews displaying about your business. If you find yourself retaining someone to help with reputation management, getting good reviews on Google can give you a big head start in the process.
Should You Incentivize Customers to Write Reviews?
Offering incentives for reviews is unethical and is against the terms of service of basically every review platform available (you don’t want to affect the integrity of a review or your company) but asking happy customers to leave a review certainly is not unethical. What’s more, 89% of consumers are willing to leave reviews but only 7% have reported being asked to do so. So don’t be shy. Ask your customers to leave a review and make that process an easy one.
While offering an incentive might increase your success in getting Google reviews, apart from being unethical, it can also come back to bite you. Take this review for example:
It can be tempting to incentivize good reviews, especially when competitors are doing it, but abiding by Google’s terms of service is definitely a better route in the long run.
Is Removing a Google Review Possible?
The short answer to this question is that there is not an easy way to get a Google review removed. In fact, removing a review is not possible unless the review violates Google’s policy (such as spam, content that is fake/illegal/explicit/offensive/dangerous, and even content that is off-topic). In that case, you can flag a review and it will be assessed by Google, although the ultimate removal of the policy-violating review is rumored a hard task to actually complete.
You may be wondering about fake reviews, because they definitely do happen. Your best bet is to get as many people as possible to flag the review, but that is still not a guarantee. Sometimes, the best strategy with fake reviews is to respond to them saying that you don’t know who they are, and keep pushing good online reviews to make the bad review obsolete.
Negative reviews happen, and they shouldn’t be ignored. The top two sources for reviews are Google and Facebook and, lucky for you, these are also easy platforms to communicate with your customers. Yes, you should respond to negative reviews. This will not just impact the individual customer who left the negative review, but it will provide a clear narrative for those researching your business. Responses from the company make a measurable difference: 45% of consumers are more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews. This is likely because responding communicates that your company is listening, that you care about your customers’ experience and have the desire to build goodwill. Improve the perception on-lookers have of you: respond to negative reviews.
Responding to Google Reviews
-Respond in a timely manner, and use your discernment to determine whether a response requires additional follow-up via direct message, an email or a phone call
-Not replying equates to ignoring a customer
-The goal is to create a community feel, so canned or automatic responses aren’t ideal
-Always meet negativity with positivity, and remember that your response provides clarification for other viewers
-If negative feedback requires it, look into the history with the customer before responding
Be patient as reviews come in, and don’t be tempted by people offering reviews for pay. This is unethical and often times, these reviews won’t have the impact that you would hope for a variety of reasons. Yes, a lot of reviews is nice, but gaining true popularity on your listing is what will ultimately drive it up in the rankings. The more clicks on your listing or website from a search result tells Google that your business is relevant to that search and will drive the placement of your listing. We could go on, but that’s another article for another day. Just promise us you won’t pay for Google reviews or ask anyone who is not a customer to leave a review.
Note that once a customer has submitted a review, it can take anywhere from three to seven days for it to actually post. To read and reply to reviews, sign in to Google My Business and click “Reviews” from the menu. When you’re on a specific review you’d like to manage, select the “About” tab. You’ll be able to either respond to the review, flag it, or share it.
Using Weave to Get More Customer Reviews
Interestingly (but not surprising), a well-established Weave dental office in Oklahoma City was able to increase their new patient flow by 324% from May of 2017 to now. This office was seeing around 17 new patients a month consistently for several years, and with less than 10 online reviews at the time saw a plateau in their active patient base. Then they signed up for Weave and activated Auto-Text Reviews– they are now seeing 76 new patients a month and have over 200 online reviews.
Rika Markel, of West Side Family Dental Group said, “Weave has made all the difference in our dental practices. Easy to use for recalls, confirmations, etc. But most importantly, the review feature helped us to get on the first page of Google.”
Did you read that? She said the first page of Google.
You’ve got the magic laid out for you: How to write a review, how to respond to and manage reviews, the ethics that play into the process and how to make sure your company is perfectly poised for a positive online reputation.
Now is the time to get more reviews: get more reviews with Weave.