In the age of #FakeNews and promotional content, you may think consumers have become jaded and unconvinced of what they find online. But, guess what?
Customer reviews still matter.
Not only do they still provide a lot of influence, reviews are affecting your search rankings too. With Google’s local pack overstepping the usual search results, it’s even more important to understand how this affects your business, and what you can do to remain on top of your SERP game.
Search Engine Journal recently put out an article detailing a report that customer ratings are playing a large factor in ranking success, even without the presence of other traditional SEO tactics. The study examined 100,000 local businesses to find similarities between the businesses that are ranking well in Google’s local pack, and which are falling short.
The study examined 200+ factors over 100,000 local business to find similarities between the businesses that are ranking well in Google’s local pack.
That means it’s time to start upping your game in asking for and receiving reviews of your business. With Google’s Contribute program awarding points to reviewers, I think Google is going to move towards “scoring” higher level reviewer’s ratings. If you’re going to compete, you need to take advantage of opportunities to streamline or improve your business and reviews are key.
I recently had some major A/C work done on my home, and you can bet that I researched several companies in depth, and read plenty of reviews. It was very important for me to hear the experiences of other customers before dialing that number.
If you’ve ever felt the burn of an A/C repair in Texas, then you know it’s more than just the temperature. Choosing the wrong company to fix it can be detrimental to your wallet and your sanity.
While that’s a pretty major purchase, we all make minor decisions based on reviews every day. Something like choosing where to eat usually comes down to the overall star rating. It’s convenient and fast for users on-the-go to pull up the Google Maps feature, search local restaurants and decide based on those prominently displayed stars, or lack thereof.
Multiply this choice by the millions of people doing the same every day and you can quickly win or lose market share based on what others think of your business.
So what does all this mean for your business? It means it’s time to start upping your game in asking for reviews of your business. With Google’s Contribute program awarding points to reviewers, your customers now have an incentive to leave detailed reviews. We expect that soon, (if they haven’t already) Google will give their high-level reviewer’s ratings more weight in the local pack algorithms. If you’re going to compete online and offline, you need to take advantage of opportunities to promote your business and build relationships—and reviews are key.
Ask for Reviews – Good or Bad
Jay Baer’s personal experience and subsequent advice on an organic approach to getting reviews. is a great place to start. While he was visiting a restaurant in Mexico his waiter asked politely for reviews of the restaurant, and that his name be mentioned in the reviews. For every mention, he was paid for a day during the off-season of the restaurant. This creates an authentic experience for the reviewer to feel like they are really contributing personally with their review – good or bad. Jay’s example created an opportunity for the waiter to thank his table, and to create an action item for those that take the time to leave reviews.
Be creative and find a method you know customers will engage with to solicit your reviews. That may include a card with information, circling a link on a receipt, having the server ask, or sending an email – find a way that creates an action item for your customers.
What you are ultimately looking for is constructive criticism of your business, service, or product. Not every review will be constructive, nice, or great, but this is still actionable data that I’ll talk about later.
Concentrate on Relevant Profiles
With so many platforms for creating and displaying reviews, it’s hard to know which ones are relevant and worthy of investing time in cultivating. Regardless of the hype of one platform over another there are 2 platforms that I believe are crucial to actively maintaining:
- Google (via Google My Business)
- Facebook (via a Facebook Page)
I say these three because Google is where everybody searches, and Facebook is where everybody lives. Your Google My Business listing has more importance than just reviews, but with it comes the ranking factors that Search Engine Journal mentions in their article. Your Facebook page serves a greater purpose than reviews too. While those are not counted as rankings factors, they are social ranking factors that cannot be discounted. Yelp still has a loyal following and has a number of great features for businesses to take advantage of to boost their digital presence.
To determine the other profiles that you should cultivate, research “best [insert business type]” in Google, and find the aggregated articles. Restaurants, for example, often have TripAdvisor, Zomato, and many others sites that publish reviews. It doesn’t hurt to claim all of these profiles, but when it comes to being active in one or several sites, make sure you commit to maintaining the ones you do participate in.
Publish Your Ratings on Your Website
One way to boost your ratings profile in the search engine results is to publish your reviews on your website, and mark them up with Review SCHEMA. This method can require a little bit of expertise and testing. WordPress users are in luck, as there are several plugins that will do this markup for you.
Once the reviews are coded into your website, you will see a star rating appear in the search results. Here is an example of one of our clients – TwoRows Classic Grill – and a search result for their lunch specials.
Take Actions Based on Your Reviews
After you’ve gone through the process of getting reviews for your business, what do you do now? There are 2 critical aspects of this step that will make the biggest impact.
Act Upon Reviews
Michael Scott’s second rule of business is to “Adapt, react, re-adapt, act” which was his smart way of saying to act upon given data. Reviews are your key to understanding pain points in your process, how customers experience your brand, or what they like or don’t like about your products. If they had a bad experience, they’ll be sure to let you know about it, but you must work to change the bad experience for future customers or you’ll continue to get bad reviews and your ratings will suffer.
Respond to Reviews
This can be one of the most challenging aspects of asking for and receiving reviews. Often customers ratings might be unjustified, or there was some extraordinary circumstance that lead to a bad experience. When you see these reviews, you must have a method in place to respond to and solicit feedback for the particular situation.
- Write your response, then let others review it.
Business owners that choose to respond must be very careful in how they do so. Remember, this is a public forum so your response will be read by those that reviewed you and people potentially wanting to do business with you. Take some time to compose your response – outside of the review platform – and once you think you have a good response, show it to someone else for their opinion.
- Reach out directly with a personalized response.
Having a response format (not a canned response) will serve you well in these scenarios. Ask to take conversations offline or into a different forum so that you can get more details and respond in longer formats.
- No humble bragging. Be gracious responding to positive reviews.
If the review is positive, keep your response short, upbeat, and thankful. The customer just helped you out tremendously, so take just a few moments to respond to them. Here are some examples of best practices.
Where to go from here
At Atomic, we have a powerful platform to manage reviews for our clients. We’re able to manage the reviews and social mentions of multiple locations, review platforms, and respond to them all – all in one place!
Location Management Benefits
- Custom Emails, Texts, & Landing Pages
- Social Media Analytics
- Local Listings Management
- Local SEO Rank Tracking
- Media Tracking & Curation
- Competitor Monitoring
- Enterprise Capabilities
- Workflow Management
If need help managing or growing your business’ reviews, contact us today to get started. We help businesses get powerful results, and more reviews!