SEO is much easier than you think. Bear with me here.
Despite Google’s sophisticated search algorithm, it’s end-goal is simple: Give users the best answers to their questions. This means serving search results that are appropriate, relevant, and valuable.
Google is really good at this. They do an excellent job at mapping search queries to consumer intent.
Take the first four search results for the search term “Mars Chocolate”:
And then compare them to the first three results for “Chocolatier Los Angeles”:
Google can tell the difference between an informational search and a navigational search and presents its search results accordingly. They don’t stop here, however. Given that the search engine aims to answer consumer’s questions accurately, it makes sense they factor in what the public is saying about the businesses. If consumers are looking to buy premium chocolates in Los Angeles—and Google wants to provide value to them—then it’s critical prominent companies are displayed first.
Reviews are one signal of “prominence” and represent 10 percent of the total ranking factors. The impact of reviews on local search is even more dramatic, with online reviews representing roughly 15% of overall ranking factors and increasing in importance by 20% year-on-year.
SEO might be straightforward, but as Keanu Reeves once wisely noted: “Sometimes simple things are the most difficult to achieve.” Before we delve into generating more Google reviews, let’s take a brief look at how reviews impact purchasing decisions.
Google reviews impact your bottom line because of the integral role they play in the modern buyer’s journey. In the past, consumers mostly relied on a combination of word-of-mouth and business advertising. Now 67% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally.
Two crucial components of this journey are search engines and online reviews. The numbers back this up:
The impact of reviews has a particularly significant impact on the behavior of local consumers. Positive reviews make 91% of consumers more likely to use a local business, while 82% are put off by negative reviews.
It’s not only the quality of reviews that matter. The average consumer reads a whopping ten reviews before feeling able to trust your local business. Hence, companies with lower review counts or negative feedback within their top reviews risk losing a significant proportion of potential customers to competitors with better online reputations.
Simply put, Google loves reviews because consumers do.
Most organizations take a passive approach to Google reviews. This is a shame because generating more reviews does not have to be a complicated undertaking. The overarching advice is that if you want reviews, you need to ask for them.
Of course, the real question is how do you ask for these reviews. There are many different ways to do this, but building an automated review strategy is arguably the best way to ensure that it doesn’t slip down the priority list. We’ve broken this process down into five straightforward steps:
1. Ensure You Have Claimed and Updated Your Google Business Listing
The best folks to explain how to claim your Google Business Listing are Google themselves, so here is their guide on the process. Once you have claimed your listing, we recommend taking the time to beautify it by adding high-quality images. It’s also crucial that hours of operation and other business information are updated and accurate.
2. Grab your Google Review Link
Start by searching your business and address until you find your business listing:
Click on the link beside your star rating and then click on “Write Review”:
Copy and paste the URL in your browser. Voila, you now have a direct link for your customers to leave a review. (The link generated is super long, so we recommend using a URL shortener.)
3. Decide on Your Channel
Now it’s time to decide how to send your review requests. Companies use email campaigns, text messages, or review landing pages.
We are unashamedly biased about our preference for sending review requests via SMS. With crazy-high open rates of 90%+ and CTRs that routinely stretch past 30%, it’s a great way to ensure that you reach your customers.
4. Timing and Messaging
Regardless of what channel you decide to use, make sure that you get the timing of these requests right. We recommend giving it at least a day or two before you send out your request for a review. Generally speaking, mornings achieve the best response rates.
Another crucial component of the ask is the wording you use. Firstly, ensure that the link you generated is in the message. Keep it brief, but ensure they know why it matters to you. Here an example SMS you could use:
5. Persistence Helps
If people don’t respond to your review request, it’s reasonable to follow up with them. But, you don’t want to irritate anyone. Keep your follow-ups to less than three, and space them a few days apart.
Despite your best efforts, your business will not solely receive glowing praise. Knowing how to handle a less than stellar review not only helps your online reputation but also your search performance: Google has stated review responses matter.
Responding to negative (and positive) reviews is an art unto itself and could be an entirely separate article. If you want advice, here is an excellent post from Fundera on responding to negative reviews.
The TL;DR of it is that even if the review is a gross injustice, consider it from the viewpoint of an impartial spectator, and respond as nicely as possible.
Beyond SEO firepower, a slightly more intangible, but equally valuable reason to generate reviews is the valuable customer insights you gain.
If you are routinely praised for excellent service or a specific product, then this could factor more into your brand’s messaging. Conversely, if long wait times or rude staff come up time-and-time again, then it means that it’s time to make a change.
If you take the time to generate reviews, respond to them, and learn from their feedback, not only will your search performance improve, so will your bottom-line.