What’s the Best Way to Ask For a Review?

Asking customers to leave you an online review can sometimes feel like a daunting task, especially if you don’t have a system in place. In this episode of the Whitespark Local Insider (formerly the Weekly), Darren breaks down the process, and provides you with simple ways to start encouraging online reviews.

Video Transcript

Hey there, local search fans. Today on the Whitespark Weekly, I want to talk to you about the best way to ask for reviews. It seems like a pretty simple topic, but there’s actually a lot of nuance to it, and I’m gonna kind of get into all those different aspects of it and hopefully provide you with a great template, and methodology you can use to get more online reviews.

Asking Via Email

I’m going to just start with the most obvious way that people ask for reviews, which is via email, so let’s start with open rates. You want people to be able to open your email when you’re asking for a review and so I want to talk about subject lines first. Let’s take a look at some of these. So there’s a few aspects.

Subject Lines

Questions have been proven to be effective for open rates. Some questions you might ask are things like:

  • How’s your experience with our [company]? Company name there.
  • Will you take a quick minute to leave us a review?
  • Just simple as, What do you think? That might encourage people to open.

And then you can take it a step further if you personalize that. If you have a customer name, if this is like something you’re actually writing, then you could be like,

  • “Hey, Darren, how is your experience with [company]?
  • Darren, could you leave us a review?” Those would be effective.

I like short and punchy. “Hey, Darren, a quick favour?” That’s a pretty decent subject line that I think people would be likely to open. It’s personalized, a quick favour, you know, you’re kind of indicating what you’re gonna talk about in this body of the email.

The final thing I thought of to take it to another level, some people really dislike emojis in email subject lines, but you could add that to sort of kick it up a notch and get more attention. If you’re on desktop and you’re writing this, you can do it pretty easily with this website called EmojiCopy. You can search for an emoji, copy it, and it goes into the clipboard, you just paste it into your email. So that’s a little tip there.

All right, we’ve got a good subject line.

How-to Ask For a Review

The next thing you want to look at is, what do you want to say in the review email? How do you ask? I put together what I think is my template. “Hey, Darren, a quick favour?” Start by acknowledging the work that you did together. “It was a pleasure working with you on the project.” Thank them for their business. “Thank you very much. It has been great working with you.”

In this part, the next thing I like to do is remind, or let them know how online reviews can be really helpful to your business. It gives them that incentive. If they had a great experience with you, they often want to help you out. Explain the value of the review.

“Online reviews from awesome customers like you can help others feel confident about choosing, [business name], and will really help us to grow our business. Could you take 60 seconds to leave us a review on [review site]? Here’s a direct link.” (So you give a link to the site.) “I would really appreciate it. Thank you in advance for helping us out!”

This is the template I would recommend. Lots of people have different opinions on that. This is just one you could use and hopefully it’s helpful for you.

That’s if you’re asking via email. There are many other things to think about. Is it better to ask in person? Is it better to ask with a paper handout that you leave? Let’s say you are a cleaning company, you could leave a paper handout. There are lots of different ways to ask for reviews.

Email is probably the most common, the most obvious one that comes to mind, but you know there are others… What about if you have a phone-based business? Your customer support people could be asking for reviews as well.

One tactic I’ve seen work really well is something I’ve seen car dealers do. The salespeople, when they’re closing the sale, they’re finalizing everything, they do a verbal ask right in the meeting. So they’ll ask, “Hey, it would be great if you left us a review online.” “Would you be open to leaving us a review online?”

They get that verbal ask and then the email follow-up comes after that. Putting those two together can really increase your success rate. The verbal ask, follow-up by the email is a good way to do it, and you can do that by the phone as well. If this is a client that you don’t really meet with in person or if it is a customer you don’t meet with in person, you can get the verbal ask on the phone and then follow up with the email. That’s a very effective way to increase your online reviews as well.

Using Handouts to Encourage More Reviews

If you’re going to do a paper-based, I think we have this excellent thing called the Review Handout Generator.

We have a really rudimentary version of it on our website here. It’s a free tool. You basically just put in the business information and it generates this little PDF. It gives you a walk-through of how you would leave a review specifically on Google.

How to Get a Link to Leave a Review on Google

I want to go back to this one thing here. It says, “Here’s a direct link.” A question that often comes up in reviews for Google is, what’s my URL for my Google listing? Yes you can generate a direct link to your Google listing from within the Google dashboard. But we also have a tool on our site called the Review Link Generator which is very helpful for this. You just enter in your location data. It only works if you don’t have your address hidden. So if you’re a service area business and you’ve hidden your address, then the tool won’t work. It only will serve those businesses that have a visible address which is most businesses.

But for example, let’s say Trump Tower. Let’s say I want to generate a link to Trump Tower. Let’s say Donald Trump wants to tweet about this. Then I would enter into the tool here and here’s my link. I just copy that to the clipboard and that’s what I would put into the direct link here. I just paste that in. So that would be my link. You can use this free tool for generating a link.

The nice thing about the tool also is that it uses Google. So if you go to the URL plus info, so it’s something like this (the .info feature is no longer available), then you’re going to see actual statistics and see how many people have visited, how many clicks it has got, that kind of thing. It has great details in here, so it’s pretty handy. That’s a free tool.

When Do You Ask?

The next thing to think about is, well, when should you be sending this review ask? My recommendation is to send it shortly after you have closed the deal, finished the project, worked with the customer, whatever it was. Whenever the project is finished, that’s the best time to send it shortly after because it’s fresh in their mind, they’re thinking about it. Let’s say you’re a realtor, you just gave them the keys to the house, that’s the exciting time, that’s the time to ask.

There is a caveat to that if you’re trying to ask for reviews for a product or service that requires the client or a customer some time to experience whatever that is. So let’s say it was a product and they’re using the product, and you’re asking for a review of the product, give them a few days or whatever it would usually take for them to have a chance to actually review it. Don’t hit them too early.

Using a Review Platform

There’s a lot of software systems out there. What’s better? Should you be asking for reviews via a software system or should you do the personal ask? We have a software system called Reputation Builder and it will automatically send a review ask, it has an NPS score, it’s a really great system for generating online reviews and customer feedback.

But there are some business situations where if your primary goal is to get more reviews, the personal ask can be more effective rather than something that goes through a software system. This kind of an email that I’m looking at here (example from above), I personally worked with the clients, I’m asking them, I have the relationship with them. They’re going to be much more responsive to that than something that came from an automated system.

The trouble with this is that it doesn’t scale very well. If you’re like a pest control company that sees hundreds of clients per month or a plumbing company that’s kind of coming and going, appliance repair, or a dentist, you know, this kind of a personal ask can be taxing and difficult to manage at scale.

I find that the personalized ask makes a lot of sense when, let’s say, it’s a mortgage broker and they typically only work with up to 5 to 10 to 15 clients per month like closing mortgages. You know, with that kind of volume, this personalized is gonna guarantee more online reviews. It’s gonna have a higher success rate of reviews.

But there are many different benefits to a software system and so some of those are like… so this here: “how likely would you be to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” That’s the NPS score (Net Promoter Score). You can customize it. This is a really great benchmark for how your business is doing overall.

People that had a positive experience, you can collect a lot of that positive feedback right within the system and then that can be used with our testimonial widget, which you can then put on your website. You can use all the positive feedback that the system collects, put it on your website, which is great.

Any negative feedback, it all gets aggregated into one place, so you can see where that negative feedback is, you can sort by it, you can identify the opportunities for improving your business.

Review monitoring, it’s going to monitor your reviews around the web, alert you when you get new reviews. That’s another great benefit. Just as a general feedback and pulse of your business, a system can be very helpful, and in addition, it’s going to help you generate more reviews as well because when a person rates you higher, you’re gonna send them to a page that recommends reviews. You can customize that review ask within the system to be very similar to this.

The software system, even for a low-volume business, might be of interest. For a high-volume business, like if it’s retail or anything that’s doing dozens or hundreds of transactions per month, then a software system will certainly make your review generation a lot simpler. That’s the “should you use software or should you not”, and those are sort of my thoughts around that.

Thinking of taking your review strategy to the next level with a management platform? Take Whitespark’s Reputation Builder for a test drive with our free 14-day trial. Earn more customer feedback and online reviews while managing your customer’s experience.

Offering An Incentive

Should you offer an incentive? Let’s say, we’ll give you a 10% discount if you leave us a review or, hey, we’re having a contest. Now, that’s a really terrible idea because it’s against guidelines for most of these sites.

There was a recent case that came up in the Google My Business forums where a law firm was having a contest. So if you left a review, you’d get entered into the draw. They had over 100 reviews and they got them all removed from Google because they had violated the guidelines.

Just don’t offer any kind of incentive for reviews on Google or Yelp, those are sort of the big ones. I believe the same applies for almost every site. You’ll probably get away with it on more obscure review sites, but, you know, don’t do it.

The one thing you can do, and I’ve seen this work very effectively as well, is you don’t offer the incentive to the customer to leave a review, but you kind of can get around that. There is a bit of a loophole if you offer the incentive to your employees.

For example, let’s say within your business, you had 10 technicians. You can do something like a competition within the business, whichever technician gets the most reviews this month, they’re going to get a $100 gift card for a great restaurant in town.

I’ve seen that work really effectively because what it does is that the technicians are now incentivized and they’re also competitive with each other to get the reviews. And so they work on it, they think about it, they think about the best way to ask for a review. They do the initial verbal ask and then they make sure they follow up with email and then they send a follow up after that. Incentivizing your employees can work amazingly to make sure you get reviews. So that’s a useful tip there.

What Sites Should Get Reviews On?

What sites should you ask for reviews on? Well, fortunately, I dealt with that last Whitespark Weekly. Last week, I sort of covered that in detail and I just want to also touch on Yelp.

Should you ask for reviews on Yelp?

I might have mentioned this last week, but the answer is no, you should not ask for reviews on Yelp.

One, it’s against the guidelines. Yelp does not want you to ask for reviews. Two, if you did ask for a review, chances are very good that review is just going to get removed anyways because these people aren’t active Yelpers. If you just ask every one of your customers for a review, they’ll create an account, they will leave a review, and then they’ll never use Yelp again, and it goes into the filter. So most of those reviews will get filtered. The only thing you want to do is ask active Yelpers. And one thing that Yelp actually endorses is, they recommend that you do, is a check-in offer.

If you have a check-in offer at your business, so if you check in at Yelp…this only works if you have a business where people come to you, and you get them to check in, then it’s a beautiful way. You can actually offer an incentive for a check-in, like a 10% discount or something that’s a check-in offer, and then once they’ve checked in, the next time they log into Yelp, it’ll say, “Your next review is waiting for you.”

It’s a great way to get people thinking about leaving you a review on Yelp and Yelp will actually be the review asker for you after you’ve done the check-in.

Those are the things. This is my general template on the best way to ask for a review in my opinion. I hope that this template is helpful and I hope some of the things that I talked about were helpful and we’ll talk to you next week. See you later.

Thinking of taking your review strategy to the next level with a management platform? Take Whitespark’s Reputation Builder for a test drive with our free 14-day trial. Earn more customer feedback and online reviews while managing your customer’s experience.


Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren's passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

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15 comments on “What’s the Best Way to Ask For a Review?

  • Great video on getting reviews. We have clients that have been using email for years and we got tired of it not really working so we developed a system so they can ask for the review on person and immediately send them a text message. This works great for businesses that are face to face with the client. We see that it is 7 to 8 times more effective in getting reviews than email. You hadn’t mentioned it in this segement so wanted to let you know there are alternatives to email.

    • Right! Can’t believe I forgot to mention text messages as a good method for the ask. Thanks for the comment, Christina!

  • We can’t generate a Google link. When we click “write a review” a popup box appears with NO url. Must be a Canada thing? Because most tutorials we watch just don’t work up here.

    • Hey Brian,

      It doesn’t have to do with being Canadian. It’s because you have your address hidden in Google My Business. In this case, the backup option is to run a search of your business name and city, then click the “write a review” button on your knowledge panel. Then copy that URL from your browser. That’s your review link. You can then run this link through a URL shortener like http://goo.gl. Hope this helps!

  • We also get leaflets printed quite striking designs with business info , tel numbers , contact details , numerous quirky stock item images , and a straight out ask ! we verbally ask and point to the ” please review us on …. it even has the history of the site described ! Can be a great back up to online methods

  • Great video Darren! I’m loving these Whitespark Weekly videos. For those watching or reading, reviews are some of the biggest conversion factors in almost every business. As an example, I won’t even look at a business nearby if it doesn’t have reviews and I’m very likely to go with the business that has the highest rating. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dealership, pizza place, Panda Express, plumber, mechanic, HVAC company, hotel.. reviews are the most important factor in my personal decision.

  • Good topic, reviews are such a valuable component of local seo. I’ve seen email outreach be quite successful for businesses but I don’t have much feedback on review platforms like reputation builder. I’d be interested in what folks think of those tools

  • I am a local entrepreneur and your points are like a platinum resource for my work. Reviews are very important because it holds a strong potential for your business infrastructure.

  • Yes I totally agree with the guy that pointed out the importance of reviews. The first thing my wife ever looks at when searching for online services, is the company’s reviews to see what people had to say.
    I’m so glad you are covering this topic in such detail. Thank you.

  • The Google link shortener is being phased out Mid April 2018, but good thru April 2019. Google is now transitioning to Firebase Dynamic Links. Do you think you will change your Handy Link Review Generator to the new FDL?

  • Hi Erika,

    We’re planning to switch to using bit.ly instead. The goal is to have short URLs, and the firebase dynamic links are long and complicated.

  • Does anyone know if it is illegal to incentive reviews in Canada? Everywhere I search leads me to American info, and it appears to be a hard NO in the USA… ? Thanks!

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