Last Updated: April 22, 2022
For local businesses, it’s no longer enough to rank. Your presence on search engine result pages (SERPs) has to stand out to attract new customers. Reviews play a critical part in a business’ ability to differentiate from the competition, reviews are an increasingly powerful ranking factor and a conversion factor.
We cannot stress enough the importance of Google reviews. They are one of the most valuable assets to business.
The Impact of Reviews:
- Business Profiles with reviews instantly stand out because they have the golden stars.
- Google showcases your reviews in your business profile for branded searches and also adds review highlights.
- Google features a section of reviews from the web giving your total reviews and average rating, which means if you have reviews from other third party sites, your business profile will expand further.
- Google will use review snippet quotes (known as a Justification) where they will highlight content that matches a user’s search query. We’ve also recently seen Google give prominence directly on the map sharing review snippets.
- Reviews help your business create unique content and build relevance. If you can get more customers to talk about the products and services that are the most important to your business, then you are going to have a better opportunity of Google recognizing this and using it as a relevance signal to direct searchers to your business profile.
- Reviews can transform your business; they add a layer of trust and social proof. They can help attract more customers, provide valuable feedback for your business, and uncover customer experience issues or wins.
Google Review Features to Know About
On some profiles there are review attributes – What do you like/not like about this business? Reviewers can choose to include these review attributes to star-rating reviews (reviews with no content).
- 4-5 star reviews triggers “positive” attributes – good quality, good value, professional, responsive, on time.
- 1-2 star reviews triggers “critical” attributes – poor quality, poor value, not professional, not responsive, not on time.
- 3-star rating is neutral and will not show any attribute option.
- A reviewer can opt to leave a “rating-only” review accompanied by the attributes related to their experience.
This feature is not available to all Google Business Profiles. It is predominately connected to service based business types and has been spotted on profiles for lawyers, accountants, financial planners, architects, salons, car repair, dry cleaning, home service categories, electrician, elevator service, gyms, mechanic, and so on. See a full list of categories here.
Google recently added pre-generated questions that a reviewer can tap an answer to provide additional details. With this they also put a stronger emphasis for reviewers to “Add photos” after you leave your review.
Place Topics is a unique feature that uses machine learning to highlight aggregate review data and sentiment that reviewers repeatedly are mentioning regarding your business – reviews that include similar keywords, phrases, and information. Place Topics are only generated when a business has a substantial number of customer reviews, but Google doesn’t state what the requirement is. Each topic is listed under “People often mention” and users can filter reviews by clicking on each topic.
You’ll see Place Topics in the review section of a business profile when you click the number of Google reviews from a branded search on the GBP, in Maps and under the Reviews section in the Maps app.
Review Content Policies
- You cannot incentivize, pay or bribe a customer to leave a review.
- You cannot review gate – if you are using a review platform or any review software to encourage customer feedback, you have to provide all users the option to leave online reviews. No moving the negative/unhappy experiences to a different landing page.
- You cannot review your own business.
- You cannot leave a review as an employee.
- You cannot post a negative review about an ex-employer.
- You cannot post a harmful review about a competitor.
- Read all of the guidelines here.
How to Ask for Reviews
Google wants you to grow your reviews; however, they do want you to be ethical in the methods you use to acquire more reviews. If you aren’t already asking for reviews, here are a few suggestions to help you grow your Google Maps/GBP reviews.
Ask via Email:
Create your own email template asking for your customer to leave you a review and share your review form link that’s available in your GBP dashboard.
Things to consider when asking for a review via email:
- Consider including a question in your subject – “Hey Bob, could you please leave us a review?”
- Make sure you take the time to personalize the email, incorporate the customer name.
- Make your ask for a review even better, by encouraging customers to leave specifics and encourage keywords in their reviews.
- Enhance with emojis – there’s a real debate on this as some people see it as spam, but you could consider incorporating an emoji if it’s on brand or that’s your thing.
Here’s an example of a template you could use as a starting point:
Hello [Customer Name]
It was a pleasure working with you on your project. Thank you for your business!
Online reviews from awesome customers like you help others to feel confident about choosing [the business name], and will really help us grow our business. Could you take 60 seconds to leave us a review on [review site]? Here’s a [direct link].
Wondering what to write about?
The best reviews offer a wealth of detail and a helpful tip or two, for others considering our services. Here are some questions that should give you some ideas about what to write about:
- What service did we complete for you?
- Which location did you have this service at? (That might help you get the city name into the review.)
- How did we do?
- What do you like about working with us?
- Have you tried any other products or services?
- Did you work with any specific people you’d like to mention?
- How do we compare to other services you’ve tried?
- Are there any tips you would offer others about our business?
I would really appreciate your review. The more detail you can provide, the better, but we’d love a shortened punch review just as well if you’re short on time or inspiration. Thank you in advance for helping us out.
If you aren’t certain how to generate your review link, we have a tool that sends your customer directly to the review section of your Google Business Profile, which helps eliminate a few steps.
Ideas for where to place your review link:
- Include it in your email signature.
- Send it in your review email.
- Have it on your website.
- Text it to customers who opt-in to receive texts from your business.
- Add it to receipts.
- Have a branded card near your cash register or other places in store that get high traffic and visibility.
Create a Branded Review Card:
You can create a simple review card that you give to clients when you ask them to leave you a review.
Simply add your GBP review link (shorten using a tool like bit.ly to keep it readable) and add a QR code that goes directly to the review form for quicker access. You can print this out and give a copy to customers following a transaction or service, or save it as a PDF and send it via email or text.
Use a Review Platform
There are many software options on the market to help you grow and manage your reputation. Depending on your business model, asking directly may be the best option, however, for businesses that need to scale their review requests, want a benchmark and to increase customer feedback while automating the process, then a review platform may be the best option.
Our Reputation Builder is an all-in-one review platform that helps businesses earn more feedback and online reviews, empowers marketing, and allows you to gain new insights into your customer’s experience. You can automatically send customers an email or text message to ask for a review and feedback. Integrate your Google Business Profile to promote more Google reviews, respond to all your reviews, monitor your review attributes and Questions and Answers feature.
Encourage Reviews by Showcasing Other Customers Experiences
Google offers another free tool, Marketing Kit with Google, to create marketing materials from elements of your Business Profile. Share your customer reviews on your profile, create posters, stickers (follow us, review us, book with us on Google), social media posts, and more. Showcasing your reviews encourages others to review your business, offers social proof, and it’s really easy to use.
Unfortunately the business marketing kit is not not available to service area businesses and it is only available to storefront and hybrid businesses located in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. There are also a few restricted categories like RV Park (Travel), ATM, Cemetery, Church, City Hall, Courthouse, Fire Station, Hindu Temple, Local government office, Mosque, Police, School, Synagogue, or University.
Managing Your Reviews
Respond to All Reviews
Respond to both negative and positive reviews in GBP. Google will even notify reviewers when a business responds to them. Businesses that respond to reviews enjoy better ratings, see positive impacts in their SEO, and their responses help set the tone for future clients. Here are some review response tips for businesses that work in highly sensitive or regulated industries.
Google wants you to respond and reply to reviews, which is why they have many options available for business owners to respond quickly, and from different apps and locations.
Where You Can Reply to Google Reviews:
- The Google Business Profile Dashboard – sign in and click on the reviews section, and select reply to any review.
- From Search on Desktop and Mobile – You can respond directly from your Knowledge Panel in search results – as long as you’re logged in to the Google account that manages your profile. Click on Reviews in the Knowledge Panel, and select reply to any of the reviews.
- Google Maps on Desktop & App –you can respond to any review directly in Maps on desktop and within the app. Just search your business name in maps, click Reviews, and click Reply next to the review you’d like to respond to. Or go into the Maps app and reply to reviews.
Google strongly encourages both business owners and users to increase their engagement when it comes to reviews. For business they are heavily pushing review responses and review requests. We’ve even encountered suggested replies for when a user leaves a rating, and suspect that it will likely be extended to full reviews as well. For users they’re pushing adding photos to reviews, giving prompts with pre-generated questions or the “what did you like/not like about this business?” attributes when leaving a review. Google will even share stats with Maps users on their contributions. These features further reinforce that Google places an importance on reviews.
Additional Tips for Review Management
- Be consistent with your requests for reviews and feedback.
- There are issues for spam regulation and fake reviews on Google, being aware of this is important. But don’t forget that not every negative review is a fake or spammed review. If you are proactive in managing your online reputation then it’s going to be easier to grow your online reviews, and have more consistent, real reviews from customers that will strongly out number any fake reviews. If you have a legitimate fake review – then you can follow these steps for requesting the removal of the review. Just be sure to have the necessary proof and not a “he said/she said/they said” argument to back up your fake review claim. If you’re a manager on a business profile, you’ll receive a notification via email when a review has been removed from a profile. There is also a special tool that Google released in 2021 to help businesses and profile managers “Manage your reviews”. This tool was specifically designed for businesses to report reviews for removal and check the status of any previously escalated reviews. This is a great way to stay organized (especially if you manage many locations) or are dealing with a lot of negative reviews. Now you can be informed at what stage Google is at in the removal process.
- Put your reviews to work for you by featuring them on your website product and service pages, contact pages, include them in your emails, and share them on social media.
- People don’t want your business to be perfect, we don’t live in a 5 star world. 4-5 stars is fantastic. Try to remember this in your quest for the best rating.
Grow Your Reviews with these Resources
In this video we show you how reviews can have an incredible impact on both your rankings and conversions, and discuss why Google reviews are critical for local businesses.
Fake reviews continue to be a growing problem. If you’ve received a review with content that violates Google’s guidelines here’s how to get it removed and strategies to build a strong review strategy.
Reviews are the key to standout from competitors in local pack results. Learn how to master growing your reviews with Darren’s presentation from MozCon 2018.