At a time when consumers are more skeptical about the advertisements they see online, it can prove difficult, and expensive, to convince customers to use your services. Often it’s more effective to let your past customers become your ambassadors through online reviews.
As opposed to advertising, internet users have been shown to actively seek out reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. According to a Pew Research survey, 93% of Americans reported reading customer reviews and ratings “at least sometimes” when buying a product on the internet. Reviews also spur customer action, with customers willing to spend 31% more on a business with an “excellent” rating, according to a BrightLocal survey.
Reviews are especially valuable for small businesses, who lack the name recognition of larger corporations. High quality reviews allow small businesses to level the playing field by relying on their superior customer service and user experience. Brightlocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey found that 94% of consumers were more likely to use a business after reading a positive review, a 3% increase from the previous year.
In addition to free advertising and gaining trust, user reviews can also improve your search results. Google features one of the largest sources of reviews on the internet and this keyword-rich data gets crawled and calculated into a site’s search ranking. The more high-quality reviews, the higher a site can rank.
Despite the benefits, eliciting high-quality user reviews can be tricky. People are busy and distracted, making it more likely that they may forget or be unwilling to leave a review. At the same time, there are certain rules to adhere to in order to play nice with Google’s review policies. Let’s dive into that next.
Google Do’s and Don’ts
Google outlines their user review policy in their Terms of Service, where it lists the conditions for sites to be able to post reviews and provides examples of prohibited and restricted content.
For a business to qualify for Google Reviews, some criteria need to be met. First off, businesses need to be registered as a “Place” on Google Maps. Simply follow these steps to get registered:
- Go to Google My Business and click “Get on Google”
- Enter your business name and address in the search box
- Click on your business if it appears in the suggested matches. Otherwise, add your business
- Verify your business
- Confirm your business
Next, businesses need to “claim” the business in order to reply to reviews and update information. Follow these four steps to claim the business:
- Search for the business on Google
- When the business appears on the right-hand side, click “Own this business?”
- Click “Manage now” after being redirected
- Follow the series of prompts
Once the business is set up, Google allows owners to solicit customers for reviews. However, they require that you ask customers whether they had a positive or negative experience in order to prevent skewing opinions. And while you can ask for reviews, you cannot offer pay or any other reward.
While we hope all reviews are positive, there will inevitably be cases where customers were unsatisfied. Website owners can’t remove negative posts but they can, and should, respond in a helpful and respectful manner. Responses show that you listen to the customer’s constructive feedback and aim to remedy any problems that arise. As long as you respond, customers tend to be forgiving.
That said, you can report a review if it contains language that violates Google’s policies. This is also the case if a review appears to be fake, which happens more than you’d think.
Now that we’re familiar with the basic do’s and don’ts of Google Reviews, let’s move onto some tips to get more high-quality customer reviews.
Strategy 1 – Make It Easy
With the internet being the engine of distraction that it is, websites need to make it fast and easy to post a review before visitors get sidetracked and move onto something else. Additionally, any friction in the review posting process may cause them to give up.
When asking for reviews, provide detailed instructions on how to leave a post. This includes:
- Finding the business on Google Maps
- Pulling up the business profile
- Completing the review
If these steps seem too complicated, businesses can also create a link that leads the user straight to the review page. First the business will need their Google Business ID, which they can find by visiting the Place ID Finder. Next, paste the Google Business ID into the following link:
https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=[paste your place ID here]
Businesses can also shorten the link by using a free service like Bit.ly to make it look less chaotic.
Be sure to place your review link wherever you can, such as emails, website footers, digital receipts, and under email signatures. The easier and more visible you make the link, the more likely customers will provide a review.
Strategy 2 – Create a Review Page
In addition to housing reviews on Google, businesses can also feature reviews on their own website. This method works best with businesses who already have a lot of reviews because it shows first-time visitors that you have a track record of trust. Seeing so many completed reviews may also encourage other customers to post their own reviews.
Creating a review page can also boost SEO efforts because reviews tend to contain keyword-rich content that crawlers love. However, updating new reviews can be time consuming and difficult to manage. For this issue, businesses can use widgets like Taggbox or Elfsight, which will embed all incoming reviews into the site.
You can also link to Google reviews and other third-party review sites after getting a trustmark from Digital Trust, which provides certification that your site is considered trustworthy.
Strategy 3- The Old Fashioned Route
So far, we’ve focused solely on digital efforts to gain reviews, but old-fashioned word of mouth can be just as effective. While we’re inundated with information on the internet, people tend to remember face-to-face interactions better and may be more swayed to provide a review.
For brick and mortar businesses, it’s important to remind customers after a purchase to leave a review and include the review link on receipts. Better yet, give out business cards containing the review link so customers can leave a review after they’ve sampled the product. The card could also include a scannable QR code to give it more of a digital-savvy flair.
Strategy 4 – Be Proactive
As lovely as it would be to have every customer write a review after a purchase, that’s not usually how it plays out. Instead of waiting for reviews to pour in, sometimes it’s best to go out and ask.
One effective way to ask for reviews is through designing an email campaign that asks past customers to provide a review. According to Brightlocal’s survey, 72% of customers reported writing a review after being asked, so there’s certainly no harm in asking.
Another route involves requesting reviews through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Google’s Marketing Kit allows sites to create custom posts for social media using real quotes from past reviews.
Strategy 5 – Get Help From Friends
It probably goes without saying, but asking employees to submit a review presents a serious conflict of interest that risks damaging your reputation. However, businesses can still ask for reviews from vendors and partners they’ve worked with in the past.
In fact, tapping your network presents the lowest of hanging fruit and can be a great way to build up a solid foundation of reviews, especially if a business is just starting out. Along with helping your business, it also benefits the partners, since their success is often intertwined.
Trust In Review
Don’t tell your visitors how great your products and services are. Let your customers do the talking for you.
Gaining more high-quality reviews from satisfied customers helps build a site’s online reputation, as well as provide the site with more visibility through stronger search rankings. Most importantly, a series of positive reviews help to establish a business as trustworthy by providing proof of past customer satisfaction.
We can’t overstate the importance of trust as a primary factor for increasing sales and growing your business. Gaining high-quality reviews is just one more tactic to solidify your online trust in order to attract more customers.
For more ways to further build your user trust, consider getting a trust score from Digital Trust, which analyzes your site for over 50 trust factors in the areas of usability, safety, transparency, and reputation. You can also qualify for a free trustmark, giving you third-party acknowledgement that your site is considered trustworthy. After receiving a trustmark, site owners can also link to reviews from third-party review sites like Google to get more reviews in front of visitors.