The number of review sites available to customers who want to voice their opinion about a business or product just keeps growing by the minute.
Business owners and marketers hoping to manage their online reviews and customer feedback can easily become overwhelmed, especially if they are unable to prioritize their time and resources.
Online review management has therefore become a central element of every modern marketing strategy (and reputation management plan).
Not All Review Sites are Created Equal
While many focus on established review platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor, smart marketers also know that Google reviews — reviews, ratings, and customer feedback that appear on Google Maps and Google search results — are equally important.
Or they may even be more important — especially considering how millions of consumers find businesses, brands, and services through “Googling”.
Let’s take a closer look at how your Google reviews and ratings impact your brand or business’ ranking in search.
What makes reviews on Google different from reviews on Yelp or other dedicated review sites?
Reviews that are displayed in search results on Google are likely to affect the way people find you, and the nature and tone of the review will determine whether the customer will engage with your business or not.
Furthermore, Google reviews have the added value of credibility since anonymity is quite difficult.
A recent annual survey by SEO software company Moz attributed 10 percent of traffic value to reviews. The reviews hosted by Google became radically more relevant in the context of mobile search and local search with IP recognition.
As it relates to your search performance, claiming your business listing and managing your business information via Google My Business (Google’s free review management tool for business owners) are fundamental to your success.
How do you improve your review signals (quantity, quality, etc.) on Google?
Verify your business listing
The very first step to a successful, well-structured Google reviews strategy is to ensure your business is Google-verified.
Verifying your business and taking control of your business profile on Google is very simple. Head to the Google My Business page and register your business address. When registering your business, you will complete a profile that allows you to associate your business with several keywords and set the geographical boundaries that you serve. Your verification process will be completed manually when Google sends you a confirmation PIN number via a postcard. This process takes about two weeks. Once you enter your PIN number, your profile is verified, and you will be able to engage reviewers.
You can also get verified by phone: you receive a code sent via an automated message or phone call, and you enter the code on Google My Business to complete verification. Alternatively, you may be instantly verified if you have already verified your business website with Google Search Console.
Respond to online reviews
More reviews and ratings of your business on Google (as well as on other third-party review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook) can lead to greater online “prominence” — one of the three primary factors influencing Google local search rankings. Businesses and brands that boast of strong reviews and ratings are also the ones most likely to rank at the top of search.
How do you get more and better reviews? By responding.
Not only does responding to reviews help drive engagement and create the kind of fresh content that is typically crawled by search engines; it also shows that your business values feedback, helping boost shopper confidence and foster consumer trust. This, in turn, demonstrates your ability to close the feedback loop, as well as encourages more people to share their own experiences through reviews.
Ask on the spot, but do not solicit in bulk
While there are companies that specialize in bulk solicitation of online reviews, this may not be the best approach. Bulk solicitation is likely to result in reviews being moderated out of your profile.
Instead of bulk activities, be both personable and personal in asking your customers to voice their experiences online. Convey to your customers the ease of using the Google platform, and how mobile options are available for on-the-spot reviews that increase the accuracy of the review narrative.
Engage your reviewers with smart, caring and informative responses
Reviews on Google may be the first set of reviews that a potential customer looking for your category of services will see. Because they are prioritized on search, your responses are also the first thing a potential customer will see.
Providing a rich, customer-focused, and informative response to all reviews speaks directly to the reviewing customer, but most importantly, to potential customers. Make each response opportunity count.
As a final recommendation, your review responses should be drafted with strategic keywords in mind. Highlight the services and products you provide with wording that mimics the way people search for your business. Don’t miss out. The opportunity afforded by this platform is priceless to your marketing, reputation management, and customer acquisition strategy.