Google’s products for local business listings and reviews can be very confusing. This was largely because of the different, always-changing names and brands and dashboards that the search engine giant offered to business owners who wanted to manage their online presence.
In the past few years, we’ve seen Google Places, Google+ Local, Google+ Local with Zagat reviews and scores, Google Business Photos, Google Maps, Google+ for Business Dashboard, etc.
This can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just trying to get started with building your online presence and really grasp the impact of Google reviews.
Track Your Online Reviews
Google My Business was intended to streamline the management of your local business information on Google, across its various products and services (including Google+ Local, Maps, and Search).
The new dashboard allows business owners to add photos, connect with fans and customers, track Google reviews, and view data about how people interact with the business and brand.
We have already written about how to claim your business on Google using Google My Business. If you’re hoping to maximize the dashboard as a tool – particularly for managing your online reviews and business reputation – you’ll likely have other questions to ask and tips and tricks you need to know. Read on for more:
Where do Google reviews actually appear?
Online reviews on Google are posted by Google users, who have to be signed in when they rate and write about your business. (It’s not enough for them to have a Gmail account; they actually have to be signed in on Google+.) These reviews can be seen and managed using the Google My Business or ReviewTrackers dashboard. The reviews appear in multiple places on the Web (via desktop and mobile devices), such as:
- Google carousel search results (click here for a guide on Google Carousel search results)
- Google Maps
Why are these reviews important?
Obviously, Google reviews can significantly influence the way existing and potential customers think about your business. That’s why review monitoring and management is so important: it allows you to showcase your business in the best possible light, while also minimizing the impact that any negative opinion might have on your business.
Google reviews are also an important factor in local search. This means that the quantity and quality of your reviews impact where your information appears on Google search results. For more information on this, check out: “How Do Online Reviews Impact Your Local Search Ranking? Annual Survey Gives You the Lowdown.”
When I receive one review, will it immediately show up in search results?
The short answer is: you need at least 4 to 5 reviews and ratings for these to appear in Google search results.
A post by local search expert Mike Blumenthal details how, even with just 4 reviews, your business information can appear on Google search. You won’t necessarily get the “star treatment” though: to have your business show up and include your aggregated star rating (Google ratings are based on a five-star system), you’ll probably need at least 5 reviews.
Can I respond to online reviews on Google?
Yes, you can. All you have to do is claim your business on Google and be signed in when responding to the review. Be sure to follow best practices when writing out your management response!
Can I delete Google reviews?
It can be discouraging for any business owner to receive negative reviews, on Google or anywhere else. And you can’t just delete any review.
What you can do, however, is contact Google if you feel like you have reason to contest the validity of a review. If you feel like the Google review is fake and not reflective of your business, or if it’s spammy and written by someone who hasn’t actually visited your venue, you can flag the review and ask Google and request a removal. The content policies for business reviews on Google are outlined here.
(Check out: “Can a Business Owner Delete Bad Yelp and Google Reviews?”)
What else can I do to leverage Google reviews?
Not many business owners know this, but you can actually write a review of other businesses on Google. That’s right: local businesses can review each other. It’s a great strategy for engaging with related businesses (not necessarily competitors) in your area, as well as for extending your reach and generating more reviews.
This post was updated on Nov. 24, 2015.
Update: Reviews are not coming back to Google+ Local pages in the redesign of Google+ introduced on Nov. 17, according to a Google community manager.