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Everything You Need to Know About Google Review Etiquette

Maybe it’s your first time managing online reviews for a business and you want to know more. Maybe you’re hoping to boost your online reputation so you can appear more trustworthy online. There are a lot of good reasons to understand more about reviews your business gets, and while there are a number of review platforms you could target, none are quite as important as Google reviews. In this piece we’ll dive into the basics of Google reviews so you can use them as a powerful growth tool.

Understanding Google’s Approach to Online Reviews

First, it’s important to understand where reviews fit into Google’s ecosystem. As you probably know, people can leave you reviews as soon as you set up or claim your business through Google My Business. As a property of Google, reviews are subject to Google’s content policies and behavior. This means there are two important things to understand:

  • Google wants authentic reviews – Google wants to give consumers an easy way to make informed decisions. Google relies heavily on user-generated reviews to do this, and in order for them to provide helpful info to consumers, they require accurate, honest information. This means your business must get reviews by earning them—not by creating incentives for customers that could bias their reviews. Provide great goods and services and you’ll get great reviews.
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  • Google won’t tolerate abuse – When someone leaves you a review, Google’s bots will review it for obvious signs of spam or abuse, but some things will slip through. When they do, it’s up to your business or other Google users to flag reviews for abuse and subsequent removal. We’ll discuss this concept further in another section.

The Importance of a Review Management and Online Reputation Strategy

As we explore in another piece, reviews are essentially free advertising if you take the right approach. For most, the process involves adopting a new philosophy in terms of running your business. Here’s how it works:

  1. Discover what customers really think – Reviews provide you with valuable feedback. They help you understand what your business can do to improve the customer experience, so you’re constantly dazzling customers and getting all the great reviews that come with it.
  2. Connect in ways that matter – When you respond to positive or negative reviews, you’re creating a dialogue with customers and proving to potential customer that you’re responsive and trustworthy. As we’ll explore, this is extra important for negative reviews.
  3. Grow your revenue, rank, and reputation – If you’re constantly improving the customer experience and trying to get as many reviews as you can, you’ll start to increase your star rating and search ranking, which makes you an obvious choice for people who find you online. What does that mean? More new customers.
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This philosophy is simple enough, but how do you implement it?

Five Review Strategy Essentials

To get the most from your online reviews, you need a simple strategy to help guide you. Here are the things you’ll want to start doing.

Start Asking for Reviews

One of the quickest ways to build your reputation online is to start asking customers to leave you reviews. While some businesses will ask customer in person, it’s typically an ineffective approach. Instead, it’s best to automate review invites using a tool like Swell Review. Swell Review will text your customers a review invite during a time that’s convenient for them, so they’re more likely to leave you a review.

Read Reviews Regularly

Many businesses won’t get reviews every day, unless they’re using a tool like Swell Review to solicit them. Still, your business should be ready to read and reply to reviews every day if necessary. At a minimum, use Google My Business’s built-in notifications to inform you of each new review, so you can read and reply quickly. This is particularly important for critical reviews. You’ll look unresponsive and untrustworthy if you don’t reply with solutions right away.

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Don’t Get Discouraged by Critical Reviews

You’ll get some kind, flattering reviews but you’ll also get critical reviews that sting a bit. And yes, occasionally you might get abusive reviews (we’ll talk about these). Don’t take critical reviews personally. They’re an opportunity to learn how you can improve the customer experience for everyone, which in many ways makes negative reviews a good thing.  

Respond to Reviews—Good and Especially Bad

Many brands reply to every review they get. For positive reviews, many businesses use a templated thank-you message to express their gratitude. If time permits, adding a personal touch to these will go a long way to build trust with customers—they’ll feel some warm-and-fuzzies for you when they see a kind, personal response. As for negative reviews, reply quickly, kindly, and courteously as you attempt to address the issue a customer presented. In many cases, you’ll be able to remedy a situation and come out looking better for it. For a detailed look at how to respond to negative reviews, check out this piece.

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Flag Truly Abusive Reviews for Removal

Since reviews are so subjective, Google won’t remove reviews in a dispute about facts between a business and a customer. They will, however, remove things that violate their content policy. If you honestly feel a review is abusive or if it violates Google’s content policy, you can flag it. Google may reach out to you discuss the matter and, depending on the circumstances, may remove it from your listing. For a detailed look at removing bad Google reviews, check out this post.

Streamlining Review Management

There are a lot of steps involved in gathering, managing, and replying to reviews, but there are tools that make it easy.

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Using Swell Review, you can take a lot of the repetitive work out of review management by:

  • Automating review invites – Send an invite based on a transaction in your POS, CRM, PMS, or EMR system.
  • Sending templated responses – Respond to reviews with a templated thank-you in just a few clicks.
  • Getting notifications – Swell will let you know when you have reviews, so you can act fast.
  • Aggregating reviews – Google is just one of many review platforms. Swell can bring together reviews from many platforms so you can see average review scores, send invites, and reply to reviews all in one place.

Once in place, a review strategy is one of the most effective ways to market your local business. In no time at all, you’ll start seeing your star rating go up, more traffic on your website, and yes, more new customers walking in your door.

Of course, reviews are just one of the things Swell provides to help local businesses grow. Swell is a complete customer engagement platform and can help you centralize all your customer communications as well as conduct surveys, schedule requested appointments, and even make it easy for customers to pay their bills. For more information on Swell, check out this page.