Chances are you have an understanding for how important online reviews are to your business. And there are arguably no online reviews more important than Google’s. You probably already know that Google is the most used search engine by far. In fact, it’s been hovering at around 90% of worldwide search for years. So, it’s a natural place for prospective customers to begin their search for just about anything.
But if online search is where it begins, online reviews are where many searches end. You’ve no doubt experienced this yourself. Do a search for “good Mexican food near me” and unless you already have a specific restaurant in mind, you’ll find yourself relying on those online reviews to narrow your search and make a decision. In fact, 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. It’s difficult to overstate how important these reviews are to local businesses.
So how do you get the most from reviews? Before we get to that, it’s helpful to understand what makes Google such an important online review platform.
Google is unique among online review platforms because it’s not solely focused on reviews for businesses—it’s a data beast. Google wants to give its users easy access to accurate information that’s relevant to them and they’ve worked hard to make reviews a big part of their offering. This essentially means three things to your business:
Ultimately, Google values honest, balanced reviews. And while other platforms might monetize top rankings (meaning the highest bidder gets the highest rank), Google rewards you for being an awesome business that earns feedback. See, Google understands that relevance and accuracy matter to its users when it comes to data. This means your reviews must be genuine. In order to get lots of genuine reviews, you need to earn them. That starts with providing an outstanding customer experience (CX).
We noted that 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. Why do they do that? Well, these days, people would rather trust the opinion of someone who has had an experience with a business. Consumers are jaded when it comes to marketing messages. Why should they believe what a salesperson says when they can get a real-world story from a happy (or unhappy) customer in a matter of seconds? Reviews give a reliable source (your customers) a chance to tell your story to tons of people. Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a small catch: you need to be awesome to get awesome reviews.
So, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Imagine looking for something online. How do you interact with business listings? What do you find yourself looking for? If you’re on the fence, or see a mid-to-low score, you’ll probably dig in to find out why. Maybe a business doesn’t have that many reviews. Maybe they upset one person, got a one-star review, and just haven’t recovered yet. As you evaluate, you’re trying to assess the honesty and integrity of the reviews themselves. You want to see both sides of the story, so you can make the right decision about who to work with. That’s why your mentality might need to change a bit. Your business shouldn’t try to get more five-star reviews—it should understand how to earn more five-star reviews. To do this, you’ll need to:
- Learn from your existing reviews to improve.
- Use reviews to engage with customers and set your brand apart.
- Put your hard-earned reputation to work for you with automated review solicitations.
Let’s break that down a little further.
As we explore in another piece, reviews are valuable market intelligence. They can help you identify ways to improve, but also give you a pulse on what people are saying about your competition. There was a time when data like this cost an arm, a leg, and several months of time to gather. Now it’s free to anyone willing to take the time to read and learn from it.
Here are some things you might consider doing before you start soliciting more reviews:
Audit Your Business Reviews – You want great reviews? Provide great service. It’s that simple. The trouble is that many businesses have a hard time looking inwardly to find what they’re doing right and what they are doing wrong. If you run a local business, it’s tough to see the flaws in your company, but ignoring them won’t make them go away. To be the best, you must be critical of the customer experience you provide. Now take a look at the reviews you have now and do the following:
By the end, you should be able to identify some key trends in terms of what positive things make you stand out, and which negative things you can improve on. Note that you can take this step even further by sending a survey to your customers to find out what they really think. Some businesses use a metric called the Net Promoter Score, to determine how many customers would recommend them (the promoters) and how many customers wouldn’t (the detractors). Just make sure you don’t cherry pick customers you know will be nice. This is about getting honest feedback so you can make sure your business is awesome.
Audit Your Competition – Online reviews about your competition are a treasure trove of information. First, make a list of your top 3-5 competitors. Next, search them individually and open up their listing and sort their reviews by either highest or lowest. This way, you can learn what they’re doing well to find ideas to borrow. Likewise, you can find out what they’re doing poorly, so you can avoid doing things their customers were frustrated about. This information should give you a ton of ideas about how to make your business better and how you can differentiate yourself from competition.
Once you’ve found ways to improve, put them in place! You can only maximize the return our next part of the process if you polish everything you provide customers. That includes every interaction, service, product, and so on.
Next, you’ll create a dialogue with customers by asking them to give you feedback. There are a couple of ways to do this:
Soliciting Reviews – BrightLocal reports that 68% of your customers will leave you a review if prompted. But there’s a trick to doing it right. In order to get lots of reviews, asking customers in person won’t cut it. Most will forget. Some might feel awkward being asked in person. Instead, you need to make it incredibly easy for them to leave a review. The best way is to send them an invite via text message some time during the evening, when they’re most likely to respond. Swell Review makes it easy to send review invites automatically, so you’re constantly getting new reviews from customers.
Sending Surveys – Outside of asking for reviews, it’s smart to send surveys to customers so you can find out how you can improve. It’s this constant cycle of improvement that keeps your business ahead of the competition. As with reviews, it’s best to send simple, one-question reviews via text message. This ensures you get a high response rate and requires much less time to create and review than longer surveys. Swell Survey is an easy way to text your contacts Net Promoter Score surveys and other one-question surveys that give your customers a chance to tell you what they think.
Remember, a big part of providing an excellent experience is creating meaningful interactions with you customers. This means actively soliciting and responding to reviews, but it also requires you to be incredibly responsive to emails, texts, and online chats. If you get a new review, respond to it to thank the customer who left it or to address any issues or complaints they brought up. And if you’re looking for ways to better engage with customers through text message, online chat, or Facebook Messenger, Swell Message is a great way to bring all your comms into one place.
Google Reviews can help you grow, especially if you’ve already used them to learn and connect with your market. First, make sure you’re awesome. Second, ask for reviews and feedback so you’re finding new ways to be awesome, and making sure everyone online can see how awesome you are. Be more awesome, get more reviews, get more customers, repeat. Easy, right? Each boost to your online reputation helps boost your search rankings, and brings in more new customers, so the whole cycle builds on itself.
Here are just a few more key things you might want to consider as you develop a review strategy:
The discover, connect, and grow philosophy is at the center of everything the Swell app provides. It’s one of the easiest ways for businesses to not only get more Google reviews, but to earn more by being the absolute best on the block.
Discover – Learn from honest feedback to improve customer service, your online reputation, and search ranking.
Connect – Create meaningful interactions and build trust through text, email, online chat, and more.
Grow – Use feedback to fuel a stronger online reputation and to get higher search rankings, so you can attract more business.
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