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The Anatomy of a High-Quality Review

September 9, 2022

Your quest for reviews probably started with a focus on quantity. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We know that having 80 or more reviews can help you earn 54% more in annual revenue than a business with fewer reviews. Once you’ve gotten some reviews under your belt, you’ll probably start to find that quantity can only take you so far in boosting your ranking and winning over prospects. When you reach that point, it’s time to focus on getting more out of every single review.

It turns out that not all reviews are created equal. 

An obvious example is that a long 1-star review might draw more searchers’ eyes than ten 5-star ratings that didn’t come with a written review. Since certain reviews are more informative to viewers, they’ll accumulate “likes” and show up under the “Most Helpful” featured reviews on your Google Business Listing.

Here are a few characteristics of high-quality reviews and some tips for getting your customers to write them. 


First up: Details are crucial! More descriptive reviews are simply more helpful to people searching for a business. Reviewers don’t need to write a 5-paragraph essay, but describing their experience in-depth will be more valuable to a reader.

In Debbie’s review below, she lists people by name, uses adjectives that paint a picture of her visit, and even describes the office itself. Google now features this review, meaning it gets in front of anyone who reads this practice’s reviews and helps convince them to book an appointment.


In the same vein, a great review uses keywords. Keywords are simply the words and phrases that someone who is searching for your business might type. Mickey’s review for a pet food shop mentions both a “perfect harness” and “health food” — two terms a searcher might look for that indicate they’re a good match for your business. 

When reviews use keywords, Google will be more likely to show a searcher your business. It’s a win-win: the searcher finds exactly what they’re looking for and you earn a new customer who is a great fit for what you have to offer. 

Google review


The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is closer than ever to actually being quantified. A study from the University of California San Diego proved that a single image, even when shown very briefly (think 10 milliseconds), causes a much stronger emotional reaction than a word or phrase that conveys the exact same message. Simply put: Images are powerful, and you need them in your reviews. 

Google’s algorithm is notoriously opaque, but it’s clear that reviews with images get a top spot in your “Most Helpful” reviews section. Plus, photos in reviews are added to your Google Business Profile where they attract even more attention. 

When you look at the reviews below, do you read the text or look at the images first? We know where our eyes are drawn.

Google review with images
Google review with images

Actionable Feedback

If you’ve been in business for more than a week or two, you know that not every review is going to be 5 stars. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not valuable. A less-than-wonderful review can still offer feedback you can use to improve. 

Sometimes a bad review is total nonsense, left by someone who wasn’t even really a customer, or just hateful with no real substance. But keep an eye out for insights that come from reviews. Often these 2-, 3-, and 4-star reviews are left by customers who actually hope to keep patronizing your business, but want to give you a suggestion for how to do better. Their advice is worth considering.

Google review

How to Collect High-Quality Reviews

It’s one thing to know how to identify a valuable review and another to convince your customers to actually write one. There are two main steps to get the kind of review you’re hoping for.

1. Just be direct and ask: Customers willing to leave you a review are often brand advocates who would spend a little more time writing a review that helps you. Be clear that reviews really do help new customers find you so you can keep offering your amazing services. Explain that detailed reviews (with keywords and photos) make the biggest difference. You might be surprised to see the reviews you start getting when you ask directly.

2. Ask at the right time: Asking someone to leave a detailed review with photos right as they are leaving their visit isn’t very realistic. They’re mentally off to the next part of their day and might even be in a hurry. Instead, ask them when they’re home and have a few minutes of downtime. Sending a personalized text with a review link is an easy way to get the detailed review you’re aiming for. We’ve found that 6 - 8pm local time is ideal for getting responses.

Give those steps a try and watch your reviews take a turn for the better. Your business profile will be more compelling to prospects and you should even start ranking higher, especially when people search for keywords that are in your new reviews. Good luck!

Swell helps local businesses automate their review request text messages to put their reputation on autopilot and gather actionable insights that help them improve. Want to take a look? Book a demo.

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