The Art of Generating More Google Reviews

A great majority of potential customers trust Google reviews posted by complete strangers just as much as they would a personal recommendation by a friend. Considering this, the challenge becomes creating a strategy to get your customers to leave a review on Google. In this paper, we will look at several strategies to turn your customers into advocates by convincing them to leave a review for you on Google--and even what to do when that review is less-than-flattering.

The Growing Importance of Google Reviews

Before we do a complete dive in to the ways in which you can garner more Google reviews, let's first steal a glance at why you would even want to in the first place.

According to a 2018 report from PowerReviews, an overwhelming 97% of customers look to online reviews prior to making a purchasing decision. That's because reviews are the foundation of your reputation online. Google reviews, then, help to build your reputation—and insulate it from those outliers who will only leave unreasonable reviews—which, in turn, helps potential customers feel more comfortable about doing business with you. In fact, a December 2017 article by CXL Institute shows that Google reviews can actually act as a form of social proof for your brand and even boost your site's click-through rate (CTR) by more than 35%.

Many digital marketers believe that Google reviews are one of the 200+ contributing ranking factors, wherein Google gives preference to sites that have more and better reviews. When it comes to local search, the effect is even more pronounced, with a 2018 study from Moz listing reviews signals, such as review quantity, review velocity, and review diversity comprising more than 15% of ranking factors. That's third on their list right below Google My Business signals and Link signals.

The recent surge in the perceived gravity of Google reviews has led Google to become the most rapidly growing review site, accruing the greatest number of reviews compared to other review platforms. It has come to the point where businesses can no longer cast aside the current role Google reviews plays in garnering feedback from customers and using that information to further build a trustworthy reputation among your target audience.

To that, let's look at some ways you can boost those Google reviews and enjoy the ripple effect of improved search engine rankings and boost conversion rates.

It Starts with Customer Service

Customer service is the very lifeblood of your business. If you are carrying the greatest products at the best prices, people will still shop elsewhere if they feel like they are being mistreated by poor customer service. A February 2006 article from McKinsy Quarterly found that 70% of consumer experiences are measured by customer service. In the time since, one must believe that number has only increased.

In short, customers are not moved by mediocre service. It's the really good or really bad experience that gets shared. Clearly, you know which side of the see-saw you want to be on here, so invest time in ensuring you customer service team is equipped to deliver exceptional experiences—experiences people will want to talk about. One reason why Amazon became the most valuable public company in the world is because of its continuous focus on getting customers what they want as quickly as possible and making returns a breeze. Further, Amazon itself assumes responsibility for shipping delays, damaged goods, and the like—even from third-party sellers.

Not every company is going to be Amazon. Every company can, however, regularly take stock in customer service protocol and look for new ways to make improvements.

You Won't Know if You Don't Ask

At the risk of oversimplifying, the easiest way to procure a Google review is just to ask for one. As part of your renewed attention to customer service, you be sure that your staff is trained to ask customers for their feedback. You can give direct instructions on just how to do it. You can send emails or chat messages that include links to the review submission location. You can also code in review request pop-ups at the completion of a conversion. For businesses with physical locations, consider printing business cards with instruction for leaving a review and handing them out to your customer-facing personnel.

Knock Knock! It's Customer Service Again

At the risk of belaboring the point, the interactive role of your customer service team will have the biggest impact on your Google reviews. If someone gets great service, they may not think to leave a review about it. If they get poor service, though, you better believe they will leave a review. Therefore, the weight of bad reviews is disproportionate to actual performance. This is also exactly why you want/need customer service professionals to collect reviews.

Just asking for a review can be a tricky proposition. The timing must be right and so must the language. A poorly-delivered review request can strike a sour note.

One way to navigate these waters is with a script. Rather than simply going with, "Would you mind leaving us a review on Google?" try to spruce it up with something akin to the following:

"Thank you so much, Mr. Porter. I'm glad to know that you are happy with our service. We strive to do our best. In fact, I'd like to invite you to leave some online feedback for us on Google. We look at those things often and learn what we can to serve you better in the future."

Try a few different approaches so that your customer service representatives can find the one that sounds most genuine and natural to them.

Incentivize Review Collection

Bonuses and rewards have long been a component of sales staff, but there is no reason it can't also be a motivator for your customer service team.

There are a number of criteria you can incentivize, including the number of reviews a representative collects and/or whether their name is mentioned in the review. Having a customer service representative's name in a review personalizes the exchange for the customer, the customer service representative, and the prospective customer who reads the review. In short, the conduct that warrants such reviews is good for the bottom line and deserves to be rewarded.

Be Transparent About Your Reviews

Testimonials have long been a staple of web sites. When you cherry-pick your favorite Google reviews and put only those on your website, it can come off as disingenuous. Savvy shopper will be able to see right through it. When that happens, those reviews can have the exact opposite effect than what was intended.

If you are going to call out some of your favorite Google reviews on your website, you should also be transparent about your Google reviews and include a link to the Google reviews form on your business page. This way, customers can get the full picture regarding what others are saying about your business.

The easiest way to do this is by included a button or text link that reads "Read more Google reviews" and link it via your Places ID.

Respond to Reviews

For many, the knee-jerk reaction to dealing with reviews is to simply accept the good ones as a warm hug and dismiss the bad ones as the product of simple or vindictive people. Rest assured, however, that people can tell when the good reviews are too coached and the bad ones are unreasonable. This is going to happen whether you respond to reviews or not. What your response does, however, is show customers that you value their feedback—good or bad. In this respect, customers can see you care enough about customers to listen to them.

Answering Good Reviews

So you got a good review? Great! You must be doing something right. Seize the opportunity to thank the reviewer for taking the time to say something so nice about your business. Also, encourage that customer to be a repeat customer while you have them feeling good about your business.

Further, take note of what the good reviews are praising and be sure that your entire customer service team is continuing to do those things well, as those things are clearly leaving a good impression. Also, pay attention to which customer service initiatives are not being mentioned and review them to see how you can make them the focus of future reviews.

Answering Neutral Reviews

A neutral review may seem like the most difficult review address. After all, 3 stars and a review with a little good and a little bad is easy to dismiss. These reviews, however, are ripe with potential to turn a moderately-whelmed customer into a repeat customer and, perhaps, even an advocate.

The key to responding to neutral reviews is to repeat the positive and say thank you for that. Then, address the negative in a constructive way to make amends with the reviewer and show perspective customers that you value both the applause and the constructive criticism--no matter how that criticism may be worded.

Answering Bad Reviews

Bad reviews can be dressed in any number of outfits. Some are polite, concise, and clearly outline the reason for the dissatisfaction. Some are quite rude, unreasonable, written in all caps and often riddled with more than a few misspellings. They key to answering bad reviews is to treat ALL bad reviews as if they were expressed like the former.

When responding to bad reviews, take a breath and follow these steps:

  • Be courteous and empathize with the situation. Bad reviews are a sign that trust was broken and/or expectations were not met. We have all felt this way before and it is upsetting.
  • Don't be defensive. Look, you may know the real story about what happened. You may want to point out to everyone reading the review how unreasonable the reviewer has been. In the end, however, this technique often smacks of victim blaming and can be a real turn off to some customers. An unreasonable review answered by self-righteous clapping back is a recipe for brand reputation disaster in a world where it is too easy for customers to take their business elsewhere.
  • Apologize and address. Suggest that you and the customer address the situation offline. This is because addressing it online can lead to poo flinging, which is most unflattering. Also, many people don a mask of false bravado online and act in a matter that is not consistent with how they would behave during direct communication with another person. The latter, naturally, is the path towards getting a mutually-agreed-upon resolution.

You may not be able to fix every problem. And, to be sure, some people aren't looking to have their problems fixed; they are simply negative people by nature. When you make the effort to fix the problem, though, it becomes very clear to readers which party is the reasonable party in the exchange.

What's In It For Me?

A basic tenet of human behavior is that people are unlikely to act unless they see a benefit toward acting. The very fact that we are discussing ways to get Google reviews is prompted by the benefits of having better rankings and increasing business.

When you are asking your customers for a review, you should also keep in mind that many will want to know what's in it for them. If you build some sort of value into the review request, you are one step ahead of the game. Remember, the key is to keep the language customer focus. Instead of saying something like, "Your feedback helps our products (or services) to be as good as they can be," flip the script and trying something like this, "Your feedback is important to us, as it is the most direct line for us to learn how we can make your next experience even better."

Another way to prompt a review is to incentivize the customer for writing the review. This works for the same reason it works for your customer service team. This can be 10% of the next purchase, membership status upgrade, or even a free gift. The key, however, is to incentivize the review--not just a good review.

Host a Customer Appreciation Event

If you have the means, consider hosting a customer appreciation event. This approach works well if you are in the B2C or B2B space. By inviting your customers to an in-person event to experience your brand and your employees helps to foster personal relationships between your brand and your customer base. Depending upon your business goals, you could try one (or more) of the following at your event:

  • Host customer feedback round tables with an employee present at each round table.
  • Host guided tours to show customers how your business works behind the scenes.
  • Hold an open Q&A session where customer get to make their voices heard regarding your business and its direction.
  • Feature hands-on displays.
  • Provide "sneak peeks" at initiatives you have in the works. (As a bonus, you could even ask for feedback and let your customers be your focus group!)
  • Everybody loves giveaways!

These suggestions are just a starting point. The bottom line is that hosting an event lets your customers know how much you value the part they play in the growth of your business. When customers feel like they are part of the plan, they are more than willing to be vocal advocates for your brand, which includes much more than some more good Google reviews.

In Conclusion

Many, many customers read Google reviews and consider them in making a purchasing decision. The ability to garner reviews, in general, are an increasingly powerful marketing tool to have in your toolbox. They can reinforce your brand reputation, increase search visibility, and increase conversion. Of the tips shared here, some can be universally applied across any business and some may need to be massaged to reach maximum impact for your business. Regardless, these tips should be viewed as a mere foundation for your review-garnering strategy. Take a few moments to build on some of these in a way that fits your brand like a glove.