Yes, the concept of customer engagement marketing is much bigger than just getting Google reviews from customers. But, even when you limit yourself to digital marketing only, Google reviews can arguably get you the biggest bang for your buck out of all the customer engagement strategies. Here’s why.
“Getting reviews on your Google My Business listing is also a HUGE ranking factor – so try and get a solid number of 5-star reviews on Google My Business first. (Google can also show third-party reviews from other review sites in your Google listing, so it’s a good idea to get your customers to leave reviews on a variety of review sites (e.g., some on Google, Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor.)” (BrightLocal.com)
“At the risk of oversimplifying what it takes to rank in local search results in 2017, links and reviews are hot.” (SearchEngineLand.com)
It’s hard to debate the value of having customers post Google reviews about your business, with the two quotes above describing how these reviews can be a huge ranking factor, particularly for local search results. There is a second reason why reviews are so powerful—and that’s the concept of social proof.
Social proof means that, when someone doesn’t know how to act in a situation, he or she will observe what other people are doing and then mimic their actions. I wrote about social proof and what that means for your digital marketing efforts in more depth for LSAInsider.com.
The power of social proof was confirmed in BrightLocal.com’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2017, where these results were reported:
- 84 percent of people surveyed say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 74 percent of them say that positive reviews boost their trust in local businesses
- 54 percent of them will visit a website after reading a positive review about that company
If you need additional reasons to focus on Google reviews, here are two more. These reviews can introduce people to your company and provide your business with more credibility.
How Else Businesses Can Benefit
An article found at SmallBizTrends.com is chock full of statistics that demonstrate the importance of online reviews, including these:
- 68% of millennials trust online reviews; if that percentage sounds low, compare that to how many trust television commercials: 34%. This means that twice as many millennials trust online reviews than television ads.
- Reviews create an average 18% uptick in sales.
- Customers who look at user-generated content demonstrate a 133% higher conversion rate when compared to those who don’t.
- When comparing consumer reviews to descriptions created by manufacturers, people are nearly 12 times more likely to believe consumer reviews.
- 50 or more reviews can equal a 4.6% increase in conversion rates.
There’s plenty more insights in this article, including these stats:
- For every star in a review, a business can expect a 5-9% boost in revenue.
- Consumers typically spend 31% more on businesses with excellent reviews.
- Google says, according to this article, that business listings with at least 3+ star reviews took 41 out of 47 clicks.
Getting Google Reviews: What to Do—and What NOT to Do
The first and most obvious thing to do: provide the level of service that will make people want to say good things about you. Word of mouth marketing is incredibly powerful. Now, here are four more things to do.
If you haven’t yet verified your business listing, do so immediately. This is what makes your business eligible to appear on Google Maps and in other Google-related services. Plus, if you want to respond to Google reviews, you’ll need to have already verified your business.
Make sure you create a direct link that will take your customers straight to where they can leave a Google review for your business. Here are instructions for creating that link.
Recognize that, yes, you will likely have to ask your customers to post reviews. Busy people often don’t think to do so, unless they’re unhappy—or if they’ve just eaten the most amazing steak ever.
Relax. Google is fine with your soliciting reviews. They are so okay with it that they even provide instructions. We suggest that, rather than simply sending your customers a link to Google’s instruction page, you provide customized, easy-to-follow instructions that include a direct link to where people can leave reviews about your business.
Now, here are three things NOT to do.
Resist the temptation to offer incentives in exchange for a review. So says Google. You can pick and choose whom to ask to post a review, which gives you the opportunity to ask people that you know are satisfied with your products and/or services. But, don’t offer incentives and don’t say, “Give me a good review, okay?”
Also, don’t buy fake reviews! New York businesses that were caught in “astroturfing,” defined as the “practice of preparing or disseminating a false or deceptive review that a reasonable consumer would believe to be a neutral, third-party review” were collectively fined $350,000. According to that state’s attorney general, this is a form of false advertising.
It’s easy to get enthusiastic about the idea of gathering Google reviews from customers, once you realize how important they can be. But, don’t ask hundreds of people to do so all at once. That looks suspicious, both to Google and to potential customers. Steady wins the race.
How to Ask for Google Reviews
If you’re lucky enough to have face-to-face contact with your customers, especially ones that are praising your company, then definitely ask them in person to post a review. When that isn’t practical or even possible, then email is often the best way to ask for a review. Because you don’t want to proactively ask unhappy customers to post a review, MarketingLand.com suggests that you “pre-screen your customers via an internal survey before following up with another email asking them for a public review. While this may sound like cheating, it’s no different from what you would do in person.
“If someone is clearly upset, you wouldn’t ask them for an online review. Likewise, using triggers from an internal survey allows you to apply this same human logic, just algorithmically.”
The article offers other tips about email requests for Google reviews, including having the request come from an email address the customers will recognize. If that isn’t doable, at least send the requests from a real person’s address. The request should be written as a personal one with a clear call-to-action link or button. Test subject lines, email copy, and plain-text versus HTML options to determine what is most effective with your customers.
No matter how you ask for Google reviews, be sure to have a plan in place to remind people of your request, one that will nudge busy people to take the time to post a review without nagging or otherwise becoming intrusive.
If you’re thinking that the process of emailing customers and asking them for reviews—and then sending them reminders and so forth—sounds cumbersome, you’re right. It sure can be. Fortunately, there are customer engagement tools that can help you in the process of gathering feedback from clients. Here is a sampling of them.
With GetFiveStars.com, you enter in your customers’ email addresses or mobile numbers and this application sends them a customized email or SMS text message so you can begin to gather feedback about your business and quality of service. If you don’t have access to customer emails, you can use web pages/iPad kiosks to gather feedback, but we don’t recommend kiosk-based options. That’s because the IP will be the same for all of the reviews, which could trigger review removals as part of Google’s fake review filter. So, we recommend email drip processes.
Automation options are available to integrate GetFiveStars.com with your database, CRM or POS. You can add a testimonial widget to your website and customers can add content to your site. If you choose, testimonials that are ranked eight or above can automatically display on your website and widget. Or, you can keep complete manual control over what happens to the testimonials.
Whenever a customer rates you at or above the benchmark you are set for positive ratings, they will be automatically asked to rank you on whatever third-party review sites you have chosen, including but not limited to Google. This tool is integrated with more than 40 review sites, including industry-specific ones and more general ones.
With Listen360.com, you can get virtually instantaneous feedback from customers at your site. They will see something like this:
Then the customer will have the option to leave feedback about your products and/or services:
You can then instantly reward your customer:
This process will help you determine what individual customers have to say, but then you can also monitor customer feedback in real time across the organization through a dashboard of metrics. How can you use this feedback to create social proof about your company?
Kiyoh.com is another platform to consider, another example of one where customers would be sent an email invitation to write reviews of your company. These can be sent automatically or you can manually make decisions about who gets the invites. Your company will receive notifications whenever a review is completed, with negative ones (below three stars) having a hold period of 14 days before it is published. The idea is that, during this two-week period, you can contact the customer to resolve the issue, and then the customer has the option to give you a higher rating. Reviews can be incorporated into your website.
Here is the Birdeye approach. You can monitor your reviews from more than 200 sites in real time, with info found in a dashboard. You will receive either an SMS or email alert each time a new review is posted, and you can filter these by source and star rating. This helps you see what’s most important to you. You can respond in real time via Birdseye, as well.
To generate more reviews, this application solicits reviews from your “happiest customers,” sending them a review request during or after purchases or services. You can determine how soon to send the request and how often to send them. This application can also be integrated with most systems.
You can also flag any review you want, and then assign follow up to employees. This can help to address negative review effectively (more about that soon!).
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are more possibilities for customer engagement marketing applications:
You can find even more options here.
Impact of Negative Reviews
If you solicit reviews (and, really, even if you don’t), you’re likely to get some negative feedback from customers. But, that doesn’t mean you should just brush negative comments off as business as usual. In 2015, Moz.com estimated that four negative articles about your company in Google can cause a loss of up to 70% in new customers. BrightLocal.com, meanwhile, stated that for 48 percent of people, a four-star rating is needed before they’re willing to choose to do business with a company.
Here are more stats from SmallBizTrends.com, this time focusing on the impact of negative reviews:
- After reading just one negative review, 22 percent of consumers won’t buy from a company. After three negative reviews? That figure jumps to 50 percent.
- 86 percent of people will hesitate to buy from a company with negative online reviews.
- On average, one negative review will equal 30 lost customers.
Few companies can go without ever getting a bad review. That’s out of your control. But how you respond to complaints found in negative reviews is definitely within your bailiwick.
To effectively handle negative reviews, first: don’t take them personally—or at least don’t respond to them that way. If you don’t take the emotion out of your response, you’re likely to either ignore the customer (who needs him, anyhow?) or respond in a snarky way, which won’t help the situation. Instead, clearly delineate who in your company will monitor and respond to negative reviews. Put a priority on response time, because research shows that 51.7 percent of consumers expect a response within seven days.
And, in reality, many people expect a response that’s a whole lot faster. In your public response to negative reviews, apologize and do your best to transition the remainder of the conversation to a private venue, where you can attempt to remedy the situation.
Summing It Up: Four Steps
- Run your business in a way that will make it easy for people to leave positive reviews.
- Solicit Google reviews.
- Monitor what is being said about your company in these (and other) reviews.
- Respond to negative reviews and use the business intelligence gained through all reviews to make your company even more appealing to customers and prospects.