AddMe Whitepaper – Ultimate Guide To Getting More Google Reviews

Reviews Whitepaper Cover

The following is a guide to optimizing your business presence on Google My Business and growing your Google Reviews. We’ll cover the following topics:

Table Of Contents


 

1. Who is this Guide For? 

Any business, or chain of businesses, that has customer-facing services can benefit from Review Management as part of their Reputation Management and Digital Marketing strategies.

There is a requirement in order to get set up on Google that you have a physical location, but services are not required to be provided at that address. You can be a product or a service-service driven business, B2B or B2C. You can be a stand-alone store or a chain of stores. All business types are catered for within the Google Reviews platform.

Some industries are also supported by other Review Platforms such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and others. While recommendations obtained in this guide will help with all review management, we discuss the specifics of Google My Business (now called Google Business Profile) and Google Reviews.

The industries that benefit most from actively managing their online reputation through review platforms include:

  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • Financial Services
  • Automotive
  • Service Sector
  • Healthcare & Medical Services
  • Home Services
  • Education

Let’s get started with why Google Reviews in particular are important.


 

2. Why are Google Reviews important?

Google Reviews are important to businesses for a number of reasons. Some reasons are self-evident and understood, others are newly emerging challenges and opportunities.

Which review sites are you most likely to check before visiting a business?

Top Review Sites

Prospective customers want to see what others have to say about your business before potentially using your products or services. This is especially important for businesses that are just starting up so the business can gain a good reputation early on, and continue building their customer base.

How big of a role do online reviews play when discovering a new local business?

Do Reviews Play A Role

Google Reviews is a dominant and versatile Customer Reviews platform. This is more prevalent in markets where Google has a higher than average Search Engine market share, like in Australia.

Zero Click Search

The Search Engines, including Google, are evolving the presentation of their Search Engine Results. This includes providing more variety and richer content on their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

When customers search and find valuable information on Google, without clicking any of the results, this is called a “Zero-click search”. Many Zero-click searches are due to featured snippets which are being rolled out more frequently for common search terms. Featured snippets are highlights of text that appear at the top of search results and generally show answers and quick facts.

Zero click searches rose to 65% in 2020, meaning that more users than ever are reading content, including Google reviews for businesses, directly from search results. Under these circumstances, it is critical that businesses take control of this first impression.

Trust

Searching for a business and reading the reviews on that business is common customer behavior.

87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020 – up from 81% in 2019.

Further, customers have high trust in these reviews. 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

Trusting Personal Recommendations

Source

With the advent of COVID-19, customers are also using the information in customer reviews to make purchasing decisions. 67% of customers wouldn’t use a business if they were ignoring health regulations or posed a perceived health risk. Further, 22% of customers surveyed said they would actively support local businesses that they felt were impacted by COVID.

Reviews are critical in creating a perception of trust for your business.

Search Engine Optimization

Actively managing customer reviews increases organic Search Engine traffic. There are direct and indirect factors. However, experts agree that the quality, quantity, recency and semantics of Google Reviews have a measurable impact on your Search Engine Optimisation and help drive qualified traffic and sales.

54% of Local SEO Specialists Recommend Focusing on Reviews

SEO Experts Recommend Reviews

Source

Sales

Customer reviews are good for more than perception and Search Engine rankings. 93% of consumers say that online reviews have influenced their purchase decisions.

Not only can customer reviews encourage a purchase decision, but positive reviews can drive increased sales and encourage customers to spend more per sale – increasing basket size and lifetime customer value.

Research has shown that a 1-star increase can result in 5-9% increase in revenue for hospitality and retail businesses. One set of research has suggested that the overall impact of positive reviews can lead to an 18% uplift in sales.

Breakdown of 18% Sales Uplift from Reviews

Sales Uplift From Reviews

Source

Having a reputation and review management focus for your business will drive incremental improvement to your bottom line.

We have created an ‘Ultimate Guide To Getting More Google Reviews’ bundle which includes a pdf of this document, a document with sample review scripts, and a comprehensive Google Reviews checklist. Download our carefully curated Google Reviews bundle by clicking the link below.

Download Your Free Google Reviews Bundle


 

3. Reviews Benchmarks

Whether you are starting from scratch or taking on the management of an existing business, it’s important to understand benchmarks so you can set targets and have goals.

The following are key factors to consider:

1. 4 Stars: The generally agreed target benchmark is 4 stars. 48% of consumers will only consider buying from a business with 4+ stars.

What star rating filter do you usually use?

Star Rating Filter

2. Legitimacy: Customers perceive engagement with other customers in the review process as a way of suggesting legitimacy and a focus on customer care.

As well as favorable genuine reviews, customers appreciate when a business engages with reviewers.

Respond to reviews promptly. 89% of customers read review responses. 20% of reviewers expect a response within 1 day, 50%+ expect a response within a week.

Industry Leaders vs Industry Average:

Response Time /days vs Average Star Ratings of Reviews

Industry Response Times

This data highlights that, with the exception of Finance, businesses who respond more promptly to reviews and feedback have higher average star ratings.

Engaging with customers includes responding gracefully, tactfully and practically to negative reviews. Customers may even find a good response to a negative review appealing.

How likely are you to visit a business that responds to negative reviews?

More Likely If Responding To Negative Reviews

It might not need to be said, but don’t buy fake reviews. You may harm customer perception of your business and could be penalized by Search Engines, as this is against policy.

3. Recency: Fresh reviews are important. It is not enough to collect a large number of reviews, then “set and forget”. Customers value fresh reviews, ideally less than 2 weeks old.

How recent does a review need to be to impact a consumer decision to use a local business?

Recency Of Reviews

This data shows that in 2020 50% of consumers preferred reviews received within the last two weeks.

4. Sentiment: Positive sentiment is important. No business is perfect. Negative reviews are unavoidable. Research suggests 70%+ of customers will only take action after reading a positive review.

As the value of the product or service rises, so does the expectation for positive reviews. For instance, 90%+ of B2B customers only take action after reading positive reviews.

Customers who read business reviews want to read about reliability (27%+), expertise (21%+) and professionalism (18%+).

What are the most important things you hope to see when reading other customers’ reviews about a business?

Reading Customer Reviews

5. Quantity: More is better. It’s been proven that as few as 6-10 reviews builds consumer confidence, and having no reviews – or old reviews – breaks consumer confidence.

How many reviews does a business need to give you the confidence to make a purchase?

How Many Reviews Do Businesses Need?

‘Good vs Bad’ Review Ratio: 40:1

Marketing analyst Andrew Thomas determined a ratio to generate a consistent momentum of positive reviews.

Here’s what it comes down to:

40 Positive customer experiences = 1 Negative customer experience

This is derived from:

  • Negative customer experiences likely (est. 100%) lead to a negative review
  • Positive customer experiences rarely (est. 10%) lead to a good review
  • To maintain 4+ stars average review, a company needs four 5-star reviews, for every single 1-star review

A business needs forty positive customer experiences, to get four 5-star reviews, to undo the potential damage by one negative customer experience and one resulting 1-star review.

The two sides to the Review Ratio can be managed:

  • Grow Positive reviews
  • Reduce Negative reviews


 

4. Create a Feedback Focused Culture

The response rates to requests for feedback or reviews are generally low.

Even happy customers might be time-poor at the time of the request or feel inconvenienced, and not reply. Because of this, it’s imperative that we ask often.

There are two important aspects to this: language and systems.


 

4.1 Use The Term “Feedback”

Language is important. The word “review” has critical connotations and this might feel like hard work in a customer’s mind. Another alternative, “testimonial”, can feel overly personal. Asking for reviews or testimonials might be a great way to bond with fans of your service, but may be off-putting to new customers.

A happy middle ground option is “feedback”. Getting customers comfortable to start the process can lead to more reviews and more valuable consumer responses. Ask for customer feedback and not for reviews or testimonials.


 

4.2 Adjust Business Processes

Processes and systems are critical factors in increasing review and feedback response numbers. Including a “feedback focus” in business processes and systems is important. These processes will vary from business to business but may include: sales, customer contact, accounting, point of sale, retail premises, and marketing.

Every passive or active interaction with a customer is not only functionally important to your business. It is also an opportunity to ask for feedback.

Consider the following: Unhappy Customers

  • 91% of customers unhappy with a service experience won’t do business with a company again.
  • Unhappy customers may tell between 9-15 other people about their negative experiences. Some may tell more than 20.

On the flip side: Happy Customers

  • Good customer experiences result in 42% of consumers becoming repeat customers.


 

4.3 Create a Cultural Habit of Asking for Feedback

Encouraging staff to ask customers for feedback, with the objective of receiving reviews, may feel like a daunting task. However, we recommend creating a culture of requesting feedback and having a number of recommendations.

Training and Processes to Encourage Customer Feedback

Develop and present training for your staff on how and when to ask for feedback. Training can be customized by roles or teams within your organization. Recording and providing this training online and on-demand will make it easier for staff to receive guidance and get ideas on how to engage with customers. Specific tactics on how to increase feedback and review requests will be covered below.

Provide Scripts and Templates to Help Staff Ask for Reviews

As part of training, it may be valuable to develop company-specific and appropriate scripts and templates to help staff navigate scenarios. These may include simple phrases to be incorporated into face-to-face or phone conversations and canned responses for email, SMS, social media, messaging or chat. Similar language and prompts to use online feedback forms may also be incorporated into IVR systems.

Provide Staff with the Ability to Report Customer Feedback Internally

To ensure customer feedback or ideas for improved customer service is captured, provide your staff with an internal feedback system or ‘suggestions box’. Companies should review these submissions regularly, and consider the feedback in line with affected business units.

Create Reward and Incentives for Staff to Encourage Customer Feedback

A good incentive program motivates staff to be more productive. Participants can feel more valued as they contribute to the business’s goals. Don’t rush executing an incentive program. Making sure the program is simple and impactful will be key to getting staff to participate.

When building the incentive program make sure the business has the discretion to adjust the program as needs change and to address any issues that pop up. 

As with all strong performing incentive programs, align the program and staff guidance with the goals of the organization: more reviews, more stars, more happy customers. 

Key features of a strong performing staff incentive program include:

  • Understandable: The objective is to receive more reviews and improve your star rating period-on-period. Make sure the program is documented upfront. Ask for team leaders to get involved and communicate and get feedback on the program.
  • Equitable: Start with a company-wide program. If the program is successful at a company level over time, there may be scope to create both team and individual awards.
  • Proximate: Customer feedback is traditionally the realm of all customer-facing and customer contact staff. However, as we discuss in the Tactics to Grow Your Google Reviews below, there is broader scope across the business which also includes accounts and logistics.
  • Actionable: Ensure staff are empowered to participate. Provide training on when and how to prompt customers for feedback. To make it easy for staff to comfortably contribute you should provide links, scripts, templates, email footer designs etc.
  • Simple: As part of the program, ensure that a simple and visible metric is being used. Google Reviews are a transparent metric that all staff can have access to.

Follow the link below to download our ‘Ultimate Guide To Getting More Google Reviews’ bundle which includes a doucment providing sample scripts to be used for review and feedback requests.

Download Your Free Sample Scripts


 

4.4 Measure It

To achieve the best results in both SEO and consumer psychology, quality, quantity and semantics of feedback text are important. 

Reviews are not window-dressing but actionable data. Make sure your business is considering the following factors when setting benchmarks in feedback performance, and actioning feedback on an ongoing basis:

  • NPS: Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a common measure for businesses to get a deeper understanding of how customers – often repeat, or regular customers – feel about your business, and whether they are likely to advocate your business.

NPS Benchmark Scores by Industry

NPS Benchmark Industry

Source

  • Qualitative: NPS scores and star ratings can be qualitative indicators of how customers feel about your customer service and business. Improving these metrics will have both a superficial and functional improvement on your business.
  • Quantitative: A key metric of improvement will be quantitative. Consistent submissions of feedback over time are both externally and internally valuable. Further, most businesses experience negative feedback. Achieving higher numbers of reviews reduces the impact of low star reviews.
  • Analytics Tracking: For Internet-based reviews – especially those that point to your website in the first instance – use UTM tracking parameters to track the source of the reviews. UTM tracking is easily added to a website address, prior to URL shortening. This can help identify and measure the performance of review links via mobile (SMS), email (footers, administration) and even QR codes.


 

4.5 Feedback Loops

It’s important to review and act on customer feedback. It’s great to focus on the number of reviews and stars received, but it’s important also to treat reviews – good and bad – like conversations with customers.

External data

Third-party and external review platforms should be monitored regularly and replied to promptly. It is always important to remember to reply to both positive and negative reviews.

Internal data

There should be a system to manage and respond to customer feedback internally. Using CRMs can be useful, and also having processes that encourage informal feedback via phone or email conversations to be prompted to preferred external review platforms.

Ticketing Reviews

Submitting reviews of known customers into a ticketing system for response can be a useful tactic. Feedback supported by other known data on customers: location, customer value, product/service type can be valuable insight to the business and might be managed by different teams.

Customer Outreach / Response

Businesses should allocate resources and responsibility to managing customer feedback and reviews. Depending on your business, this might fall to customer service, sales, accounting or even social media teams.

Note: It’s important to customers that their feedback, questions and reviews are acknowledged. In the Tactics to Grow Your Google Reviews section below, we’ll see that it is also an opportunity to turn around or remove negative reviews.


 

5. Setting Up Google Reviews

Once you have your Google My Business profile set up and optimized, and you have put in place processes and allocated responsibility for review management, the next step is to optimize your business to grow your feedback and reviews.

Setup Your Google Reviews Link

As Google Reviews are a major source of review traffic, we will use the example of driving traffic to Google Reviews. An alternative to an external review platform could be a reviews page on your website or a Review Management Platform.

GMB Link

Get your Google Place ID

Firstly, find you’ll need your Google Place ID. This is a code or textual identifier that identifies your business in Google Maps. Your Google Place ID is tied directly to your Google Business account. This makes it easy to link customers to your Google reviews page.

  1. Find your Google Place ID: Click here
  2. Search for an existing Google My Business listing
  3. Use the name of an existing Google My Business listing, and select from the list
  4. Paste the 25-digit “Place ID” at the end of this Google Reviews link:
    https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=YOUR-PLACEID-HERE

Optimize your Google My Business (aka Google Profile) Listing

Once you have a GMB profile and have generated a Google Reviews link, the world is your oyster. Bear in mind:

  • Analytics Tracking: Use UTM tracking to clarify where your links are coming from. This might mean you use a link shortening service to create more than one variation of your link.
    • For example, you might create separate links with different UTM tracking for use in email, SMS and QR codes to help better track and analyze campaign performance and user behavior.
  • Use URL Shortening: We recommend then shortening the URL, with or without UTM tracking via a service such as bit.ly: https://bitly.com/
    • Use this shortened URL link either by directly pasting it into communications with customers or by embedding the link into text, buttons or design elements such as QR codes. 
  • Test everything: Test any links you plan to send out. Make sure they are the right business and are opening correctly.

Note: Google Business Profiles can be confusing. We have put together a detailed article and a handy checklist for you. Download the AddMe Reviews guide to Set Up and Optimize Your Google My Business Profile.


 

6. Tactics to Grow Your Reviews

If you’re starting from scratch, or if you have a poor average Review Star score, it can be daunting to know where to start.

Below are a range of tactics businesses can use to present multiple opportunities for customers to provide feedback and reviews.

Which Ways have you been asked by a business to leave a review?

Method To Ask For Reviews

Firstly, make sure your review requests are consistent. A sudden influx of reviews for some Review Platforms may cause issues for your listing, as they might look “spammy” – even if they are legitimate. 

For example, if you want to email a backlog of 1,000 customers to ask for a review, we suggest sending small batches. Typical response rates to review requests by email are often around 1-5%. 

Importantly, timing and recency will affect your likelihood of a review. If you send review requests to people who transacted with your business 3-6 months ago, they are less likely to provide a review than a more recent customer.

Further, make sure you are aware of individual platforms’ rules and requirements. For platforms such as Yelp, asking for reviews is against Yelp’s service policy and can result in your listing being suspended. The same rule doesn’t apply to all platforms.

Remember the rules of engagement are:

  • Ask for “feedback”, not for reviews.
  • Highlight that feedback is important to your business.
  • If possible, prompt the customer to use specific information: store location, details of product or service, what stood out etc.

Do: Ask Everyone – Especially When You’re New!

If you’re a small business, or you’re just getting started, it can’t hurt to ask everyone for a kind word. If you haven’t had any customers, ask friends, family, suppliers and business partners. They can recommend you on your character, their perception of your business and products and how they plan to use your business or products in future.

Use: Website

As part of a contemporary website design, it might be worth having a “feedback” page, or link via a “Contact Us” page.

Keeping the website address short and easy to remember or understand will increase usage rates. For example business.com/feedback. Content on a Feedback page may provide instructions and links to help guide the customer in providing mutually valuable feedback via the best platform.

Feedback pages can be important in driving customer engagement for customer interaction and sales teams.

Use: QR Codes and Printed Materials

QR codes have been around since 1994. With commonplace usage since 2020 many businesses are using these throughout their businesses. Materials for use in requesting feedback include, but are not limited to:

  • Point of Sale
  • Retail entry and exit
  • Menus
  • Letterbox drops
  • Business cards
  • Receipts
  • Invoices
  • Delivery documentation
  • Packaging
  • Outdoor advertising

As QR codes are text compression. Using a shortened URL often results in a cleaner looking QR code and faster and easier use for customers. 

Use: Point of Sale (POS)

By having a QR code, or a prompt to the relevant platform or website page, you can ask customers in-store or at the cash register to provide feedback.

Since COVID, using QR codes is now commonplace.

QR Codes are Functional and Widely Accepted

QR Code Reviews

Use: Voice

Asking someone for feedback in person, whether face-to-face or over the phone, can be daunting. Naturally, not every customer interaction warrants asking for feedback. However, if a customer is openly happy with some aspect of your service, it is appropriate to suggest that feedback would be appreciated.

Scripts and training can help. Conversation Starters: “did you find everything you were looking for?”, “Is it your first time?”, “have you tried this product before?” etc. Once a customer is engaged, if their feedback is positive or constructive, a customer could be prompted to provide their feedback via available options.

  • In-person: A feedback request might lead to a reference to a QR code, or a website address of a feedback page.
  • Over the phone: A feedback request might lead to a request for permission to email or SMS the feedback link or a website address of a feedback page.
  • IVR and answering machines: Can be used to include a reference to a website feedback page.

Below are some examples of what you can say to prompt customers to leave a review.

  • Thanks for choosing {Business Name}! Would you take a moment to review your experience?
  • Thank you for shopping with {Business Name} – we hope you were happy with your order. We would love to know how you found the experience shopping with us and invite you to rate us at {Insert Review Link}. It will only take a few seconds and will be invaluable to us!
  • Thank you for visiting {Business Name}, it was our pleasure helping you! Reviews help our business build an online presence and help others learn about us. Would you be willing to take a quick minute to leave us a review? {Insert Review Link}
  • Thanks for purchasing from {Business Name}. To help us best serve you and others, we would appreciate it if you could leave us a quick review. {Insert Review Link}

Use: Email

Email is still a reliable channel for asking for feedback and reviews. Email is pervasive through modern businesses and provides a natural and seamless way to link feedback and review pages or Review Management Platforms.

  • Email Signatures: Add a link to the feedback page on your website either directly, or linked via a graphic.
  • Automations: Contact email automation is common throughout sales, account management, accounting and delivery email sequences. Consider appropriate steps and timing to incorporate a request for feedback into email sequences.
  • Campaigns: Email newsletters, marketing campaigns or seasonal communications may be opportunities to prompt customers to provide feedback if they have a recent experience they would like to share.

Use: SMS

Increasingly, businesses are using SMS to communicate with customers. As with emails, SMS footers and automation can be great ways to incorporate a shortened URL linking to a feedback page or Review Management Platform. Sending SMS review requests can be a more effective method than email in most cases.

Compared to email and voice, business text messages have higher open and engagement rates. According to Gartner, business SMS open rates can be as high as 98%, considerably higher than 20% open rates of business email.

Incorporating SMS as an automation option for customers, and then linking Feedback shortened URLs is a great way to increase your potential reviews.

Internet Links via SMS are a Powerful Tool on Modern Smartphones

Reviews Text Invite


 

6.1 Final Tips on Tactics

Irrespective of whether you are an SME, e-commerce, B2C, B2B or a publicly listed behemoth, there are some things you can do to make sure your customers are given the best opportunity to leave you feedback or a review.

Do: Make it Easy

Without being pushy or bossy, tell people how to leave great feedback. Tell them what you are hoping to gain, so that they can feel like they are doing a great job, and you are getting what you need. Educate your customers on:

  • User Experience Design: Provide clear visually strong pages, buttons and direction
  • Platform Options: Review Management Platform, Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor etc.
  • Wording: Depending on your business, ask for feedback about your products, service, staff, venues – or any combination thereof – let your customers know what you want them to write about.

“We’d love your feedback on how you found our service and venue. Your input helps us grow and improve. We really appreciate it.”

Do: Provide Templates

Following on from this, as well as providing templates for your staff, provide templates for your customers. On your website feedback page, prompt customers by providing examples of reviews and testimonials, ideally chosen from actual customer feedback.

Reviews Stream

Do: Follow Up!

Customers may not respond to your request for feedback in the first instance. Don’t give up! Make sure that you follow up in subsequent communications, and provide each customer yet to provide feedback with an opportunity and requisite links and instructions.

Remember, persistence pays.

Have any questions about Google Reviews? Contact us today to learn more. Additionally, click the link below to download our free Google Reviews bundle which contains all the information you need for your business to take online reviews to the next level.

Download Your Ultimate Guide To Getting More Google Reviews Bundle

 

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