Do you encourage your customers to leave reviews of your business online? Are you unsure if you should respond to negative reviews, and if so, how? Or are you among the few who still dismiss reviews as unimportant?
In the last blog post we talked about how online business reviews can impact local SEO. The importance of reviews is not new, but it has continued to grow. Consumers and search engines rely on reviews to help make decisions that can impact your business. Do what you can to ensure any impact is positive.
How do you accomplish that?
One thing you can do is get reviews for your business in several of the leading review sites, including Google + Local. The quantity of Google reviews is a local search ranking factor, so getting reviews can help your business listing show more prominently in search results. If you have 10 or more reviews, Google may show an overall score with your listing, as seen in the image below. Google explains the scoring system here.
Getting and keeping Google reviews can be difficult. A Google account is required to leave a review. Many of your customers may not have such an account. If they sign up for one and leave your business a review, the review might suddenly disappear or only be visible to that person.
A wave of disappearing reviews created a storm of protest from businesses last summer after a new Google algorithm detected “suspicious reviewing behavior,” causing the reviews to be taken down. Many businesses complained that Google removed their good reviews, leaving only a few negative ones.
The issue with disappearing reviews continues. Although little more than a year ago Google considered soliciting reviews, including through specialized review stations or kiosks at the place of business, an acceptable practice, that is no longer the case. Google’s Review Content Policy now discourages it (which means don’t do it), and obvious solicitation of reviews can result in a takedown of those reviews as well as others previously made.
Google now wants consumers to leave reviews without persuasion from the business. Tips that might help avoid a review spam filter include:
- Don’t write fake reviews or post reviews on behalf of others
- Don’t review your own business, although many review sites do allow you to respond to a review as a business owner
- Avoid acquiring reviews in waves, if possible. One or two a month is much safer.
- Don’t offer money or payment of any kind for reviews
- Don’t send customers to the same review site. Either don’t specify where you want the reviews made or provide different options.
- Don’t encourage customers to sign up for a Google account so they can leave a review of your business. If they are not already a Google user, they should leave a review on another review site.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews from their mobile phones. Those seem to be trusted more. However, you wouldn’t want multiple reviews posted for your business from the same mobile device.
You could also warn customers not to include a link or URL in the review, or to leave the same (or similarly worded) review in more than one place. Each customer can only leave one review for your business.
Now that you know a few things to avoid, what CAN you do to gain reviews? Google says it is still okay to ask for reviews, although you wouldn’t want to do so in masses. Local search expert Mike Blumenthal recommends businesses put an easy-to-implement review policy in place that generates reviews at multiple review sites. He offers a sample letter here to give you an idea of what information you might pass along to customers as a way of requesting reviews.
Providing the information when a customer makes a purchase would be safer than sending the note out to an email list. That way there is less of a chance of getting numerous reviews at the same time, which Google would consider suspicious reviewing behavior.
What should you do if you receive a bad review? That’s the topic of my next post, so check back soon to find out. If you want to talk about it, or would like help managing your online business reviews, contact Forthea Interactive.