Local reviews are powerful endorsements that not only serve as amplified word-of-mouth marketing but also help your locations rank higher in Google Search. In fact, your local reviews profile is a heavily weighted factor in Google’s local and organic search algorithms.
That means that your star ratings, review volume, recency, and sentiment of reviews each have an impact on your locations’ ability to appear in the moments that matter — even before those reviews potentially impact that person’s decision to convert.
How can you build a healthy, robust review profile for each of your locations? There’s an old misconception that Google will penalize you for asking for reviews, but that’s only applicable to Yelp.
Let’s have a look at what Google actually says about efforts for local review building.
Google’s Position on Local Review Building
“You can request reviews from customers through a short URL that’s specific to your business.” – Google
While that’s pretty straightforward, where does the idea that businesses cannot ask for reviews come from? As we mentioned, that is the policy at Yelp. And, you must be careful not to ask for reviews in a way that may appear as though there’s some monetary exchange for them.
In the same resource referenced above, Google also states that “Reviews are most valuable when they’re honest and unbiased. For example, business owners shouldn’t offer incentives to customers in exchange for reviews.”
Offering to give a discount on food purchases, sending free merchandise, or giving gifts in exchange for reviews falls into the category of incentivization.
Make Sure You’re Making Good Use of First-Party Reviews, Too
In a recent third-party survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults, we discovered that 49% typically read reviews before visiting a business nearby. What’s more, local consumers said they trust reviews on the brand’s website even more than those on third-party review platforms such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook.
Don’t hide your first-party reviews away on a Testimonials page. Display reviews throughout your website wherever visitors are engaging with content and considering your brand as a potential solution to their needs. For local businesses, that means embedding them in your Local Pages is a must. This puts compelling, external validation of how exceptional you are right in the line of sight when consumers are deciding whether to visit that particular location.
Using review schema markup can help you get rich results that display the star rating right on the listing in search, too. That’s why reviews schema is standard in our Local Pages.
It’s not enough to simply ask for reviews and watch them roll in, either. We found that 50% of local searchers feel more confident in a business when they see the brand actively responding to reviews. These best practices for multi-location brand review responses will help you formulate a strategy that works for your organization.
Tips for Encouraging Customers to Leave Reviews
Timeliness is key.
Follow up as quickly as possible after the customer engagement so the experience is fresh in their mind. This can help you earn more descriptive reviews, and also to catch customer service issues while there’s still time to turn the interaction around if needed.
Ask in a way that makes sense for your customers.
If you aren’t getting a great response with email follow-ups, try SMS (text) messaging. Studies show that 82% of people open every text they receive.
Make sure you’re giving people the cue to review at important touchpoints in the customer experience, too. Curbside pickup, transactional emails, in the store, and during appointment follow-ups are all examples of touchpoints where you could display a QR code, link to your choice of first-party or third-party review page, or otherwise make the ask.
Get them to the review page as efficiently as possible.
Make leaving a review a seamless experience for your customers. O’Reilly does a great job of this thanks to URL parameters put in place that drive users straight from their Local Pages to the “Leave a Review” panel in GMB, as seen below.
With the user signed into Google, clicking on Leave A Review > Google opens that location’s GMB review panel where the user can simply select their star rating and leave a comment.
Print your reviews QR code or the short URL for that location’s GMB on in-store signage, on receipts, in promotional emails — anywhere it makes sense to let customers know you’re interested in their feedback.
Want to learn more about smart local reviews strategy for enterprise brands?