Reading internet reviews before making a purchase has become an integral part of consumer research. In 2020, 87% of people read local businesses’ online reviews before making a buying decision. That statistic is up from 81% in 2019, which shows tremendous growth in the online review space.
Many websites give people access to testimonials about products and services they want to buy, but Google is the most popular. Sixty-three percent of consumers say they’ve read Google reviews in the past year. In fact, Google beat out other tech giants like Facebook, Yelp and Tripadvisor as the leader in online reviews.
Wrapping your brain about what, exactly, Google reviews mean, how they impact your business and what you can do to keep them on the positive side is a dizzying prospect. But to make this marketing tool (yes, Google My Business reviews are marketing tools!) work for you, you need to understand how they work.
What is a Google review?
A Google review is essentially an online comment card. Any person can look up a business on Google, view the company’s Google My Business listing and add a comment about the business by simply clicking the blue “Write a Review” button.
When writing a Google review, users assign a star rating (one out of five) to the business and add written comments. Once their review is posted, everyone who finds the company on Google can see the review.
Most of these people are, or at least should be, happy patrons who want others to know about their excellent experience. But some leave negative Google My Business reviews to draw attention to a bad experience publicly. Negative reviews are allowed as long as they don’t violate Google’s policy on prohibited and restricted content.
Why do you need Google My Business reviews?
Every day, millions of people search for businesses on Google. Cultivating positive Google ratings and reviews while addressing and defusing negative ones makes a significant impact. Online reviews present a situation where the benefits are many, and the risks are few!
Google review benefit #1: SEO boost
A high number of positive reviews gives a business a major SEO boost. Google considers both the quality and amount of reviews in its algorithm, so keeping your service level high to get good reviews and encouraging patrons to write them will boost your SEO.
Google review benefit #2: Increase credibility
People trust online reviews. Three out of four consumers say they believe online reviews’ just as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. When your business is well-reviewed on Google My Business, people notice and respond.
Google review benefit #3: Improve conversion rates
The higher your star rating on Google, the better conversion you’ll enjoy. According to a recent study, more than 90% of respondents said they’re more likely to use a business with positive reviews than one with negative reviews. Less than half of consumers (48%) said they would even consider patronizing a business with fewer than four stars.
How do you get more Google My Business reviews?
Start by claiming your business on Google. Update your listing to accurately reflect your contact information, hours and other vital details customers should know about your business. And don’t forget to add images! Google My Business listings with photos get 35% more click-throughs than listings without pictures.
Once your listing’s in good shape, start soliciting Google reviews. You can do this by adding signage to your front door or cash wrap area, including a review widget on your website or even directly asking customers to write a review. Keep in mind about 5 to 10% of your customers will write a review.
How do you respond to Google reviews?
No matter if a Google review is negative or positive, one in five consumers say they expect to hear back from the business after writing a review. If the review was positive, thank the reviewer for their kind words and invite them back to your business. When responding, stay gracious and avoid being boastful.
Dealing with negative reviews is a bit more challenging. You’ll probably feel upset after reading unfavorable comments, but remain calm, polite and empathetic. Begin your response with an apology, even if you disagree with the reviewer’s version of events. Offer solutions to make the situation right and follow through on those promises.
After your initial response, try to take the conversation to a private medium like email or phone. You don’t need the whole world watching the back-and-forth with a disgruntled customer.
Once their grievance is resolved, the reviewer just might be willing to edit or (better yet) delete their Google My Business review.
Understanding how to use Google reviews to your benefit is more critical now than ever. Without the proper oversight, you can miss out on the benefits of this tool or allow a negative reputation to spiral out of control.