If you have been around the internet in the last few years, you know them: The small yellow stars — reviews. They are everywhere. Online shopping, blogs, movie theaters — and...search engines. In this article we want to have a look at how you can get more Google reviews in order to stand out as a business.
Why reviews on Google matter
Google reviews are the easiest way to give your business credibility. At some point, most of your customers will google your business. If you're a hotel, a potential guest might find you on Booking.com or Expedia, but they will still type your name in Google to see more reviews or find better offers. Even if you own a supermarket, people will use Google to look for your opening hours or to navigate to your location. In all of these cases, the world's biggest search engine will show your customers your business profile and your reviews.
The best part of this: a Google review is absolutely free. You don't need to pay for a membership or license fees. If done correctly, you can use your happy customers and turn them into brand advocates on one of the world's biggest platforms.
Additionally, reviews are becoming more and more important for search engine optimization, specifically local SEO. Overall, there are hundreds of ranking factors — some of them have more impact than others. Moz, a tool for SEO marketers, has compiled a comprehensive report on local search ranking factors, which concludes that so-called "Review Signals" (review quantity, velocity, diversity, etc.) contribute over 15% to local search.
Google themselves say "Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business' local ranking."
Set up a Google My Business profile
In order to receive Google reviews, it is best practice to claim and verify your business on Google My Business. This process is free and offers many options for managing your business listing. After you have verified your business, you can add opening hours, contact details, and more. These will show up in the organic Google results, as well as on Google Maps.
In order to set up your Google My Business Profile, just follow these simple steps:
- Head over to Google My Business and press the blue "Manage Now"-Button.
- You need to sign in to your Google account. If you don't have one yet, you have to create one for free.
- Fill in the multi-step form to create your business profile. Google will ask for your website and phone number, which will be displayed to potential customers looking for your business.
- Enter your postal address. This is important, since Google will send you a letter with a verification code, in order to make sure you are who you say you are.
- Enter your opening hours (if you have any).
- Provide a description of your business.
- And finally, add a photo.
Once you have created your Google My Business profile, you will be taken to your dashboard where you can add more details, such as your logo, a brand video, or cover photo. Search Engine Journal has put out a comprehensive guide on how to fully optimize your Google My Business page.
The only thing missing now is your verification letter. Google will send you that in a couple of days. Once you have received it, head back to your dashboard and verify your business.
Things you should avoid when collecting Google reviews
Now that you have set up and verified your Google My Business profile, I am sure you want to dive right in and start collecting reviews. Before we do that, I want to briefly look at a few things you should avoid when collecting Google reviews. Google has strict rules on how businesses can and cannot ask for reviews, and it is in your best interest to follow these guidelines. We have heard from businesses whose profiles were blocked because they broke rules on multiple occasions and getting your profile back is quite a hassle.
Avoid review gating
Review gating? What's that? Imagine the following:
You have stayed at a hotel for a few days with your family and enjoyed a holiday you were looking forward to. Everything was great, and you're reliving all the great memories on your way home. The next day, you receive an email from the hotel asking you whether you had a positive or a negative experience. Since you enjoyed your stay to the fullest, you reply to their email and tell them about all the fun activities you and your family enjoyed. A few minutes later, the manager of the hotel replies and asks for a review on Google.
Garry, on the other hand, stayed at the same hotel, yet the window in his room faced a concrete wall, he could smell the garbage cans outside in the alley, and when he complained at the reception, he had just received a $5 coupon for the bar. When Garry responds to the email asking whether he had a positive or negative experience, the hotel manager does not ask him for a Google review.
That practice is something called review gating.
Naturally, as a business owner, you can fully understand why this hotel manager would not want to send a direct request for a review to Garry. After all, your business has a five star rating and a negative review could seriously impact that. The problem is: review gating is against the Google My Business guidelines.
If Google catches you, they will remove all reviews in question. All your hard work will be out of the window, so just don't do it.
Never ever buy a Google review
I think by now, this should be rather clear: never ever buy a review — on any platform. It might be intriguing to get 500 reviews for a few hundred $, but trust me, it is plain obvious to most customers that these reviews are fake.
Even worse: Google has become pretty good at spotting these fake reviews, since they do not fit your usual review pattern. Most of them come from regions you usually don't have customers from, and they all sound somewhat the same.
In Google's Prohibited and Restricted Content guide, "spam and fake content" is the first point they mention. This should give you a good indication of how serious Google is about bought reviews.
Do not incentivize reviews
But what if you don't buy reviews from third-party websites? What if you just incentivize your real customers to write reviews?
Well, in the US — and many other countries, in fact — this is an easy question to answer: "It's unwise to incentivize positive skewed reviews", the Federal Trade Commission says. Any incentive needs to be declared — similarly to the way influencers need to declare that certain posts are sponsored by brands.
If that doesn't sell you, let's ask Google. "[...] business owners shouldn't offer incentives to customers in exchange for reviews". I would say that is more than clear.
How to get reviews on Google quickly
Now that we sorted out what you should avoid when collecting Google reviews, let's have a look at some strategies that will help you start.
Create a direct link for your business
First, you want to create a direct link that your customers can use to review your business on Google. This way you don't have to send them long instructions on how to find your Google profile.
- Sign in to Google My Business.
- Head over to your dashboard.
- In the middle of the page, you will find a card that says "Get more reviews". Press the button there.
- You can then copy a short direct link that you can share with your customers.
Find your most loyal customers.
Now that you have your link set up, it is time to identify people that would take the time to review your business. Many business owners tend to go to their families and friends, and while this will generally work, it violates Google's guidelines, once again. Google wants reviews from real customers that can share impressions about your products, services, and business.
Therefore, think about your customer base. If you do not interact with your customers directly, ask your frontline staff to join you for this exercise. This can tremendously help you in running and marketing your business.
Questions you can ask yourself to find your loyal customers
- Which customers have bought more than one product or service from you?
- Which customers regularly interact with your brand on social media?
- Who does your frontline staff think of, when you ask them to think of a loyal customer?
Now we have a direct link to review your business on Google, and we have identified loyal customers. Now, it is time to ask them for a review.
Draft an email ask them directly. Don't beat around the bush. You want your customers to share their honest opinion and experience about you and your business.
In our experience, this works best if you sign it with a real name rather than your business name. Smaller companies and start-ups can build great client relationships by having their founder or CEO sign this email. Obviously, you don't have to send it from your personal email address (e.g. email@example.com). A generic team email works perfectly fine as well.
Example email to ask for reviews
Here is an example email you can use to ask for reviews on Google.
Subject: 30 seconds favor from BUSINESS NAME — how has your experience been?
Dear CUSTOMER NAME,
I am writing to you today, asking if you could leave a review on Google for BUSINESS NAME: LINK
Reviews help small businesses like us to spread the word about the work we do. We have just set up a business profile on Google, so customers like yourself can share their experience and thoughts about our products and services.
I have prepared a direct link for you, so this shouldn't take more than a few seconds: LINK
Thank you in advance for taking the time — I really appreciate it!
How to get more Google reviews
Hopefully, reaching out to your existing customer base has helped you with receiving your first Google reviews. Now that we have sorted out how to get reviews on Google, I want to show you some methods you can use to get even more.
Collecting reviews is not a one-time-job, it's a continuous effort. Especially for service-based businesses or the hospitality industry, reputation management and review collection should be an essential part of their marketing strategy.
Include a link in your email signature
The easiest way to keep reviews coming is by including a link in your email signature. There are multiple ways you can do this. Some companies put a proper star rating in their email signatures, that links directly to their Google profile. Others, like Sixt in Germany, have links to their branches, so your review is even more relevant.
Ask customers after they have done business with you in person
If customers visit your business in person, this is a great touchpoint where you can ask them for a review. At a hotel in Cyprus, the receptionist asked me during check-out if I would mind leaving a review on Google for them. Since I had a great time there, I didn't mind, of course.
She then went one step further and asked if she could email me the link, so it's ready in my inbox when I sit down at the airport to wait for my flight. Some customers might find that pushy, but it fits the situation. She knew I'd go to the airport and will have to wait there for quite some time. At the airport, I sat down at the gate, opened my phone, and left the review.
After an offline interaction, just ask. You will be surprised at how many reviews you will collect this way.
Automate your review process online
The last time you ordered something online, you might have received an email a few days later, asking you to leave a review for that business. Of course, this email has been sent automatically.
From our experience here at KODA, such an automated email is one of the most valuable assets when collecting reviews — no matter the platform. We have seen this work for many brands on Google as well as other review platforms, such as Trustpilot.
For the automation to work, think of the following:
- Your review invitation should arrive in your customer's inbox AFTER they have used your product or service. If you send products to your customers by mail, keep the transit time in mind. If you are a hotel, the review email should arrive after your guests have checked out.
- How complicated is your product? If a customer needs a few days to test it or get used to it, don't send an email one day after the customer has received it.
- Are there any other constraints that would prevent a customer from leaving a high-quality review?
The technical set up of an automation like this depends on the software you use. If your business has an online store running on Shopify, you could use a plugin like ReviewNudge. For online stores running on WooCommerce, you could use AutomateWoo.
If your set-up is a bit more complicated, have a look at Zapier. Zapier is a no-code service that allows you to connect different online tools with the click of a button. For example, if you're using Webflow as an e-commerce tool and Sendinblue for your email newsletter, you can automate a simple review invitation with this Zap (a Zap is an automated workflow in the world of Zapier).
Sounds too complicated? Drop us a quick message! We can have a look at your technical set up and let you know what options you have.
Create review cards for offline interactions
Your business is based offline? No problem! Inviting your customers to leave a review automatically will probably not be possible, but you have something better up your sleeve: a real-world interaction with your customer.
If you have a store that people can visit, put some simple review cards next to the check-out. Even better: hand one to your customers after they have paid. Don't just put them in their shopping bag. Actively hand them the card and ask them to leave a review.
The review cards can be printed as normal business cards, which makes them incredibly affordable.
Make review management a habit
We have set up a Google My Business profile for you, received some reviews, and found ways to increase the number of ratings. But where do we go from here?
As online reviews become more and more important for both online and offline businesses, we want to encourage you to make review management a habit and part of your routine. In order to keep your star rating as high as possible, review your ratings on a regular basis. If you're part of a bigger organization, make sure that your team knows who is responsible for this.
Alternatively, some companies we have worked with have created dedicated channels in their internal communications tools (for example, Slack) that automatically share customer reviews with the entire team (this is mostly done through Zapier). This way, Google reviews and other online ratings stay on top of everybody's mind, and they can transparently see every positive and negative review.
Respond to all reviews
A big part of your review management should be responding to all reviews. Yes, all of them. This helps you solidify your presence and shows potential customers that you actively listen to what people have to say about your brand online. Studies have also shown that responding to reviews will ultimately result in better ratings for your business.
How to respond to positive reviews
Responding to positive reviews has one clear goal: you want these customers to come back and make another purchase. Address them by their name (if possible), thank them for their review, and acknowledge any pain points they have raised.
Here is an example you can use:
Hey Ellie! Thank you for your kind words, we are glad you enjoyed your stay at the Oak Inn. Looking forward to welcoming you back soon!
— YOUR FIRST NAME
How to respond to negative reviews
When customers leave bad reviews on Google, they generally have one thing in common: they want to be heard and share their frustration. A negative review always feels a bit like a defeat. In business, you will never satisfy 100% of your customers, so don't take it personally. When responding to a negative review, stay objective and acknowledge your customer's pain points.
Next, you apologize. Yes, sometimes that might not feel right. We are all proud of what our business does. However, there is no point in arguing. I have worked in customer service for over five years and have never seen a case where a customer changed their mind, because a business tried to argue with them when replying to a review.
You can, of course, explain why the experience turned out the way it did. Maybe you were short-staffed, maybe one of your suppliers didn't deliver certain goods in time. However, there is a thin line between making an excuse and explaining why something happen, so be careful with that.
Last, but not least, offer a solution, if the situation allows for it. If your business has failed the customer in an area that can be fixed, go ahead and make it right. Offer the customer a discount, a free service, or a refund, if possible.
Here is an example you can use:
Hey Ellie! We are truly sorry your visit at the Oak Inn didn't meet your expectations, especially when it came to the culinary experience. We have investigated the issues you have pointed out and found that our kitchen was short-staffed on the particular evening in question. On behalf of the entire team, I want to apologize for this. This shouldn't have happened. Please give us a call on +1 234 567 890, so we can make it up to you.
— YOUR FIRST NAME
Now that you are equipped with all of these tips and tricks, I want to encourage you to just start. Review and reputation management will always be an ongoing topic — however, the earlier you start, the sooner you will be able to harvest its fruits.