Did you know that 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses?
Reviews also account for about 15% of the criteria Google uses to determine your business’s ranking, according to the 2018 Local Rankings Report.
The sheer importance of reviews today is staggering. And for many small businesses, it’s intimidating, too.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are five easy and time-effective solutions to get more online reviews from customers and clients on a regular basis.
1. Use your Google short name to make writing a review easier.
As Google has increased the power of reviews, it’s also offered ways to making writing one easier.
The introduction of the short name in April 2019 – which provides a concise, branded link to the Google My Business profile — is one of those ways
Before this, if a customer wanted to review your business, they had to type your business name into Google, find your profile, select your profile (if on mobile) and then scroll down to post the review.
With the short name, customers can get there with one quick click.
So how do I find my Google business URL?
First, sign into the email account that manages your Google My Business profile on your desktop computer.
Second, click the Google Apps grid button in the upper right corner of the screen. Then scroll down and select the “My Business” icon.
Third, select “Info” on the left side of the page.
Finally, look for the @ symbol, and click the pencil to create one. Here is an example from Fresh Creative’s Google My Business profile.
2. Individually ask your most loyal customers.
Most businesses have at least a few tried-and-true customers.
These are the customers who never miss a sale at your store or come exclusively to you for a specific product or service.
That’s who you want to reach out to individually – not as part of a mass email marketing campaign — to ask for a review on Facebook, Google or another desired platform.
But remember, each request needs to be personal.
Take the time to write a customized message to each customer, showing that you know who they are and expressing your appreciation for their loyalty.
Then ask for a review, providing a direct link (such as your Google short name link) to the platform where you’re trying to get more online reviews.
What if we don’t have any “loyal” customers?
Chances are that’s not the case. But you may have to dig a little deeper to find yours. Here are a few things only tried-and-true customers are likely to do:
- Comment on social media posts with positive feedback
- Share social media posts
- Frequently open emails from your company
- Refer another customer to you
If you still can’t think of someone who fits that mold, it may be time to evaluate why customers aren’t sticking around.
3. Share clickable buttons or links in communication with customers.
An upfront ask can yield big results.
But sometimes a subtle approach can also work.
An eye-catching “Write A Review” button in your email signature can provide customers with a quick way for them to share feedback. Often this can be done easily within your email software by uploading an image and adding a hyperlink so the image itself becomes clickable.
If you’d like something less prominent, simply add a non-flashy statement like “Share Your Feedback” to your email signature, tagging it with a hyperlink to your desired review platform.
Find what works for your customers.
Whether you decide to use a button or a phrase with a hyperlink, don’t give up if the first emails don’t yield a lot of results.
Instead, test different phrases or wording, varying button designs and even different placements.
Most likely you’ll find that a certain phrase or call-to-action is more effective in getting people to click through and write a review.
Just be sure to use each new element for at least a few weeks so you’ll be able to tell which specific one is driving the new reviews.
4. Consider incentives – but be careful.
In today’s busy world, it’s tough to get people to slow down and share feedback.
That’s why incentives are often offered for writing a review.
Sometimes an intangible incentive, like featuring a review on your Facebook page can work.
But often businesses choose to provide a direct incentive. And that’s where it can get tricky.
Can we offer prizes, coupons or discounts for online reviews?
The majority of free review platforms discourage direct incentives such as prizes. Some even outright forbid it. Here’s where three of the biggest free online review platforms stand on this issue:
- Facebook: Any promotion must have official rules, offer terms and eligibility, a release of Facebook and acknowledgement that Facebook is not involved in the promotion. (Full policy here.)
- Google: Don’t offer money in exchange for reviews; don’t solicit reviews from customers in bulk. (Full policy here.)
- Yelp: Businesses should not ask for or solicit reviews on Yelp, as it leads to deceptively biased content. This includes asking friends, family or customers to write reviews, and offering incentives or freebies in exchange for reviews. Yelp will apply a search ranking penalty to affected Yelp business pages if they believe this is happening. (Full policy here.)
Based on these policies, Facebook is the “safest” place to incentivize reviews. However, any promotional element must be clearly spelled out and identified.
Google’s approach focuses largely on avoiding monetary payouts and huge influxes of reviews. In other words, you can make individual requests to clients. But if you send an email to your entire subscriber list, the reviews may get flagged or even removed. That’s what happened to this law firm.
The most restrictive free online platform is Yelp. Overall, we would not recommend soliciting customers for reviews on this platform. However, an indirect ask, such as a “We’re on Yelp” sticker on a restaurant website and menu, would likely be acceptable.
If Yelp is important for your business, here’s a helpful video about how one Denny’s in Santa Ana, California, was able to turn its presence on the platform around.
5. Respond to every online review.
A study from marketing platform BrightLocal showed that 97% of consumers are reading businesses’ responses to reviews.
This means what you say – or don’t say – matters.
And that’s especially true when it comes to negative reviews.
Why does responding to reviews matter so much?
Nobody wants to talk into a vacuum.
If customers see you aren’t responding to any type of feedback, they’re less likely to jump in with their take of your product or service.
However, if they see a well-thought-out response that addresses any concerns, expresses appreciation for feedback and possibly even incorporates customer suggestions into future offerings (like the Container Store did), they’re far more likely to jump in with their thoughts.
Because they’re being valued. They’re being heard.
Proven benefits of responding to reviews
Take a look at this 2018 study that TripAdvisor did on thousands of reviews across different hotel chains.
The deep dive revealed that once hotels started responding to reviews, they received 12% more reviews – and their ratings increased on average by 0.12 stars.
For Google reviews, that increase in reviews comes with an added visibility benefit. In the search engine’s advice on how to improve your local ranking, Google states that “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility.”
And for helpful responses to negative reviews, purchase intent can actually increase purchase intent, according to “The Conversation Index” from review management platform Bazaarvoice.
Online reviews fuel your business.
Most customers need to read at least 10 reviews before they feel ready to trust your business.
Are you able to build that trust?
Getting online reviews for your small business takes planning and effort. But it’s in reach if you practice these five easy and time-efficient solutions.
Ready to jump in to the world of reviews? Learn how to respond to angry customers and how to best utilize reviews and other user-generated content.