Thomas Ballantyne is currently the Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating. His experience in local search began in 2001 when local SEO was essentially long tail SEO. Thomas started his Bulwark career by building Bulwark’s first website, with dreams of ranking first for “pest control”. However, with the introduction of Google maps into Universal search in 2007, he promptly jumped into local search. By 2008, Bulwark had developed a review strategy that drove over 600 online reviews into Google that year.

Bulwark Exterminating has now grown to be the 33rd largest pest control company in the United States. From Las Vegas to their newest locations in Chattanooga and Knoxville TN, Bulwark covers 14 metro areas. To date, Thomas has seen Bulwark employees earn over 4,000 online reviews. He regularly speaks about local search and online reviews at SMX, Pubcon, and Search Exchange.

Earning reviews – when, why, and how?

At this point, I should point out that the basics for earning reviews are fairly simple. But let’s just recap:

  • Do good work.
  • Ask for a review.
  • Make the review steps simple.

Of course, there could be much more to this process. Simply asking for a review may not get you the results you want. In my experience the when, the why, the how, and the way that a review is asked for, all make a big difference.

When – Timing is everything

Perfectly timed review request
time your request to perfection

The acts of spontaneity that we witness in a romance flick when everything seems to be going crazy in one moment, and then suddenly the lead actor drops to a knee to profess his love to an attractive women… that moment, those events… it’s all timed perfectly.

A well timed request can work wonders, and this is particularly important to consider for your review strategy. Time a review request right after a genuine customer smile, and try building up to that genuine customer smile by doing something that surprises them.

Going the extra mile for a customer is a sure fire way to get that smile! Consider the following as an example from my own experience:

“While I was treating for ants in the front yard I noticed your tire was flat, can I help you change that?”

While I am not exactly sure how the conversation went down, a Bulwark Exterminating tech actually changed a tire and got an InsiderPages review about it!

 It’s easy to ask for a review and get 5 Stars if a customer is smiling.

Similarly, for those dentist offices that just drugged up a root canal customer, the best time to ask for a review probably isn’t while they are falling asleep in the wheelchair as you wheel them out of the office. In this example, a follow up phone call to make sure the customer is doing well and has completely healed is a much better time to ask for a review.

Time the request so that it hits just at the right moment, and build up to that moment in a similar way that savvy movie star romantics build up to their marriage proposal – surprise them. Be genuine. Make them smile.

Not that every review must be as well orchestrated as a blockbuster movie, but review results are significantly better when the request is timed appropriately.

Why – Make it personal, put a face to the review

People in general are willing to help out other people. People are even more willing to help out those that they consider friends. In a similar vein, asking for a customer review really is about putting a face to the relationship and asking a favor – one to one – as a friend.

People in general, are willing to help out other people

For pest control technicians this comes easy, as regular visits makes their faces more familiar to their customers. Good exterminators have a good relationship with their customers.

However this doesn’t just apply to face to face transactions. Even a phone rep can build rapport with a first time customer. The key to success is ensuring that the employee and the customer know the review is for the employee personally.

Reviews to business directoriesAs an example, I think Verizon is a good company – but I don’t have a personal relationship with them. However, the guy that just set-up my wife’s hard-to-figure-out-email on her new smartphone, I owe him one, and I’d give him a review in a heart beat.

All he would have to do is ask me to, and then point me in the right direction.

So try to put the review in the context of a relationship. Why should I give Verizon a review? Because Jim at Verizon asked me to help his store out with an online review. I know Jim. Jim has a face. Jim is not a company to me, he is a person, he’s familiar and he’s a friend.

How – Other ways of requesting reviews:


Even an online shopping cart site can cuddle reviews by building a relationship. I spent some time working on, an online do-it-yourself pest control shop. I shocked a large number of customers by simply picking up the phone and calling them after they’d received their orders and had time to test them out. They were so surprised, and so very pleased that they all responded positively to my review request. Yes, online shopping carts can get reviews too.


If you are a struggling local business, and feel phone calls are too difficult and too costly, then an email can get you reviews as well. Of course, you will have to accept that a lower rating and fewer reviews will come from this channel, but emails do work really well when an individual preps it with a face to face, or telephone conversation. Emails by themselves are less effective, but when combined with face-to-face or telephone contact it’s still something worth considering.

The way – Encourage employee buy-in

What if every employee in your company believed that their work and performance were under written review from today? Would your employee’s act differently?  What if your employee wages were tied to those reviews?

Employees performance on reviews
Would employees act differently if performance was judged on reviews?

Waiters and waitresses put their service to open test by taking less than minimum hourly wages and working for a tip. Each and every table is a real time review, reflected respectively in monetary compensation of services rendered.

Having started our request for online reviews back in 2007, Bulwark employees all understand the real business impact of online reviews. Our technicians know and believe that getting themselves online reviews will not only increase their customer base but ultimately make them more money.

Customer satisfaction scores, customer retention stats, and other bonuses are impacted by our technicians getting positive reviews. If our technician wins, our little pest control company wins – and our customers win because overall performance quality increases as our staff strive for better reviews of their services each and every day.

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