How to Make and Maintain an Incredible Customer Review Profile
- Avoid customers leaving you reviews while on your business WiFi - Google can tell and will think it's you.
- People are naturally skeptical of a review profile with thousands of reviews if competitors only have hundreds.
- You can flag reviews to Google, but they will only search for offensive terms, not authenticity.
Those familiar with local search ranking factors will need no convincing of just how important review signals are for wider search visibility.
Search aside, online reviews are becoming more important to consumers year-on-year. The BrightLocal 2019 Local Consumer Review Survey was definitive in its findings;
- 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews
- The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business
- Only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than 4 stars
- The average consumer spends 13 minutes and 45 seconds reading reviews before making a decision
- Among consumers that read reviews, 97% read businesses’ responses to reviews
Your most valuable marketing asset
The power of reviews is nothing new. Word-of-mouth has long been the most successful form of marketing. The challenge today is that those spoken neighbor-to-neighbor recommendations are now digital snippets accessible to all and available online forever. Making and maintaining a fantastic business review profile is not solely about reputation management. It isn’t just a PR exercise, though that plays its part.
A strong review profile is one of your most valuable marketing assets. It’s a conversion optimization tool. A trust signal. A mode of customer acquisition. And of course, a crucial ranking signal.
Increase your Google Reviews
Building an incredible customer review profile starts with Google. A Google My Business review (or at least the average star rating) is one of the first things consumers will see when they conduct a search on Google or Google Maps, so naturally it’s also the foundation of a positive review profile.
Our own research determined that the majority of consumers will leave an online review if asked to do so. You can offer an incentive such as a discount on a subsequent purchase for a review but common sense, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Endorsement Guides and Google’s own policing of incentivized reviews should be your yardsticks for what is and isn’t ethical.
For ease of reference, Google’s policy states, “Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.”
Develop industry-specific review profiles
Once your framework for increasing Google reviews is in place, move onto industry-specific review sites. If you’re in the travel industry, sites like TripAdvisor are ideal. If you’re in interior design, Houzz could well be your main aim. There are thousands of niche review sites covering most sectors. Too many to choose from? Begin with the most popular and work from there. Our giant list of Niche Review Sites may well come in handy, too.
Don’t neglect social media reviews
Social media—Facebook in particular—is another crucial building block in your mission to create an incredible review profile. If you haven’t actively pursued reviews via Facebook previously, simply go to settings, and check that the Show Reviews option is switched on.
After Facebook comes a host of directory sites like Yelp, Bing and Yahoo!. These are critical for local search so should form part of a well-rounded profile.
Don’t fall into techie traps
Building a stellar review profile organically and effectively is not without its pitfalls.
Firstly, never collect reviews on your site using an API. Google’s algorithms are able to detect if most of your reviews are coming from the same IP address. Obviously this can rouse suspicion – even if each review is completely authentic.
Likewise, avoid asking people to review your business while they’re on the premises, as they might be connected to your Wi-Fi. If they are, Google will see the same IP on the review and the business; it can appear as though you’re simply leaving reviews for yourself, even if that’s not the case.
Instead, set up a reviews page on your website which directs customers to the relevant review platform. This dedicated review page can also be set up to show some of your best reviews, as well as things like TrustPilot ratings and any other awards or testimonials you might want to showcase.
Don’t be tempted to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’
One of the most important things you can do to build a trustworthy customer review profile is to prioritize authenticity as much as possible. To the uninitiated, there’s little harm in buying a few fake reviews to get the ball rolling. However, in practice, just one fake review picked up by Google can result in your whole business being removed from the web’s most valuable directory. Getting reviews online is not a quick fix. It’s a long process and there are no shortcuts.
It’s possible to do ‘too good a job’ of generating reviews
Slow and steady really does win the race! Having a colossal volume of reviews can look inauthentic, especially if you’re a small local business. People are naturally suspicious of businesses with thousands of reviews, especially when your competitors only have 100 or so.
When questioned for our Local Consumer Review Survey, 73% of consumers were of the opinion that reviews older than three months were no longer worth taking into consideration when choosing a local business. Focusing on obtaining a smaller number of reviews consistently is not just a more sustainable approach, it’s also the more strategic play for customer acquisition.
Following on from authenticity, it’s important to focus on high-quality reviews. Be on the lookout for Google ‘Local Guides’ – these are individuals who review a lot of businesses on Google and their reviews carry a lot of weight, both with Google and with other users.
Embed review acquisition and management at every stage of your operational process
Developing a strong review profile is rarely a job for one. Your wider team can also make a significant contribution to the process, provided that they’re sufficiently trained on your firm’s reputation management policy beforehand.
Identify opportunities where reviews would fit naturally into your day-to-day operations. For example, you could train sales associates in making after-sales pitches for reviews to encourage customers to share their experiences of doing business with you (but remember the aforementioned no-WiFi rule).
You may also consider offering bonuses to employees that get great feedback. It’s discouraged to incentivize the actual reviews with cash offers or free products, but there’s nothing wrong with incentivizing your employees to solicit feedback as part of wider customer service actions.
Blaise Lucey, Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Criteo suggests adapting the way you request reviews to your particular product in a Marketing Land article. He advises, “Make reviews a cornerstone of your product onboarding experience. If you sell a physical product, put in a printed reminder to review the product in the packaging.
“If you provide a service, add on a prompt to review to any follow-up communications. Apps often use in-app notifications based on behavior to target people who keep coming back.
“Whatever you do, think about how you can contact customers and ask for reviews. If you have a loyalty program, ask for reviews from those customers in particular.”
Realistically, reviews need to be a consistent part of your strategy. If you have a sudden influx of reviews one week and then nothing for three weeks after that, it can look strange to visitors and to Google. If you’re getting a handful of reviews each week however, it shows that you’re creating steady streams of satisfied customers that feel moved to share their thoughts. It’s important to make sure you have recent reviews as well as older reviews—keep them coming in organically as much as you can.