Chapter 4: How to Get Reviews
Let’s get down to business! This section explains how to get reviews and develop a consistent review outreach strategy.
What matters in online reviews?
Before you begin your review outreach, it’s important to understand what you should be looking for in online reviews. Knowing what matters to the modern-day consumer will help inform your review strategy and provide some context when it comes to asking for customer reviews.
In recent years, consumers have become increasingly demanding in terms of what they look for in a review. In this section, we’ll look at the four key factors of online reviews.
As you’d expect, a business’s average star rating is important. In fact, average star rating is the most important factor, according to consumers.
Plus, on most review sites, star rating will be the first thing a searcher sees, so it’s easy to imagine consumers making decisions entirely based on this metric.
Fake reviews continue to grow, and so it’s more important than ever that businesses do what they can to ensure that consumers trust the reviews they are reading.
For YMYL businesses like lawyers, showing reviews are legitimate is even more important.
What is a YMYL business? YMYL is an SEO term that stands for ‘Your Money Your Life’. YMYL businesses refer to high-stakes industries such as law, medical, and financial. Content from YMYL businesses can directly impact a consumer’s health, wellbeing, finances, or safety, so Google places more stringent guidelines on them.
Reviews influence buying decisions and, as we’ve discussed, legitimacy is going to be even more important in some industries than others. We’ll share some tips on highlighting the legitimacy of reviews later on.
According to consumers who have left reviews, the third most important factor is recency: when were your most recent reviews left?
80% of consumers consider recency to be important, and review sites are taking notice.
For example, Google My Business shows ‘NEW’ labels next to reviews that have been left within the last four weeks, so it’s even more clear to searchers how active or inactive your business is, and how reliable the reviews are.
As you’d expect, searchers pay attention to how positive or negative a review is. Although you’d expect the star rating to do most of the talking, tone and sentiment can be distinct from this.
In Google My Business review summaries, searchers are shown a star rating and sentence from the reviewer, with searched keywords in bold, to contextualize this.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s touch on quantity. As you might expect, consumers view quantity of reviews as a key factor in the decision-making process, with 79% of consumers saying they view them as important.
Along with having good quality reviews, it’s important to have lots of them. Once more, this emphasizes why it’s so vital to have an ongoing review strategy in place. Having a handful of five-star reviews just isn’t going to cut it, sadly!
Other review factors worth paying attention to include:
- Review responses
- Diversity (having reviews on multiple sites)
- Length and detail
- Inclusion of photos
If you adopt the tactics put forward in this guide, you’ll learn to cover all these bases.
Once you’ve done so, prepare to woo and wow your customers with your 5-star review profile filled with glowing customer feedback! Plus, let’s not ignore how good it’ll feel to see that brilliant feedback in one place: it’s a great motivator for staff along with everything else.
Now that you know the importance of reviews and where to get them, we can move on to the how of it all.
The golden rule when it comes to getting more reviews? Ask!
In this chapter, we’ll discuss the best ways to ask for reviews, including when to ask and what channels to target.
When to ask for reviews
When performing review outreach, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right time to strike. Remember, you’re really asking your customers to do you a favor, so it’s important to make the process as seamless for them as possible.
So, when is the best time to ask for a review? If at all possible, the best time to ask is when your customer has just received great service or a great experience.
We’re not suggesting that you participate in review gating, but if you feel confident that you or a team member has just delivered exceptional service, whether online or in-store, then now is the time to strike.
For example, if you’ve assisted a customer with a query, you might ask them to consider sharing a review of their experience.
Here’s an example of what you could say in this instance:
“We’re glad to have been able to help you with your purchase today. If you were happy with our service, please consider taking a few moments to leave us a review on Google.”
If you’re communicating with a customer online, you can include a link to the review site of choice.
We’ll talk about reputation management tools later, but some platforms (like BrightLocal’s Reputation Manager) will automate this process for you.
How to use email to ask for reviews
One way local businesses can start getting more reviews is through email requests.
The benefits of using email to get reviews
Using email to send review requests is popular for a few reasons:
- It’s quick – sending an email can take mere moments, especially if you go down the plain-text route and have an email template at the ready
- It’s accessible – you don’t have to be a global brand to have access to the most basic form of email, which makes it an accessible option for businesses of any size
- It’s got great reach – more than 90% of US citizens use email, so chances are your customers have it, too
- It works! – open rates for emails average at around 20%, and sometimes higher depending on the industry!
How to send review requests through email
First things first, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got access to your customer email addresses, so you can contact them. If you don’t already have access to these email addresses, think about how you can incorporate an address-gathering step into the process.
Top tip: Whenever you’re working with customer data like email addresses, you need to make sure you’re adhering to privacy laws – for example, GDPR in the UK – and have permission to contact your customers.
Once you know that you can contact your customers via email, you’ll need to create some email templates to work with.
We suggest starting with a generic outreach email, like so:
Hi <First Name>,
This is <Your Name>, <Your Job Title> at <Your Business Name>.
You recently visited us at <Business Location>. Thanks for choosing us — I hope you got everything you wanted out of your experience.
Your feedback is valuable to us, so whether you had a fantastic or less-than-stellar experience, we’d really like to hear about it.
Please consider taking a moment to leave your feedback on <Your Chosen Review Site>.
Of course, you can and should adjust this template to suit your brand’s tone and the customers’ experience. For example, if you’re reaching out to a customer that visited your store a while ago, you might want to address that.
How to use SMS to get reviews
Depending on your business type and industry, SMS might be a better fit for you, or something you choose to use alongside email.
The benefits of using SMS to get reviews
Sending review requests via SMS text can be a great option for those looking to reach their customers more directly. For example, service-area businesses like plumbers or contractors that often communicate by phone might find this a more natural approach.
Like email, SMS is a fairly low-maintenance approach, and it has great reach. The smartphone market in the US is one of the world’s largest – presently more than 80% of the population use a smartphone. That means it’s very likely that your customers will be reachable on this channel.
SMS has a higher open rate than email, too, so if used correctly, it can be even more effective.
How to send review requests through SMS
To reach out to customers for reviews via SMS, you’ll need to collect their phone numbers. Again, it’s really important to make sure you have a formal process for this, and that you’re getting your customers’ consent to send SMSes.
For many businesses that use SMS to communicate with customers, you’ll already have access to these numbers. Otherwise, a few methods to begin collecting customer phone numbers include:
- Signups: Do you collect customer feedback on your site? Newsletter signups, for example? If it’s natural to do so, add an optional field for visitors to share their phone numbers, too.
- Purchases: If you offer services or products online, this is a great place to ask customers to share their phone numbers. Equally, in person, you can request customers share their contact details when purchasing. Just remember, as always, to stick to any privacy guidelines like GDPR and obtain consent.
- Competitions: Running competitions through email or social marketing not only builds excitement, but it also provides the opportunity to capture customer info like phone numbers.
- In-store promotions: If you’re running in-store or in-person offers and promos, you can use this opportunity to collect your customers’ contact information. For example, you could ask visitors to sign up for SMS alerts to get 10% off in-store. Again, make sure your customers know how you’re going to use their data, first!
Once you’ve got your customer contacts, you can begin sending review requests by text, either using a tool or manually.
Much like email, what you’ll need here is a template to work with. Unlike email, though, you’ve got a lot less space to work with: SMSes must be no longer than 160 characters, including the review link URL.
Here’s a suggestion of copy to use in your text request:
Hi <First Name>,
Thanks for visiting <Business Name>. We’d love to know how we did: <Review Link>.
If you’re working with a tool like BrightLocal, you’ll be able to send review requests in bulk, and manage unsubscription requests automatically with commands like ‘STOP’.
Finally, let’s look at the most traditional approach of them all. Many local businesses will opt to incorporate this method into their review strategy.
For both brick-and-mortar businesses and service-area businesses, asking for reviews in person can be a great, simple way to get started.
The benefits of asking for reviews in person
Speaking to your customers face-to-face is still one of the best ways to get more reviews. We don’t have any fancy stats about open or engagement rates to share here, but it’s a tried and true method that we know works.
Top tip: I’d recommend an omnichannel approach in order to best boost your chances of getting a regular stream of positive reviews. If possible, use a mix of email, SMS, in-store, and in-person tactics to suit different types of customers.
Asking for reviews in person can be one of the simplest ways to get started, as you don’t need to get customer consent for data, email templates, or short links.
If you frequently interact with customers and a friendly team is one of your assets, asking for reviews in-store or at the point of service is easy and effective.
How to ask for reviews in person
There are several ways to ask customers for reviews in person or in-store, including:
- Verbally at the point of sale or service
- Leaving a Bitly or short link on loyalty cards or business cards
- Including a QR code on receipts
- Putting up posters with QR codes or short links on
- Using an in-store tablet so customers can review you immediately
However you choose to ask, remember to do it after your customer has had a positive experience, and don’t be afraid to follow up using email or SMS afterwards.
More review tips
We’ve discussed the main three channels to ask for reviews, but there are some other tips that can help increase your chances.
Leave a link in your email signature
If you’re someone who’s regularly getting in touch with customers, you might want to include links to your review sites in your email signature.
This provides anyone you contact via email with the opportunity to leave a review on your business. It may not result in hundreds of new reviews, but it’s a good way to add a boost to your ongoing review generation strategy.
Use Google’s free marketing kit
This is one of the best resources out there for local businesses with physical brick-and-mortar locations.
All for free, Google offers stickers, posters, and social posts to help you promote existing reviews and encourage customers to leave new ones.
How to get good reviews
If you’re asking for reviews, you’re halfway towards building out a review profile to be proud of. There are some tips we can share to help you get better quality reviews, though.
To make sure you’re ticking those review factor boxes of sentiment, quality, and recency, these are some tactics we’d recommend:
Provide prompts and questions
One way to ensure the reviews you’re getting have the length, detail, and sense of legitimacy you need is to provide prompts and questions to customers.
You don’t want to put words in your customers’ mouths, but asking questions can help to jog their memory and create more helpful reviews for searchers.
For example, a restaurant might ask, “What was your favorite menu item?” If a customer can include this in their review it’s going to create a sense of authenticity and will be helpful to searchers when it comes to making their decision.
Here are some ideas of questions to include in your review requests:
- Which store did you visit today?
- What was your favorite service/product we offered?
- Did any of our team members help you in-store?
- Would you recommend us to a friend?
- What can we do better?
When performing review outreach, it’s good to set expectations with your customers. By this, I mean you should let your customers know how much of their time you’re asking for.
If you’re getting reviews on Google, your customer likely needs to spend little more than a couple of minutes of their time. Some industry review sites, however, will require much more detail.
For example, look at what Tripadvisor asks for when leaving a review…
Now let’s compare that lengthy process with Google’s…
To ensure you can set accurate expectations, go through the review process yourself to know what you’re asking. By doing this, you’re likely to increase your chances of getting a review and decrease the chances of customers giving up part-way through their review submission.