Google Review Blues Got You Down?

Written by: leslieFMC   Austin, Texas

Posted on: September 10, 2012

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You’re not the only one with review-based woes. Most businesses have faced at least one of the following disheartening Google review scenarios:

Our customers love us, really, they tell us so, but none of them leave reviews online. How do I get them to do it?

Some petulant reviewer (or competitor) left a scathing review. What can I do?

I had a bunch of Google reviews, but now they’re gone. What gives?

Getting Google Reviews

Everyone has their own cockamamie schemes for getting online reviews, but in our experience there are a few strategies that work for just about every business. For now, let’s focus on those.

Call your best customers – Every business has a group of loyal customers they deal with on a regular basis. Get them on the phone and ask them to leave a review on Google. An online review is the modern day equivalent of a customer testimonial. Every one counts. Walk them through the process and follow up if they forget. Of course, don’t be pushy; you can always move on to the next customer.

Email customers on their Gmail addresses – Guess what, if someone sees your request for a Google review in their Gmail inbox, they’re one click away from leaving a review. Once they are in their Gmail account, they are already signed into Google, which makes reviewing your business easy and painless.

Put a ‘Review Us’ graphic on your website – You’d be surprised how many customers visit your site on a regular basis, especially if you have a blog or some other resource that might create added interest. While your visitors are there, why not gently remind them to leave a review? This tactic will probably yield the lowest overall success rate, but it also requires the least work.

Use physical reminders – Whether cards, window decals, bobble head dolls – whatever it is, put a scannable QR code on it that is linked to your Google+ Local business listing where customers can leave a review. Give ‘em out like candy… wait, that’s it, business candies with ‘leave a review’ QR codes! Mmm.

TIP: Get your business at least 10 Google reviews. 10 Google reviews will earn you a score using Google’s new 30-point rating scale. But don’t stop there!

Responding to Negative Reviews

In the spirit of fairness, Google allows managers of a business listing to respond publicly to reviews, both good and bad.

Before you start foaming at the mouth over a negative review, remember not to take it personally. The last thing you want to do as an official representative of your company is engage in a public war of words. It will make you and your business seem petty and unprofessional.

You may be thinking to yourself something along the lines of “yeah, but the reviewer called me a ‘nimrod.’” Believe it or not, that’s great news. If a reviewer makes a personal attack on you or violates any of Google’s other posting guidelines, you should immediately click ‘Flag as inappropriate’ under the review.

What if the reviewer’s account of the facts is all wrong? It’s okay to address obvious misinformation, but don’t engage the reviewer in a fact-checking debate. Customer Relations 101: offer solutions, not excuses.

Some part of you may even be thinking, “but, um, well…fine, maybe they have a point.” You’re not perfect, and maybe your disgruntled customer does have a legitimate complaint. Don’t go on the defensive. Sometimes all a perturbed customer needs to hear is that you have listened to their feedback and are taking the necessary steps to avoid a similar situation in the future. Accountability shows good character, and most rational people will be forgiving.

Another piece of advice is to show the positive reviews some love too instead of just focusing your attention on rectifying the negative ones. Leave short, pointed responses thanking the customers who left nice comments about your business. This will only endear them further and show potential customers that you build and maintain strong relationships with your existing customer base.

Missing Reviews

This is probably the most frustrating of all Google review dilemmas and seems to be happening more frequently… You were doing everything right. You earned the reviews. Your search standing reflected a wealth of customer feedback. Now a few, or several, or ALL of your Google reviews have up and disappeared (poof!) into thin air.

Even more irritating is the fact that Google doesn’t seem to have an answer or a solution for some of these situations. Worse yet, Google won’t say if or when they’re coming back. What Google will do is offer several possible explanations for some of the missing reviews:

All reviews from third-party sites, Citysearch and Yelp for example, have been removed – Now that Google has their own catalog of reviews, they have decided it’s no longer in their best interests to promote content from other sites.

Reviews that violate Google’s posting policy or appear spammy may be flagged and removed – This could affect old reviews if they were recently flagged or were reevaluated in the migration to Google+ Local.

Reviews on some Google databases have NOT yet been moved over – Google has acknowledged this issue but has not provided a timeline for when to expect every review to be restored. Their recommendation: hang tight.

Your reviews are tied to a duplicate listing of your business – If you suspect, or have found this to be the case, you can submit a support ticket with Google here.

A user or a bunch of users removed their reviews – This would normally be a rare and isolated occurrence, but during the transition to Google+ Local, Google prompted users to import reviews. Because of this it’s possible, in theory at least, that this reminded users of reviews they didn’t know or remember were there, and for some reason they changed their minds and decided to delete them. This scenario is the least likely for a business that has noticed a large chunk or all of their reviews missing.

Does it Matter?

Absolutely. Not only do the number of Google reviews affect your search engine standing, but they can also sway a user’s trust. A Local Consumer Review Study published in 2012 showed that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends. The same study also reveals that more people are using online reviews now than they were two years ago.

As much as it my hurt to hear, there is no use in harping on missing reviews. Once you have reported your issue to Google and cleared up any duplicate listing problems, there is nothing else you can do to revive old reviews. What you can do, however, is focus your efforts on getting new reviews.

Like all Internet Marketing strategies, getting customers to leave reviews should be an ongoing concern. Many people consider the recency of a review in evaluating its relevance and your business. Actively use the tips and methods recommended above in the “Getting Google Reviews” section, and experiment with other (legitimate) tactics for encouraging customers to review your business on Google. Reviews have a snowball effect: the more reviews you get, the more they keep rolling in, as do new business and loyal customers.

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