Google reviews are easy to influence and can impact your local search rankings. They also matter significantly more than you might think.
Building a strong review strategy is a crucial part of your SEO efforts that you might be overlooking.
Invest time and energy in acquiring new reviews and retaining existing ones to enhance your local SEO. Maintaining a competitive number of reviews is essential in your market.
The kind of Google reviews you want
Any review a business gets is beneficial, but some reviews can outweigh others for SEO purposes.
You always want to make sure customers leave reviews with a lot of text where they are talking about the services they received and their experiences.
They should mention specifics about their service like:
- The problem they were having.
- The experience they had with your team in terms of communication.
- Results of the service. (Was their problem solved?)
- Name of the employee(s) they worked with.
- Photos of the job.
Keywords in reviews are not a ranking factor.
But review justifications are eligible to show up in search results and can provide a nice trust factor when someone searches for a specific service.
Reviews with photos tend to stick at the top longer
Incorporating visuals like photos and videos with your Google reviews can amplify their impact significantly.
Visual content adds authenticity and credibility to the reviews. We have also noticed that these reviews tend to stay at the top much longer than reviews without photos.
So if you are trying to get some positive reviews to stick at the top, try getting more reviews with photos.
What do we mean by “stay at the top”?
When you navigate to a business’s Google Business Profile (GBP) and then click on their reviews, the default view a user will see is sorted by “Most relevant.”
We have found that Google sees reviews with images as relevant and stays at the top of this view longer than other reviews.
So, encourage your customers to snap a photo of the HVAC system you just fixed, the roof you just installed, or the spring on the garage door you just replaced and add that to their review.
Monitor GBP reviews for strategic insights
Did you know that only businesses with a 4.0-star rating and above are eligible to show up for searches with “best” or “top” in them?
Is your business above a 4.0 rating right now? If the answer is, “I don’t know!” this part is for you.
Monitoring reviews quarterly lets you gain insights into various aspects of your online presence.
Track fluctuations in review volume to identify trends or problems such as:
- Losing reviews.
- Falling behind competitors in review count.
- Dropping below a 4.0-star rating.
You must also ensure you are receiving a steady stream of new reviews.
Keep a trend of consistent, new reviews to maintain three-pack rankings, as review recency appears to be a local ranking factor.
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Watch out for negative reviews showing in the top 3 on GBP
Sometimes, Google will highlight a negative review in the top 3 that appear prominently on GBP listings on desktop and mobile.
These can harm your business’s reputation and possibly deter people from calling.
Want to eliminate a negative review from being highlighted on your listing?
The only way I have seen this done is to bombard the listing with legitimate, lengthy, positive reviews from your customers that include photos. Hopefully, one of those will push the negative one out.
This is not ideal since we have no control over what shows in this area.
That said, it’s a great opportunity to respond thoughtfully to negative reviews, acknowledge customer concerns, and offer solutions publicly.
Simultaneously, encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews to balance the negative feedback and hopefully push it off the listing.
How to keep a steady stream of Google reviews with little effort
Getting new consistent reviews is key to maintaining visibility on Google Maps and growing that visibility if there is room for improvement.
As business owners, many rely on their employees to provide top-notch service that naturally generates positive reviews. In reality, people need a little nudge to leave those positive reviews.
Google absolutely does not allow businesses to incentivize customers for positive reviews.
It is directly against their Google review guidelines as this can be considered “deceptive content” if the customer was paid or incentivized in any way to leave the review.
However, Google does allow business owners other ways to incentivize reviews.
Business owners can and should motivate employees to ask for reviews from satisfied customers during their interactions.
They should be asking for photos along with that review as well.
If an employee gets mentioned in a review by name or gets a customer to post a review with a photo, reward your employee by giving them a cash prize, a gift card to Amazon, or even a gift card to a local restaurant of their choice.
If your business typically gets lots of reviews, consider doing a monthly “drawing” instead and rewarding that winner. Keep it fun and rewarding, as everyone wins here.
Automated email templates
Giving customers a link to review your business on Google is super important to streamline the process for them.
Getting the link is easy. It’s right on the GBP dashboard under “Ask for reviews.”
The trick to getting the most reviews possible with the least effort is creating an automated email template using this link to request reviews from recent customers.
You can personalize these emails, but don’t get carried away and lose the point of the email: getting the review.
Make sure it’s crystal clear how they can easily review you on Google, why it’s important, and the link is easily accessible.
Help, my Google reviews are missing!
Many business owners had issues with missing Google reviews a few months ago.
New reviews were not being posted, and in some cases, reviews that had been live for years were suddenly missing from hundreds of profiles.
This problem was so widespread Google put out some support information explaining why reviews may suddenly go missing from a GBP listing.
Google has since fixed the bug causing reviews to go missing, but the algorithm they employed that supposedly filters suspicious or inauthentic reviews is still in play.
While the intention behind this system is to ensure review integrity, it can sometimes result in legitimate reviews being filtered out.
If you suspect this is happening to you because you are monitoring your reviews (called a callback), then you have some options.
The best way to restore these is to contact support and follow these steps:
- Type “Reviews”
- Select “Review missing” and follow the prompts.
They may ask for screenshots of the missing reviews, so having those handy is recommended.
Fake reviews: The never-ending tale
Fake spam reviews can be frustrating. Is your listing being bombarded with fake, negative reviews?
Google is usually good about catching these and removing them with their filter.
However, sometimes fake reviews get published. In this case, Google support should be able to remove them from your listing if they are indeed fake.
Sometimes businesses get fake positive reviews to game Google’s ranking algorithm. The frustrating thing is that it works most of the time.
When a listing gets many fake positive reviews, they typically see improvement in rankings.
Though it may be tempting to report them to Google and try to get those removed and hurt their rankings, typically, all the effort it takes to report the reviews isn’t worth it in the long run.
The juice ain’t worth the squeeze! That is, if you can even get the reviews removed which doesn’t always happen.
Google is far away from having a handle on their fake review problems, though they are trying, according to recent lawsuits being filed.
Still, I always encourage business owners to focus and get more reviews on their one listing and not worry about what the competition is doing.
Negative reviews: A chance to embrace the imperfections of your business
Negative reviews are a good thing. I am in the camp that perfection is not always trustworthy in the eyes of consumers.
While aiming for outstanding service is crucial, an occasional less-than-perfect review online can enhance your credibility.
Authenticity matters, and customers often appreciate businesses that show a human side, and to be human is to err.
So when a user sees under 4.8 or 4.7 stars on Google, they tend to trust it more, according to some studies.
Do not be afraid of negative reviews. Take them as a chance to show your human side. People will like it, especially if you can make it funny.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.