If your business has a physical location where you serve your customers or a defined service area, then local search is an integral part of your SEO strategy. In fact, 1 in 3 searches are about a place and 97% of consumers search for local businesses online.
Pathfinder SEO focuses on a three-step process to local search:
Step 1: Create Your Google Maps Listing
Step 2: Distribute Your Local Business Data to a Network of 100+ Local Business Websites
Step 3: Gain & Monitor Reviews
Today, let’s focus on how to get reviews on Google Maps.
What are Google Reviews?
Google Reviews are an integrated feature of Google Maps listings. They allow customers to post feedback about a business in the form of a star rating and a text-based review.
Google Reviews often appear in www.google.com when you search for a brand or business by name.
They also appear in local search results for non-brand search queries:
The top three business listings that appear underneath the map in search results (like above) are what we call the local pack.
How Google Reviews Help Businesses
Our SEO coaches are often asked, are Google Reviews important? In short, yes!
Online reputation matters. For the search engines, yes, but more importantly for the strength of your business and brand. Benefits of Google Reviews include:
- Creating social proof as to the quality of your service and/or products.
- Influencing the local search results and your likelihood of being number 1 in the local pack.
- Building a positive online reputation that supports your own website assertions about being a trustworthy brand or local business.
- Increasing click-through rates from www.google.com to your website or Google Maps listing.
How Do You Get (Great) Reviews on Google?
Focus on quality over quantity of reviews in Google Maps. Here are four suggestions on how.
Provide Great Service & Exceptional Products
It starts with providing great service and/or exceptional products. Getting reviews on Google Maps is an easy marketing initiative when you have satisfied customers who want to share their experience with your business.
Create a Culture
Create a culture of gaining new reviews within your business or organization. If a salesperson or cashier receives positive feedback, teach them to say thank you and ask for a review. For example, the cashier at your local hardware store receives feedback from a customer that “your paint color matching is the best!” Train the cashier to reply, “Thank you! If you don’t mind leaving a similar remark on Google Maps, that would be a big help.”
If you feel your customer had a great experience with your product or service, then ask them to write a review on Google Maps. Another option is to give them something as a reminder. When they’re done checking out, place a card in their bag that kindly asks for a review. Or, if you’re sending them a snail mail invoice, include a handwritten note about how you would appreciate them taking the time to review your business on Google. Another option is to send an email with a similar message.
Make It Easy
Figuring out how to leave a review on Google Maps can be a barrier for some customers. Make it easy for them by providing a visual or a direct link. For example, if I was asking somebody to leave a review of Aspen Guide Service, a local fishing guide company in Colorado, I could give them this link. Visuals are also nice.
Frequently Asked Questions about Google Reviews
Can you buy Google Reviews?
Yes, it is possible to buy online reviews for Google, Yelp and other local platforms. But, it is not advised! The value of online reviews is in building trust with prospective customers and search engines. That value is diminished if you pay for reviews, post fake reviews or otherwise acquire a review in a way you wouldn’t want to talk about. In all things SEO, we focus on the long-term and high-value solution. We suggest that you do too. We’d rather see a company with a handful of legitimate, great reviews than one with a spammy profile.
Google notes, “Google uses automated spam detection measures to remove reviews that are probably spam. Although legitimate reviews are sometimes inappropriately removed, these spam prevention measures help improve people's experiences on Google by ensuring that the reviews they see are authentic, relevant, and useful.”
Stay authentic, relevant and useful! Don’t buy reviews.
Do you have to have a Google account to leave a Google Review?
Yes, you must have a Google account to leave a Google Review. Note, this is different than requiring a Gmail account. A Gmail account is by default a Google account. But any email address can be used to create a Google account.
How many reviews do I need?
It depends on the competitiveness of the local results in your keyword space. If “Denver coffee shops” is an important keyword for your business, check to see how many reviews the competition has in the local results to gauge a long-term goal.
As you can see in this example, the bar is high with the first listing have 553 reviews! A long-term strategy would be needed to compete in this space.
The Next Step
Now, it’s time to take action. You understand what a Google Review is, why they are important and have a few tips on how to get great customer reviews on your Google Maps listing. The next step is to define a concrete and attainable goal. For example, get three five-star reviews in Google Maps before the end of the month. And then, you need a plan. Perhaps it is to email three customers a week to ask them for a two-minute favor - writing a review.
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Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching business owners and freelancers how to get found in Google, Yahoo, and Bing via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.