In many ways, running a small business is a popularity contest. What your customers think about your place, and what they say about it to their friends, shapes its reputation. At the end of the day, it’s reflected in your bottom line.
Google reviews play a critical role in what your customers think. Armed with their trusty smart phones, they can review your business even as they wait for a table, pick up their dry cleaning, or watch as you landscape their back yard. Google reviews are hard to miss: they show up on the right side of the first page of Google search results, what Google calls its Knowledge Panel (right) – along with a star rating, and your business location and phone number. There’s a button to click, too, that gives users a form for writing reviews of their own.
Negative customer reviews can hurt you, and the reputation of your establishment. Yet all businesses get them sometimes. What then? How can you improve your Google reviews?
For most consumers, online reviews are a go-to resource. From Yelp to Facebook, there is no shortage of sites where your customers can praise your business, or rake it over the coals.
According to Search Engine Land, nearly ninety percent of consumers read online reviews at least occasionally, to find out about businesses in their area. And thirty-nine percent read them on a regular basis. Twenty-two percent of consumers, after reading a negative review, won’t give your business a second thought. That’s nearly one of every four.
Clearly, online reviews make a difference in the performance of your business. But Google reviews may be the most important, because they are so prominent. It’s imperative that you do everything in your power to improve them, even if they are mostly positive. Why settle for 4.5 stars when you might get five?
When you get a bad Google review, your first impulse may be to have it removed. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done: Google generally only removes reviews that violate their policies about fake reviews, spam, obscenities, or being off-topic.
Instead, think about responding to the negative review. This can be effective, provided your response is in proportion to the review itself. Responding shows readers that you have taken notice of criticism, and care. In fact, not responding to reviews – good or bad – can send the message that you don’t care; this can damage your reputation, in the long run. Be polite in your response, and show that you are willing to address any legitimate issues that have been raised. After you’ve addressed the problem, you can ask customers to update their negative reviews.
Another tactic is to generate positive reviews. Ask your customers to leave an email address at the point of sale. Follow that up by sending them an email asking for a review, and be sure to send a thank-you email to those who respond.
For many small businesses, an increasingly common practice is to include a “What Our Customers Say” link on their website. It promotes transparency, and is an excellent call to action that encourages site visitors to leave reviews of their own.
Part of Doing Business
The vast majority of consumers check online reviews before they ever spend a dime, especially if it’s a business they aren’t familiar with. It is essential that you do everything you can to improve your Google reviews. In today’s always-online environment, dealing with them is a part of doing business.
But staying on top of your customer reviews can be time-consuming. For small business owners who barely have a minute to spare, we offer Review Management tools and services that provide you with alerts whenever your business is mentioned online. They’re a potent means of establishing the positive online reputation your business deserves.