Google Reviews are great for helping customers discover your businesses and more importantly boost credibility and trust. Businesses who include reviews as part of their overall marketing strategy will experience increased visibility both online and offline.
Indeed, if you are operating a physical business like a store or restaurant, Google Reviews will be even more valuable in boosting your local search rankings. However, since reviews are a form of user-generated content, you can’t control what customers say about your brand.
Whilst it can be disheartening to receive bad Google reviews, there are many practical ways you can respond to them without damaging your business reputation.
Here we share our advice on the importance of Google reviews, guidance on responding to bad reviews, tips on collecting more reviews and the value in creating a customer review strategy.
Why Reviews Are Important?
It’s worth bearing in mind that any type of review acts as a form of social proof for your business which is essentially the idea that customers will adapt their habits based on the actions of others. The most common form of social proof is reviews, and these peer to peer recommendations can have a huge influence on your customers.
Whilst all businesses aspire to only secure favorable reviews, a balanced mix of both positive and negative reviews will actually make your business look more balanced and unbiased. If you want to develop a customer review strategy, you should be aware of the importance of Google reviews, particularly for SEO.
These reviews act as fresh content for Google to scrape, especially if they also feature relevant keywords relating to your brand. Reviews are also great for increased click-through rates to your website, so the more you have, the more likely you are to convert web visitors.
Whilst your customer review strategy may include external review sites like TrustPilot, it is always worth auditing and tweaking the strategy so you are getting the very best from reviews submitted:
Elements of a Customer Review Strategy
- Review Collection — Actively collecting customer feedback is a key part of your strategy and apart from Google reviews, there are many additional locations you may want to include to solicit reviews like on social media or Amazon.
- Review Management — How you manage reviews can be hugely beneficial for your business. By analyzing the types of content submitted, you can continue to improve your products and customer service to ensure you are a step ahead of competitors.
- Review Publishing — The final step of your strategy is how and where your business publishes reviews. You can use reviews in everything from branding to internal communications; it can be a huge morale boost for staff to see how the business is perceived externally.
Responding to Bad Google Reviews
When you receive a particularly harsh review your first instinct may be to fire off a poorly thought out defensive reply, but this will only serve to make your business look careless and unprofessional.
Before you respond to a review, take a moment to collect your thoughts so it doesn’t become personal and you don’t respond in anger. It is important to keep track of all new reviews received so you can respond swiftly if you do find negative reviews. A swift response can help to alleviate the issue and indicate to customers that you take complaints seriously. An ignored or significantly delayed response will make your business appear flippant and dismissive of genuine customer concerns.
No matter how unreasonable or hurtful the review might be, it helps to pause and take an empathetic tone when responding, even if you feel like the customer may be in the wrong.
How to Respond to a Bad Google Review – A Step by Step Guide
- First things first, communicate with your team to ensure you have all the facts about the incident the customer is referring to so you have a balanced view.
- Secondly, research some examples of how major brands publicly respond to reviews to inspire your response.
- Thirdly, refer to some templates to help you craft your responses so you sound apologetic and sincere.
- Be honest and transparent when taking responsibility for mistakes your business has made and stress to the customer the actual steps you are taking to prevent a similar incident happening again.
- Offer practical solutions to the customer’s complaint and ask for a second chance by promising an improved service next to the time they return to your business.
- If the review sounds more like an angry rant with no clear way of determining a customer’s problem, ask specific questions about their complaint. Having increased clarity makes it much easier for you to diagnose the problem in a more helpful way.
- Always ensure you are writing a personalized response using the customer’s name and signing off with your name and title to indicate your attentiveness.
- Ideally, you want to appease the customer by following up with them offline so provide your contact details so you can get in touch with updates on the status of their problem.
- It is pointless to spend the time responding to negative reviews without actually fixing the issue raised, particularly if this issue has been raised previously by disappointed customers. Take the time to use this criticism as learnings for your business so you can keep improving.
- If you have taken all the above steps and effectively engaged with the customer, you can politely ask them to edit or delete their review. Send them instructions on how to do so but make sure not to badger them, they aren’t obliged to remove their review just because you asked nicely.
Flag or Dispute Fraudulent Reviews
As a business owner you may be susceptible to fraudulent, offensive, and inappropriate reviews from fake customers, disgruntled employees, and even shady competitors.
Unfortunately, Google will not just remove every single bad review you flag and even if they do, the removal process can often be a slow one. Whilst Google will not remove all flagged reviews, there are certain types of reviews they are more likely to remove:
5 Reasons to Flag Reviews
- Illegal content — If users are submitting reviews that contain links to sites or email addresses that sell illegal products, this is a strong ground for appeal as Google prohibits the promotion of illegal products.
- Irrelevant content — If users are leaving reviews that don’t actually relate directly to your business or a customer’s actual experience, this should be flagged as inaccurate information.
- Offensive content — Spammers or fake customers may post inappropriate content and whilst Google has built-in spam detection that monitors irrelevant and misleading content, some inaccurate reviews can still slip through the cracks. Nevertheless, if the reviews are threatening, derogatory, or obscene Google will remove that content.
- Competitor content — Google reviews should be transparent and unbiased so business owners are unable to post reviews for businesses they own. Similarly, you can flag negative reviews you suspect have been left by a competitor as rival businesses cannot post reviews about your business due to the conflict of interest.
- Impersonation content — Google values authenticity and ensures that all users provide verified reviews to make sure businesses aren’t being misrepresented. You can appeal a review you feel is inauthentic and isn’t actually written by someone with a grudge masquerading as a real customer.
Why Do You need to Secure Reviews?
You should always be seeking creative ways to encourage customers to leave reviews because the more user-generated content you collect, the more opportunities you have to increase conversions, build trust, and ultimately grow sales. With many customers dependent on the opinions of others to sway their purchasing decisions, it makes a huge difference when you incorporate reviews into everything from your online marketing to your in-store merchandise.
More importantly, if you are consistently providing a high-quality service to your customers you will naturally elicit more favorable reviews more often and this helps to drown out any poor reviews whilst still providing an unbiased perception of your brand.
How to Request More Reviews
You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to leave reviews about your business so it should be a frictionless process that enables them to post content quickly.
The easiest way to do this, is to send a well-timed or automated email not long after purchase, inviting customers to share their feedback on your product or service whilst it’s still fresh in their mind. Find some review request email templates and include a call-to-action link to the Google reviews page.
Google wants to help your business boost its reputation using reviews, so it has developed the Business Marketing Kit. Here you will find plenty of practical marketing assets to help promote positive reviews and encourage many more. Whether you are an online or offline business, the practical kit has everything from stickers, posters, signage, and social posts allowing you to customize your messaging too.
Whilst you can incentivize customers to leave reviews by offering discounts for example, you shouldn’t incentivize them to only leave positive reviews. This is bad business practice and can do more harm than good in the long run as customers will grow skeptical if your business is only posting glowing reviews.
You may only want to focus on securing favorable reviews, but it is important to actively source a balance of both positive and negative reviews. Google has strict guidelines against the practice of ‘review gating’, where businesses only selectively solicit positive reviews from customers to post publicly. Transparency is the utmost importance in business, so continue to secure reviews in a fair and honest way so you don’t fall foul of these guidelines.
There are plenty of ways to gain more reviews, so don’t be tempted to buy reviews in a desperate bid to boost business. There are numerous unscrupulous companies selling so-called ‘authentic customer reviews’ and this is a deliberate attempt to game the system and mislead customers. Google prohibits this practice in its guidelines and you may even face hefty fines and penalties from regulators.
If you have actively requested reviews but customers are only leaving you one-star ratings with no text, use this as an opportunity to convert a potentially unhappy customer into a happy one. Ask them to privately share their experience and you may even find they were simply too lazy to say anything useful or your response could encourage them to be more forthcoming.
So there you have an extensive guide to help your business secure more Google reviews and respond much more effectively to bad reviews.
You should bear in mind that in order to encourage more customers to provide user-generated content, your business has to integrate Google reviews into your wider customer review strategy. This should be an internal strategy that gains buy-in from all employees, management, and stakeholders. It is imperative that there is a collective effort to continually gain customer reviews for marketing purposes.
An effective strategy should consist of collection, management, and publishing, and how you execute each part will be critical to your business success. It can take some time to grow the number of reviews you gain, ultimately the more you collect the more persuasive it is for customers to try your products or services.
For online businesses, collecting reviews will impact SEO rankings and help increase website traffic. For physical businesses, reviews can make a huge difference to footfall and ultimately sales. Statistically, a significant number of reviews can massively boost conversions since customers are much more likely to purchase from your business based on the recommendations of others. There’s a reason why eCommerce giants like Amazon are so successful; reviews are one of the key cornerstones of their business and are a massive revenue driver.
Ultimately, for any business no matter your size or sector, customer reviews can often make or break a brand, so a strategic approach must be taken. Remember, if you are consistently providing a high-quality service to customers, you are less likely to receive bad reviews so this should be a preemptive priority for any savvy business owner.