Google Business Reviews: The Simple, Complete Guide (2018 Edition)

This simple, complete guide to Google business reviews gives you the fastest, easiest way to master your Google business reviews.

If you prefer a more comprehensive, in-depth guide on Google business reviews, check out our “Ultimate Guide” on how to get Google reviews. It’s a longer read, but includes a lot more details.

But if your goal is to get quick, actionable advice to immediately start improving your Google business reviews, then look no further than this simple, complete guide.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

The 3 Keys to Success with Google Business Reviews

Your Google business reviews can drive more sales to your local business. They can also hurt your sales. Or they can have no effect at all.

Make sure your Google business reviews boost sales by mastering the 3 keys to customer review success:

  • Quality – Get a high average star rating for your business (at least 4.0 stars or as many stars as your biggest local competitor, whichever is higher)
  • Quantity – Get a high quantity of reviews (at least 20 or as many as your biggest competitor, whichever is higher)
  • Recency – Get a steady flow of reviews so you always have a few recent reviews (an average of 1 review every 3 to 7 days, no more)

For more details on these 3 keys to success, check out the Ultimate Guide’s chapter on success with Google reviews.

Otherwise, keep reading for the quick, easy version of how to get more business reviews (quantity and recency) and higher star ratings (quality).

To get started, you’ll need a link you can give your customers to encourage them to write a Google review for your business. This sounds simple, but isn’t.

Don’t copy and paste the URL from your browser. These links cause technical difficulties for some customers. They also often cause confusion that leads to very low conversion rates.

Instead, use our free Google review link generator. It’s the quickest, easiest way to get a URL you can give your customers. Your customers won’t experience technical difficulties from the link. And the link will give them the easiest possible way to give you a review, boosting your conversion rates.

If you want more detailed information about Google review links, or you want to generate your link manually, check out our in-depth article on how to get a Google review link the right way. 

How to Get Higher Star Ratings

The single most important part of your Google business reviews is your average star rating.

Don’t leave your star rating to chance.

Instead, pre-screen customers privately before you encourage them to write a review.

First, ask each customer how they would rate your business on a 5-star scale.

It’s best to ask customers by email or text message rather than in person. If you ask in person, customers are more likely to feel social pressure to tell you what you want to hear. Pre-screening only works when customers give you honest feedback, not sugar coated feedback.

When a customer says they would give your business a higher-than-average star rating, then thank them and ask if they’d be so kind as to share their experiences with others in a Google review. Then share your Google review link with them, making it quick and easy for them to give your business a review.

But when a customer says they would give your business a lower-than-average rating, don’t encourage a review and don’t share your quick, easy Google review link. Instead, ask them how you could improve your business and earn their 5-star rating in the future. The feedback you get may be even more valuable than just another 5-star rating.

How to Get More Google Business Reviews

You need enough Google business reviews for your average star rating to be credible.

If you have more than 20 reviews, then 67% of consumers will trust your average star rating. If you have more than 30 reviews, then 76% of consumers will trust your average star rating. The more reviews you have, the more consumers will trust that your star rating is accurate.

Never buy reviews or offer compensation for reviews. Offering compensation isn’t just a violation of most review sites’ policies. It’s literally illegal. The FTC could fine you tens of thousands of dollars for these reviews being “undisclosed paid endorsements.” Thankfully, it’s not difficult to get lots of authentic reviews without offering compensation.

Here are the best practices for getting more reviews:

Strike while the iron is hot (within 1 day to 1 week)

The best time to ask a customer to write a review is immediately after concluding business with the customer.

That’s when their emotions are still strong and their memories are still vivid. Strong emotions lead to higher conversion rates, and vivid memories lead to more convincing and credible reviews.

Establish a daily or weekly routine when you reach out to all the customers you’ve recently satisfied. Don’t sit on a list of customers for a month or more before acting on it.

Ask as often as needed (but not too often)

Shoot to get 1 new review every 3 to 7 days on average.

But don’t get too many reviews too quickly. If you suddenly get a spike in your number of reviews, Google’s algorithms may think these new reviews are fake.

If you haven’t gotten reviews for a while, ramp up gradually first. Start with 1 review per month. After a couple months, shoot for 1 review every 3 weeks. After another couple of months, shoot for 1 every 2 weeks, then 1 every week.

Once you are getting a new review every 3 to 7 days on average, stop there. Don’t try to get too many reviews too frequently, or you may again trigger Google’s fraud detection algorithms.

At an average of 3 to 7 days between reviews, you will soon have a high enough quantity of reviews to make sure the vast majority of consumers consider your average star rating to be credible. You’ll also make sure you always have a few reviews that are recent enough to be convincing to the vast majority of consumers.

Send follow-ups

You may be able to double the number of reviews you get for every customer you contact, simply by sending a couple of follow-ups after your first review request.

For example, you might first send a pre-screening review request email that says something like, “Hey Mary, thanks for your business. I’d love to know how we did. How many stars would you rate your experience with us on a 5-star scale?”

Then, if you don’t get a reply from Mary in about a week, you might send a follow-up that says something like, “Hey Mary, just following up. I really value your honest feedback. How would you rate your experience with us on a 5-star scale?”

Then, if the customer still doesn’t reply, you might send a second follow-up another week later that says, “Hey Mary, sorry to bug you. I hope my emails to you aren’t landing in your spam folder. I really appreciate your business and would love to get your honest feedback. Assuming you get this, would you mind taking a moment just to click reply and let me know how you’d rate us on a 5-star scale? Many thanks again.”

Be sure to space out your follow-ups. You don’t want to annoy a happy customer right as you’re asking for feedback. Space emails at about 3 to 7 days between each email. For text messages, never follow up in fewer than 7 days. Consumers are much more sensitive to frequent text messages than they are to frequent emails.

Automate to save time

Don’t worry if you don’t have time to establish a daily or weekly routine to reach out to new customers, especially if that routine involves pre-screening and follow-ups. We’ve got you covered. The Rising Star Reviews web application makes this quick and easy, doing all the work for you. You just enter the name and contact info of a customer, and the tool does the rest. Check out the free trial here.

How to Remove Negative or Fake Google Reviews

You can’t please everyone all of the time. So negative reviews are an unfortunate fact of life.

Sometimes unscrupulous people even go so far as to leave fake negative reviews.

Even positive fake reviews can hurt you. If you get a lot of fake reviews, negative or positive, Google’s algorithms may think all of your reviews are untrustworthy. Then Google may start filtering out many of your reviews, getting rid of some legitimate reviews in addition to the fake ones.

When you get a negative review or a fake review, you may be able to remove it entirely.

For detailed step-by-step instructions, check out our in-depth guide on how to delete a Google review. Or, for just the highlights, keep reading.

Here’s how to delete (or otherwise fix) a negative Google review:

Step 1) Check If You Can Remove the Review

First, figure out if it is even possible to remove the review you want to remove.

You can only remove a review if it violates Google’s policies.

Here are the types of reviews that violate Google’s policies:

  • Fake reviews
  • Duplicate reviews (same reviewer posting from multiple Google accounts)
  • Reviews that are intended to manipulate your ratings
  • Off-topic reviews that aren’t about a customer’s experiences with your business
  • Promotional reviews that include calls to action such as links, contact info, or promotional offers
  • Reviews with illegal content, such as copyrighted images
  • Reviews with content talking about illegal acts, products or services
  • Reviews with sexually explicit content
  • Reviews depicting or promoting violence
  • Offensive reviews with obscene, profane or offensive language
  • Threatening reviews that bully or harass someone
  • Hateful reviews that incite hatred or discrimination against someone or some group
  • Misrepresented reviews that claim to be written by someone other than the true author
  • Deceptive reviews that deliberately mislead readers
  • Reviews written by your competitors
  • Reviews written by your employees (past and present)
  • Your own reviews (You’re not permitted to write a review about your own business for obvious reasons)

For more details, check out Google’s review policies.

If you have a negative or fake review that violates any of the above policies, continue to step #2 to get the review removed.

Step 2) Try to Remove the Review the Quick, Easy Way

To quickly and easily remove a review, flag it as inappropriate.

Here’s how:

  1. Sign into your Google My Business account (If you have more than one location, open the location with the bad review)
  2. Click “Reviews” from the menu to view your reviews
  3. For the bad review you want to remove, click the 3-dot menu and then click “Flag as inappropriate”

Wait several days before checking back to see if the review was removed. It can take Google a few days to process the flagged review.

If the review is still not removed after several days, continue to step #3.

Step 3) Escalate to Google to Get the Review Removed

So you tried removing the review the easy way, but several days later the review is still showing up. Now what?

Now it’s time to escalate the matter to Google Support.

Here’s how:

  1. Sign into your Google My Business account
  2. In the menu on the left-hand side, click “Support”
  3. Follow the process to speak with a Google representative by phone

If you speak with a Google support rep and they say there’s nothing they can do, then you may be out of luck.

But if you feel you have a legal case against the negative reviewer—such as a libelous or slanderous review—then you may want to continue to step #4.

Step 4) Escalate the Review as a Legal Matter

If all efforts to remove the review have failed, and you think you have a legal case against the reviewer—such as a libel, slander, or copyright infringement case—then you may want to consider legal action.

But before you hire a lawyer and pay exorbitant sums of money to get the review removed, try Google’s own legal removal request tool. For more information before using this tool, check out Google’s page on legal removal requests.

How to Respond to Negative Google Reviews

In most cases, negative reviews cannot be removed. They’re legitimate reviews from authentically unhappy customers. They don’t violate Google’s policies, nor any laws.

When you’re faced with authentic negative reviews, the best you can do is respond to them effectively.

In the best case, you address the reviewer’s concerns so well that the reviewer changes the review from negative to overwhelmingly positive.

But even if you can’t turn a negative review into a positive review, you can still win in the court of public opinion.

If you remember nothing else about responding to negative reviews, remember this: What matters most is not the opinion of the negative reviewer. What matters most is the opinion of the hundreds (or thousands) of people who will read the review in the future when they’re deciding whether or not to become your next customer. So treat the negative reviewer the way your future customers want to be treated if they ever experience a problem with your business.

Stick to these best practices when responding to negative reviews:

  • Timeliness – Respond quickly (ideally within 24 hours, but the faster, the better)
  • Positivity – Use a positive, customer-friendly attitude and use only words that have positive connotations
  • Brevity – Keep your responses short, sweet and to the point
  • Sympathy – Express sincere sympathy for the dissatisfaction the reviewer is expressing, and never sound like you’re minimizing their concerns (even if the concerns are trivial) and never sound like you’re blaming the reviewer (even if it’s the reviewer’s fault)
  • Responsibility – Take responsibility for the fact that your business did not succeed at satisfying the customer (regardless of who is to blame) and avoid sounding like you’re making excuses to dodge responsibility
  • Solutions – Fix the reviewer’s problems if at all possible (even if the fix involves referring the customer to another business for the solution)
  • Information – When a fix isn’t possible, at least offer the reviewer information that might help them find a solution

Conquering Your Google Business Reviews

Conquer your Google business reviews and you’ll build trust with prospects and drive new sales.

The key to success is the quality, quantity, and recency of your Google reviews.

To ensure quality (high star ratings) pre-screen your customers first, and handle negative reviews by either removing them or responding appropriately to them.

To ensure quantity and recency, reach out on a daily or weekly basis, send follow-ups, and be sure to use the right Google review link for maximum conversions.

Master these techniques in this guide, and you’ll be well on your way to turning your Google business reviews into a sales-boosting marketing engine.