How to Get Google Reviews: The Ultimate Guide (2019 Edition)
This guide has everything you need on how to get Google reviews for your local business, how to handle negative reviews, and how to raise your star rating on Google.
If you’re new to Google reviews, you’ll learn the basics quickly and simply. You’ll also learn where you should focus your efforts, so you don’t spend a lot of time trying tactics that don’t work.
If you’re a digital marketing pro with lots of experience in how to get Google reviews for local businesses, you’ll get some advanced pro tips as well as a more strategic framework for prioritizing your efforts for maximum impact.
Bottom line: This guide is your primary resource for how to get Google reviews. This is the one “ultimate” guide you need to bookmark and refer back to whenever you need a refresher.
Information overload? Want a quick primer that just gives you the most important points from this guide? Check out our Google business reviews guide. It’s a simple-yet-complete version of this more in-depth guide.
Chapter 1Are Google Reviews Important for Your Business?
Google vs Yelp vs Facebook vs ….?
But Google reviews are seen by the general consumer market, not your specific niche market. So industry-specific review sites may generate better qualified leads for you than Google reviews.
So if you have a local business and you’re wondering which review sites are most important, do this:
First focus on 2 review sites: Google and the leading review site for your industry (if one exists). If there are no big review sites for your industry, just focus on how to get Google reviews.
For example, if you’re in real estate, focus on getting Google reviews and Zillow reviews. If you’re in the hospitality industry, focus on Google reviews and TripAdvisor reviews. If you’re a doctor, focus on getting Google reviews and Healthgrades reviews. You get the idea.
Do customer reviews really increase sales?
The 3 main ways reviews help (or hurt) sales:
Perceived ValueCustomers perceive greater value in businesses with better reviews, which causes them to visit those businesses more often and accept higher prices when buying from those businesses.
SEOGoogle and other search engines use reviews to decide which local businesses to include in local search results when customers search for a business.
Conversion RatesIf your business has great reviews and a high star rating, customers will flock to you. If your business has few reviews, a lower star rating, or no recent reviews, then customers will flock to your competitor who has great reviews and a high star rating. In the age of digital marketing, the local business with the best customer reviews gets great conversion rates on everything from SEO to SEM/PPC, while everyone else suffers lower conversion rates and high customer acquisition costs.
How do we know for sure that reviews increase sales?Controlled studies have confirmed it. A study by Cornell showed that hotels that increased their review scores by just 1 point (from 3.3 stars to 4.3 stars) were able to increase their prices by 11.2% and still maintain the same occupancy and market share. Another study by UC Berkeley economists showed that restaurants that just barely get a 4 star rating on Yelp sell out 19% more often than restaurants that almost get a 4 star rating, but instead get a rounded-down rating of 3.5 stars. The restaurants they compared had nearly identical average star ratings. The only difference was whether Yelp rounded their ratings up to 4 stars or down to 3.5 stars. Great proof that customers’ perceived value of 4 stars vs 3.5 stars actually drives differences in sales. A study by BrightLocal found that review star ratings directly impact click-through rates from Google search results. Specifically, local businesses with a 5-star rating got 28% more clicks from the Google Local Pack results than businesses without ratings, and 39% more clicks than businesses with a 1-star rating. The study also found that businesses with 1 to 3 stars earned fewer clicks than businesses with no star ratings at all…showing that low star ratings actively hurt CTRs (and any resulting sales) while high star ratings actively increase CTRs (and resulting sales).
Chapter 2How to Boost Local SEO with Google Reviews
What Is Local SEO & Why Care?
The Link between Customer Reviews and Local SEO
- My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) account for 19% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
- Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) account for 17% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
- On-Page Signals (Presence of name/address/phone, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) account for 14% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
- Citation Signals (aggregator name/address/phone consistency, citation volume, etc.) account for 13% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
- Review Signals (Review quantity, velocity, and diversity, etc.) account for 13% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
- Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) account for 10% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
- Personalization Signals account for 10% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
- Social Signals (Engagement on Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) account for 4% of all factors resulting in local SEO rankings
How to Boost Your Local SEO with Good Customer Reviews
Increase Google Review QuantityMaximize the quantity of native Google reviews…specifically those with text, not just the ones where people just click a star rating without writing a review. (More on this in Chapter 4.)
Encourage the Right KeywordsEncourage customers to use terminology in their reviews that searchers also use when searching for your type of business, such as the name of your type of company or products.
Encourage the Use of Positive WordsEncourage customers to use words with a positive connotation in their reviews rather than words with a negative connotation, since Google uses “sentiment analysis” algorithms to try to determine if a review is positive or negative.
Improve Review Frequency/VelocityRegularly get new reviews on a steady, ongoing basis, rather than just occasionally getting bursts of reviews followed by long periods of very few reviews. (More on this in Chapter 4.)
Use High-Authority Review SitesGet reviews on the major review sites, since they have strong SEO domain authority.
Use a Variety of Review SitesGet reviews on a wide variety of different review sites, and get enough reviews on each site that they converge on having the same star rating and other consistent signals that Google’s algorithms can pick up on.
Get High RatingsGet high star ratings on all review sites, especially from high-authority reviewers such as the Yelp Elite and Google Local Guides. (More on this in Chapter 4.)
Get Review SnippetsUse schema markup on your website to show review snippets in search results, which takes over more page real estate and typically increases click-through rates.
Learn More about Local SEO
MozExplore the Learning Center’s Local SEO resources and the Local SEO blog category from Moz, the company that makes industry-leading software for SEO professionals.
Neil PatelCheck out The Definitive Guide to Local SEO by Neil Patel, notable digital marketing expert on how to drive website traffic that converts to sales.
HubSpotRead A Comprehensive Guide to Local SEO by HubSpot, makers of the Marketing Hub Content Management System which includes many SEO features baked in.
YoastSubscribe to the Yoast SEO Blog or take online SEO training courses by Yoast, the makers of the SEO plugin that has become ubiquitous throughout the WordPress community.
Chapter 3How Google Reviews Reduce SEM/PPC Costs
The Link between Customer Reviews and SEM/PPC
The net result is that you’ll pay a lot more for every lead you get through pay-per-click (PPC) or any other SEM advertising unless you learn how to get Google reviews that work for you and not against you.
Here’s the play-by-play of how ad costs go up when you don’t have excellent customer reviews….
- First, customers click your competitor’s ads more often than yours, since your competitor has excellent reviews.
- This means your ads get a lower click-through rate (CTR) than your competitor.
- Then your Google Ads Quality Score goes down, since your CTR has a big impact on Quality Score.
- A low Quality Score means Google requires you bid more than your competitor to get the same ad placement your competitor gets, since your competitor has a better Quality Score due to higher CTR.
- You pay more. Your competitor pays less. And your competitor gets most of the clicks.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. While your ad costs are going up, your total customer acquisition cost goes up even more.
After the ad click, your sell-through conversion rates are also lower than your competitor’s sell-through rates, since consumers buy more often from businesses with better reviews.
Ultimately, a weak review profile causes low conversion rates at every step in the customer’s journey, causing your cost per sale to rise considerably…which then causes your margins and profitability to fall.
But wait! There’s still hope.
A strong review profile causes higher conversion rates and lower ad costs, causing your cost per sale to drop considerably…which then causes margins to rise. Yay, profitability!
How to Boost SEM/PPC Performance and Drive Down Costs with Google Reviews
Take these actions to put your customer reviews to work for you, bringing you lots of high-quality leads while driving down ad costs and overall customer acquisition costs:
Complete Your Google My Business (GMB) Profile
Create a Google My Business profile and fill in as much information as possible, including photos, location, contact information, hours of operation and website. BONUS: Actively optimize your Google My Business profile for best results in local search results.
Make All Review Profiles Consistent
Make sure the name, address, phone number, and other identifying information is perfectly identical for every review profile across all review sites. “Identical” as in “every…single…character…is the same.” Don’t list your phone number on one review site as 1-555-123-4567 and then list it on another site as (555) 123-4567. Make every single character identical across all review sites. Why? So that Google’s algorithm has the highest possible degree of confidence that these different review profiles are all referring to the same business as your Google My Business profile.
Get Lots of Reviews to Get Google Ads’ Seller Ratings
Get 150 or more unique reviews across a variety of major online review sites, and make sure you get an average rating of 3.5 stars or better. (We’ll cover how to get Google reviews with a high star rating in Chapter 4.)
Once you get enough unique reviews and have at least a 3.5 star rating, Google’s Seller Ratings extension automatically kicks in and starts showing your star rating in your ads.
When your star rating is displayed, your ad gets more vertical space, increasing click-through rates. And your click-through rate increases even more if you have a star rating that’s as strong as any other competitors’ ads.
A high star rating also boosts how credible and trustworthy you seem to your prospective customers, increasing sell-through rates even after the click-through.
WARNING: Some major review sites don’t count toward the 150+ reviews you need to qualify for Google’s Seller Ratings. Think Yelp will help you with Seller Ratings? Nope! Click the link above to get a complete list of the review sites Google supports.
Learn More about SEM/PPC
PPC HeroDive into an ocean of information on SEM and PPC on PPC Hero by the digital marketing agency Hanapin Marketing.
Search Engine WatchCheck out the wealth of articles in Search Engine Watch’s PPC category.
Search Engine LandTune into Search Engine Land’s SEM channel for a steady flow of SEM/PPC articles.
Search Engine JournalRead a wide range of SEM/PPC articles in Search Engine Journal’s Paid Search category.
Chapter 4The Surprisingly Simple Key to Success with Google Reviews
The 3 Key Metrics that Matter
QualityThe key metric to measure the “quality” of your customer reviews is the average star rating your business gets on any given review site.
QuantityThe key metric to measure your “quantity” of reviews is simply the number of reviews that make up your average star rating. Notice that any reviews that are filtered out (such as those that Yelp labels as “not recommended”) do not count toward your quantity of reviews since they do not affect your average star rating.
RecencyThe key metric to measure the “recency” of reviews is the number of days/weeks/months since a customer left the most recent review your business has received.
How many stars should a business have on Google?
How many reviews should a business have on Google?
How frequently should a business get customer reviews on Google?
How to Get a High Quantity of Google Reviews
How to Keep Google Reviews Fresh and Recent
How to Get Google Reviews with High Star Ratings
Chapter 5Getting Started with Google Reviews
Create Your Account
How to Create a Direct Link to Write a Google Review
The Easy (But Wrong) Way to Link to Google ReviewsYou could just search Google for your business, click on “reviews,” then copy and paste the URL. But this gives you a ridiculously long link URL like this: https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1ASUT_enUS516US516&q=real+estate+agents+in+atlanta,+ga&npsic=0&rflfq=1&rlha=0&rllag=33769205,-84366734,3741&tbm=lcl&ved=0ahUKEwiinbXbiPrbAhXig1QKHUpDBR8QjGoIYw&tbs=lrf:!2m1!1e2!2m1!1e3!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:2&rldoc=1#rldoc=1&rlfi=hd:;si:;mv:!1m3!1d77640.225082064!2d-84.4176027!3d33.796906299999996!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i307!2i281!4f13.1;start:140;tbs:lrf:!2m1!1e2!2m1!1e3!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:2. A URL like that doesn’t exactly look inviting enough to make customers want to click. But the bigger problem with that URL is that it won’t work the same way for everyone…even if it appears to work for you for a while. Different people using different browsers on different devices will experience different results when loading the page at that URL. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and your customers who click on the URL will see your review page. But this forces customers to click again on the “Write a review” button before continuing. As every good digital marketer knows, every click you add to the process causes some percentage of people to fall out of the process, reducing conversion rates.
The Right Way to Link to Google ReviewsInstead, you’ll get far more customers to leave you a review if you can give them an easy, convenient link that takes them directly to the “Write a Review” page for your business. A link like this one: https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=ChIJjwT9lmkG9YgR5eiDfsslHPY …which takes them directly to a convenient page where they can immediately write a review, like this one…
If you’re a Rising Star Reviews customer, just log into the Rising Star Reviews app, go to the Dashboard, click “Manage review pages,” then “Add new review page,” then “Google.” Search for your business, and when you find it, click “This is my business.”
Whenever you use the app to send a review request to your customers, they’ll be forwarded directly to where they can immediately enter a review.
If you’re not a Rising Star Reviews customer, we’ve still got you covered!
Just use our free Google Review Link Generator.
If you prefer the old fashioned manual approach to generating your Google review link, just be aware that there is only one supported URL format for Google reviews that won’t cause some of your customers “technical difficulties” when trying to leave you a review. That URL format is this: https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=YOUR-PLACE-ID
Notice that you need to replace YOUR-PLACE-ID with your actual Google PlaceID.
You can find your PlaceID by going to Google’s PlaceID Finder and searching for your business. If your GMB account is set up properly, your business should show up.
For more details about Google review links, including instructions on finding your PlaceID and manually creating the review link, check out our guide on how to get a Google review link the right way.
Chapter 6How to Respond to Negative Google Reviews
Your 3 Options for Responding to Negative Google Reviews
- Do nothing
- Get the review removed
- Respond to the reviewer
How to Remove Negative Reviews
Sometimes you can get a negative review completely removed from Google…but only if the review violates Google’s policies. For example, Google does not allow any of the following kinds of reviews:
- Fake reviews
- Off-topic social commentary or personal rants
- Rants with sexually explicit expletives or other offensive language
- Harassment or bullying of specific people, like employees
- Reviews from people with a conflict of interest, such as competitors
If the review doesn’t get removed after a week or two, contact Google Support to find out the status of the flagged review. (Just click the “Support” link from your GMB account.)
For a step-by-step guide on removing a Google review, check out our guide on how to delete a Google review.
But in most cases, negative reviews do not violate any of Google’s policies. So in most cases, you should go with option #3 and responding to the reviewer…
How to Respond Directly to a Negative Review
3 Key Success Factors to Responding to a Negative ReviewThe 3 key factors to successfully responding to a negative review are…
TimelinessRespond within 24 hours. The faster you respond, the more likely you are to turn a negative review into a positive one…or at least a better one.
PositivityKeep a positive, customer-friendly attitude and sincerely attempt to either fix the problem or provide helpful information. Show all future readers of your response that you’re trustworthy and truly dedicated to customer satisfaction.
BrevityKeep your response to no more than 5 sentences, ideally just 2. This makes sure people are likely to read your response. People skim review responses first, then decide if they should read the full response. If you keep your response brief and easy to skim, more people will read it. Bottom Line: Respond quickly (timeliness), keep a positive customer-friendly attitude (positivity), and minimize how many words your response has (brevity). 4 Guidelines for Responding to a Negative Review To craft a truly positive response, follow all 4 of these guidelines:
Express sincere sympathyLet the customer know that you care about the customer’s experience and truly want the customer to be happy. Acknowledge the customer’s problems or feelings so they know you believe them and care. Examples of language you could use:
- “I’m sorry to hear that. I can definitely see that’s a problem.”
- “Ouch! I’m so sorry you had that experience.”
- “So sorry. Thanks for letting us know, so we can try to make things better.”
Take responsibilityTake responsibility for any part your business may have played in the customer’s dissatisfaction…but not so much that you become a doormat for the customer to walk all over. Examples of language you could use:
- “We should have done things differently.”
- “We try hard to give our customers the best possible experience, but we obviously failed to do that for you, and we’re sorry.”
- “Even though our company didn’t cause your house to catch fire, we’d like to make sure this doesn’t happen again to any of our future customers, so we’re going to stop referring our customers to former arsonists.”
Fix problemsIf possible, express your desire to fix the problem and offer contact information so the customer can contact you offline to follow up. Examples of language you could use:
- “We’d like to ship you a replacement for the defective product. We’ll reach out by email today.”
- “We’d like to give you a refund. Please just contact customer support and reference support ticket #123 and I’ll personally make sure your refund goes through quickly.”
- “We wish we could bring your dead cat back to life, but obviously that’s not an option. But if you decide you’d like to adopt a cat, please let us know. We’ll cover all costs for adopting a new cat. Again, you have our sincerest apologies and condolences.”
InformIf it’s not possible to fix the problem, offer helpful information that might at least let the customer get some relief from the problem, even if it means sending your customer to some other business. Examples of language you could use:
- “Since our traps are only meant for big game, we’d recommend you try our competitor, ACME Corp. Their Roadrunner 2000 trap is probably a better fit for your unique needs.”
- “To avoid more explosions, we’d recommend storing the two chemical containers in separate rooms.”
- “Sorry we can’t help you grow your hair back after the accident with our product, but we can highly recommend you use Quick Grow Hair Replacement Spray-On. We understand they’re the best in the market.”
How to Avoid Common Pitfalls
BlameNever blame the customer…even if the customer is entirely to blame. Never even sound like you might be blaming the customer. For example, some people could read this response and think you sound like you’re blaming the customer… “We’re sorry you set your hair on fire with our product, and we really want to help.” …but this response does a better job of avoiding the blame game… “We’re sorry for your hair catching fire, and we really want to help.”
Negative WordsNever use words that might be interpreted to have negative connotations, even if the point you’re making is positive. Good marketers understand that, to drive customer behavior, the emotional content and associations of words often matter just as much (if not more) than the actual meaning of those words. For example, some people could have a negative emotional reaction to this response… “I wouldn’t want to upset you, so I won’t over-promise what I can’t deliver.” …but a positive emotional reaction to this response… “I want to make you happy, so I will help in any way I can.”
ExcusesNever say anything that just might be interpreted as an excuse, even when you’re really just trying to inform the customer. For example, some people might think this response is making excuses… “I’m so sorry you broke out in a rash. We had no idea you were allergic to soap.” …but this response does a better job of avoiding people thinking you’re making excuses… “I’m so sorry you broke out in a rash. I wish we had asked if you were allergic to soap first.”
Should You Also Respond to Positive Reviews?
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