Here’s another way to get Google to work for you

There is one very important and effective digital marketing tool small and medium-sized businesses can use to grow their business that honestly doesn’t get talked about enough. In previous Insights posts, we’ve touted the benefits of email marketing, landing pages, social media marketing and content marketing, and all of those marketing strategies are highly effective in their own right. We all know about SEO and the importance of getting your business to rank as high as possible in search. We also know that a paid Google ad campaign can drive new traffic to your website.

But when users perform a search for a product or service, there’s typically more to the results page than a simple laundry list of the most relevant businesses. You’ll often get a map plus listings for a handful of companies. Within those listings, right below the business name, you’ll see anywhere from zero to five golden stars shining back at you – a ranking compiled through feedback posted by customers who have used those businesses before. This feedback, offered through Google reviews, can instantly sway first impressions… and conversions. The better your star rating, the better your chance of potential customers clicking to your website or even hitting the call button and connecting with you live.

In fact, Google reviews play an enormous role in local business SEO and it’s easy to see why. Users and search engines fundamentally have the same objective. Both want the most relevant and trustworthy information to float to the top of the results, so Google has intelligently factored reviews into their algorithm in assessing relevance and trust.

Here are a few ways that reviews have a direct impact on your SEO:

User-generated content A regular churn of content is important for SEO. One of the factors that Google’s algorithms take into consideration is whether a website is active, which is why content marketing is so important. User-generated content such as Google reviews helps with this content churn. Customers sharing their shopping experiences, insights, opinions and advice online shows Google that your business holds a position of authority. Search engine crawlers can even analyze what people have to say about a business, not just what the business is saying about itself. Sounds scary? Not if you’re delivering on your brand promise.

Review volume The more reviews, the better. A business with 100+ reviews on Google is likely to rank higher than a business with just a few. This is not only a result of the regular content churn mentioned above, but simply because customer reviews will likely contain relevant keywords – including those tricky long-tail keywords – as part of the customer just expressing their honest opinion.

Reputation management Any review, whether good, bad or indifferent, is going to affect the reputation of your business. One concern companies have about online reviews is the potential to receive negative, or trolling, reviews from customers they’ve never even done business with. The good news is that Google has a number of strategies to identify potentially false negative reviews, and even a handful of poor reviews will not dramatically affect your star rating (while still contributing to your user-generated content and review volume goals listed above).

More clicks Naturally, the higher your star rating and the greater the number of reviews submitted to support that star rating, the more clicks you’re going to get to your website. If a higher percentage of users choose to visit your site first among all the search results, Google is going to decide you’re a more relevant result and reward you with a better ranking. The math is simple: more stars + more reviews = more clicks and a higher ranking.

Now that we’ve decided that Google reviews are good for your business, the task is to get more of them. The first and most obvious tip for increasing the number of positive reviews on Google is simply to ask for them. Start with everyone you know using the traditional word-of-mouth techniques that are older than the internet. Every time you complete a successful customer interaction, ask them to leave you a positive review on Google. It may be tempting to bribe them by offering a discount or free stuff as an incentive or reward, but if the transaction was genuinely a good experience the additional incentive shouldn’t be necessary.

Naturally, there are also a few digital strategies we can implement to increase the volume and quality of reviews:

Email campaign idea #1 Why not develop an email campaign that reaches out to everyone on your email list. Simply send a short and simple message saying that you value their business and encourage them to leave a review. This is your word-of-mouth approach adapted to the digital world, and even without an incentive this approach can be quite successful. Given the power of email analytics, you can deploy a campaign and see what percentage of new reviews you’ve earned versus emails sent. You can even try A/B testing and use those insights to shape a future campaign.

Email campaign idea #2 Email triggers can put your Google review campaign on cruise control. The best time to ask a customer for a review is right after they’ve made a transaction, both because it’s top-of-mind and because they’re most excited about the purchase. If your business is set up for e-commerce, simply set a trigger asking for a review after the purchase and include a button in the email that links to your Google My Business page. If you’re not set up for e-commerce? Make 2022 your year to establish an e-commerce presence.

Social media As we all know, social media is a fantastic way to connect, engage and interact with your customers. Why not simply create a post on your social media channels asking for reviews? It doesn’t cost anything just to ask… though you could also consider investing in paid social ads to potentially increase your review activity.

Your website One of the places your customers likely visit you frequently is on your website, and you can use this to your Google review advantage. If your site has sliding banners, consider adding a banner asking for reviews with a link to your Google My Business page. Alternatively, you could be more subtle about it and add a review request module further down your homepage, or even just a button on your contact page. Where it goes is up to you, and the beauty with digital is nothing is ever set in stone so you can always experiment with different approaches.

The takeaway

There’s no doubt that a Google review campaign can add value to your business. Those reviews not only attract new leads and customers but improve your SEO performance. Over time, the more reviews you receive will pay dividends and drive your business to the top. The ideal Google review strategy is different for every business. Connect with us today and we can consult with you on the five-star approach ideally suited to your business.

Angelo Perri

Angelo Perri is the founder and CEO of MHZ Design Communications, a customer engagement agency located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Connect on Linkedin.