The Importance of User Reviews

Recent Google updates have introduced greater integration between their social media platform Google+, and their local search listings, Google+ Local. The changes are pretty significant, as it now means your Plus Ones (Google+ equivalent of Likes) from people within your network will show up in your Google searches – and likely have a bearing on your rankings.

Additionally, Google has given a greater emphasis to acquiring user reviews which could have a bearing not only on your search engine visibility, but that could also influence visitors on your Google+ Local listing – good or bad.

Embracing Greater Use of Reviews

The trend towards greater consumer involvement is clear. The choice is either to ignore it and let others take control of the reviews applied to your listing, or to recognise the opportunity and take control yourself.

In taking control, the goal is not to badger customers to give you positive reviews, but to educate and encourage reviews which you can then monitor. Thus enabling you to address negative reviews and promote the positive ones, incentivising customers to then copy their good review to Google+ Local for you.

Dos and Don’ts

Clearly, Google will have checks and measures in place to prevent abuse of the review system, so with this in mind, here are some dos and don’ts.

  • Do educate customers regarding how they can review your services
  • Do encourage genuine user reviews
  • Do consider offering incentives for customers to give a review
  • Do claim and then optimise your Google+ Local listing
  • Do monitor your reviews
  • Don’t take negative reviews personally
  • Don’t try to trick Google by adding false reviews
  • Don’t remove negative reviews

Ultimately, trying to trick Google is not a good strategy – as you will be caught out sooner or later and be removed from their listings.

Managing the Review Process

In order to take some control over the review process, it’s a good idea to put your own system in place which follows a process similar to this:

  1. Request customer reviews
  2. Thank them for their review
  3. Monitor the comments
  4. Address negative feedback
  5. Incentivise positive reviewers to copy their comments to your Google+ listing

Ideally, if your business is conducted off line, the review process should be manageable over a mobile device – providing convenience for your customer and making the most of an immediate opportunity for you.

It’s Not Only Google

This article focuses on Google’s recent changes to promote greater customer interaction – and more genuine feedback for other consumers – but other websites such as Foursquare and Yelp also provide a review system.

If you would like help with managing user reviews, or improving your Google+ Local exposure, get in touch.

By Olga Travlos