Word of mouth is the oldest marketing technique in the book – and one of the most effective. About a quarter of people talk about their favorite products and brands with family/friends every day; 78% will regale them with stories of great experiences at least once a week; and 88% had the highest level of trust in a brand when a friend/family member recommended it. That’s powerful.
Meet today’s version of the classic strategy: Google reviews. (Don’t worry; we have the facts and stats on this too). But bottom line: If you are not making the most of this consumer-driven content, you are missing out on business-building potential.
Why are they so important – and how do you utilize Google reviews for maximum impact?
The Power of Google Reviews
Everyday, Google fields over 5.6 billion searches covering everything from the latest news and weather forecasts to sports updates, politics, and recipes. And, of course, home design and improvement. Home remodeling searches doubled from 2020 to 2022; searches for home improvement companies rose 8.5%, along with increases for inquiries into general contractors, home appliances, and related terms.
We’re trending, folks.
Google reviews empower you to promote your brand – and its exceptional products, services, and unique offerings – to potential customers. The very simplicity of the platform is where the power is. Reviews are written by the people, for the people. They offer social proof of your brand’s quality, value, integrity, etc. While there are fakes (which Google strives to weed out quickly and which we can learn to spot), they are, by and large, honest accounts of experiences.
Google reviews are essential tools for consumers and brands alike:
- 89% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase.
- Among customers aged 55+, 39% say they trust reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
- For those 35 – 54, the “trust score” is even higher: 89% trust reviews as much as recommendations from those they know personally.
- Positive local reviews improve your rank in the search results, and an increase of just 0.1% in star ratings increases conversions by 25%.
- Customers are willing to pay more (over a third more) to support companies with excellent reviews.
- It’s free! While paid advertising campaigns have a big impact, organic reviews allow potential customers to make informed decisions.
The numbers boil down to this: Reviews build trust, improve online visibility, serve as actionable sources of customer intelligence, and convert more prospects into customers.
7 Tips for Utilizing Google Reviews
How do you leverage this essential tool for success? Implement these tips for utilizing Google reviews:
1. Verify Your Business Profile. Start at the beginning. When you verify your business with Google. In typical Google style, it is an easy process, and at the end, you will ensure your business info shows up on Search, Maps, and other services. You can also respond to reviews – which we will discuss in a moment.
2.Know the Rules. Google’s guidelines recommend asking customers individually for reviews rather than “soliciting in bulk.” So, for example, instead of sending mass emails requesting feedback, you would either ask in person or send a personalized message. When soliciting, you must ask all customers, regardless of whether they had a positive or negative experience. Do not offer incentives in exchange for a review.
Remember, this is all about transparency, and the goal is to give consumers a relatively objective tool with which to make decisions. You can’t weed out the good from the not-so-good or skew opinions with free merch, discounts, or other incentives.
3.Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews. That said, it is within guidelines – and we would call it a must-do for brands – to ask customers to leave reviews. Most (81%) of consumers say they leave a review four times a year or less; about 20% never leave a review. We are far more likely to read reviews than leave them, so it is important to take steps to encourage folks to do so. You can:
- Ask in person. Encourage customers to share their experiences with your brands. Your team should also be proficient in making these requests respectfully.
- Use Your marketing materials. If you feel awkward saying, “Thanks for being a valued customer! We’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave us a review on Google,” let your email signature, cards, receipts, follow-up emails, or texts do it for you.
- Use Google tools. Try Google’s marketing kit and a custom short URL to support your efforts. (Google has some helpful tips for getting more reviews, so check it out).
4.Follow Up! When a customer takes time out of their busy lives and schedules to leave a review, the very worst thing you can do is… nothing. Regardless of what they said, take a moment to thank them. Keep your response short and sweet. Follow-up serves a few purposes: brands that respond are viewed as 1.7 times more trustworthy than those who don’t. This is an opportunity to build trust, humanize your business, and put your professionalism on display.
5.Respond to Reviews – Especially the Negative Ones. On a related note, it is especially vital to respond to negative reviews. While the top reason people leave reviews is that they found the product/service/experience “excellent,” it is closely followed by the product/service/experience was “unsatisfactory.” Most (94%) of consumers say they have avoided a company because of negative reviews. But this is where the opportunity is: over half (56%) say that they changed their perspective on a business based on their response to a review.
If you receive a negative review, act fast:
- Respond as soon as you can. In our rapid pace world, we expect prompt responses. This is particularly true when someone is dissatisfied, angry, frustrated, etc.
- Keep it professional. It feels personal; it’s not. Don’t lash out, use disrespectful language, or appear defensive.
- Dig deeper. What’s wrong? If, for example, the person mentions an issue with a product, investigate. If you are not sure what went wrong or need more details, ask them for information via a direct or private message. If you do know where things went south, outline briefly the steps you are taking to address the situation.
- Apologize if necessary. Always show empathy for the customer, and if it is appropriate (i.e. you screwed up!), admit it and apologize. Again, follow up with clear steps on what you will do to remedy the issue now and going forward. If it wasn’t your fault, do not take responsibility but rather show compassion.
- Sign your response with your name or initials. This shows you are authentic – a real person – and that you are taking their concerns seriously.Note: About 10% of Google reviews are fake. The search platform does weed out hundreds of millions of inauthentic reviews, but if you see posts that don’t make sense, are clearly false, or scammy, delete and report them immediately
Remember, it’s not such much the negative review that’ll hurt you; it is your response – or lack thereof. Be prompt, proactive, and professional.
6.Turn Reviews Into Marketing Gold. Let your customers do the talking. Social proof is key, and reviews are an invaluable resource. Share great reviews on your social media pages, highlight them on your website, include them in your marketing and/or press kit, and reach out to those customers for possible video testimonials, profile pieces, or other marketing materials. Don’t let these reviews go to waste!
7.Gather Data – and Act On It. Reviews give you insight into the minds of customers. Leverage this. Gather information on what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, what could be improved, and what you can capitalize on. Then act. Use this data to further enhance effective campaigns and strategies while shoring up areas in which you are not so strong.
And let people know that their words have value: if, for example, a customer leaves a review wishing that they could access their project online instead of having to call in and check on progress, you can say something like, “Because of feedback from valued customers, we’ve implemented BuilderTrend to allow you to stay connected with your project in real-time. Thank you!”
Are you utilizing Google reviews to build trust, humanize your company, and grow your business? The fact is that people are looking for the products and services you offer. Reviews tell them if you are the solution for which they are searching.
Home Artisans of Indiana
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