It might surprise you know that your average Google review rating is NOT the determining factor on where you show up in a Google search. After all, isn't everybody telling you to get more reviews? Your business placement in Google MAPS is affected by Google reviews but probably not the way you think.
According to Search Engine Journal, 88% of people looking for products and services trust the reviews on Google as much as they would from their own friends and family. Wouldn't it make sense for Google to list businesses according to their review status. Well, if Google opened that can of worms, can you imagine the floodgates that would open up when businesses got wind of this knowledge? And if every business were racing for reviews, how much could people really trust them. It's a very slippery slope. It's interesting to note that a survey on Bright Local showed that people who saw negative reviews for a business trusted the reviews for that business more than a business who had only 5 star reviews.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS COULD GOOGLE LOOK FOR - AND WHY YOU SHOULD NOT CHEAT!
Google has done a pretty good job at keeping reviews organic. There's a lot of information that comes with review submission that you don't see but Google does. Every review on Google is attached to a Google account. If that account is used heavily and the person owning that account has created other reviews, the reviews from that person could appear to be more credible. If an account was created for the sole purpose for submitting a review and there is no other activity on the account, the review is less credible. Google can also see via the IP address, the location from with the review was submitted. Reviews coming in from the same IP address, even if they are from legitimate Google users is considered spam. We learned this the hard way... we set up a "REVIEW US ON GOOGLE" terminal at a local gym. It worked really well for getting reviews and Google removed them all (with a nice message about review spamming).Google can see demographics, location, behavioral characteristics and more associated with a person who is logged in. Perhaps now you know why Google requires that the reviewer be logged into Google in order to write a review.
REVIEW MANAGEMENT AND BEST PRACTICES
So you might ask, is it OK to solicit reviews? The answer is that it is not only OK to do, it is recommended. Realistically, you should be asking every client for feedback. If you truly care, this practice will actually improve your business - as long as you act on the negative reviews and are truly trying to fix every legitimate complaint. No business wants to see a complaint or bad review to show up on Google without first having had the chance to deal with it. We all know that there are some consumers who would rather just bitch than to deal with the problem - there's no getting around it. But most people are reasonable and if they believe the business will respond to their complaints in a productive fashion, they will happily work with the business to fix the problem. Ultimately that same person could end up posting a very positive review based on the resolution of a negative issue.
HOW REPUTATION MANAGEMENT WORKS
Reputation management solutions are pretty simple. A client is sent a simple survey question along the lines of:
"How did we do?
The recipient will rate the business by clicking one of the 5 stars in the email. Each star is a link. If the recipient clicks on a 1, 2 or 3 star, he is sent to a page where he can leave more information and that information is sent directly to the business owner. The business owner can then follow up with that customer to see what the issue was and to see if there is something that can be done. If the recipient clicks a 4 or 5 star rating, he is sent to Google or other review site to enter his review with a big thank you. Most reputation management companies use some variation of this process. Here are some things we recommend when doing this:
- Don't blast a review request to your entire customer base.
- Respond to EVERY negative review with suggestion on how to correct the problem.
- Respond to EVERY positive review with a personal thank-you
Successful Reputation Management
So, how is Google using reviews as ranking signals. We think we know the answer. Google isn't very forthcoming with how, so it's not an exact science. Imagine that every review that comes in is a pin on a map. Get enough pins and you can pretty well determine the service area associated with the business. If your business is in Vandalia and you're trying to get business in Springboro, just saying that your service area covers Springboro means nothing. Actual reviews coming in from Springboro however will improve your ranking status in Springboro dramatically. I also said that your ratings do not determine your Google rank on MAPS. That's not entirely true. Businesses that get clicked more often will rank higher. You might ask: "How does my business get clicked if it's not ranking". That answer comes down to brand recognition. Let's say you're advertising on TV or the radio. People will have a greater tendency to click your listing even if it's not first. As more people click, Google begins to recognize that it's a business that deserves higher ranking.
So, bottom line:
- Distribution of reviews legitimizes your local service and product range. If you want to rank for Springboro, get some reviews from people who live in Springboro.
- Quantity of reviews legitimizes the popularity of your brand.
- You can control the average rating of your reviews by managing the process. Higher ratings affect click-through rates and build trust. Click-through rates improve your ranking on Google so indirectly, higher ratings deliver higher rankings.