When you want to find a reliable business online, what's the first thing you do? You usually look to customer reviews, of course! And you’re probably most likely to choose a business that has a lot of reviews and a high rating. So, it stands to reason that people who are looking for the services you provide are going to want to see the same thing from you: lots of positive reviews.
This can be a lot of pressure for a local business owner. Not only can it be tough to get customers to leave reviews, there’s also no guarantee they’ll leave a positive or helpful review. And, for your local business to show up in the suggestions section of the Google search results (with your star rating), you have to have at least one Google review—it used to be three, but that changed in March 2017, so that’s some good news!
Now, at this point, you might be considering fudging the numbers a little bit. You might be thinking, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy a few reviews? Maybe I could swap reviews with another local business in a sort of trade off. Or what if I just get everyone I know to leave a review? Wouldn’t that work?”
Unfortunately, all of these are bad ideas. There are ways to incentivize customers to leave reviews without bribing them. We’ll first review the reasons why you should never buy, swap, or spam reviews, and then we’ll provide you with three valuable tips to get REAL customer reviews that your customers can count on to accurately represent your business!
It should probably go without saying, but buying reviews is a very bad idea. Although having more positive reviews will help raise your rank and give your business a more positive initial impression, this is not a sustainable solution. Google will eventually find out that these reviews are posted by spammers, and they’ll ban the spammers' accounts. Suddenly, you lose tons of reviews—and, even worse, you can be penalized for your role in the matter. You bought the reviews, after all. In the worst case scenario, you could even be fined—for example, a car dealer was fined $3.6 million for consistently posting fake reviews. Ouch.
So, you've probably decided that buying reviews is a bad idea. Well, what about swapping reviews? What if you and another local business owner decided to leave positive reviews for each other? Would that be okay?
The short answer is "no." Unfortunately, these are still fake reviews, even if they’re not purchased from a fake review company. It might seem like a more attractive option because swapping is a mutual agreement, and you won’t have to pay anything, so it might seem more legitimate; kind of like you're doing each other a favor. But the fact is, these reviews are still not being posted by real clients, and Google will eventually figure out that you are engaging in shady review practices. You could both get penalized, and then you’ll end up losing all the hard work you’ve put into your listing. You’ll also lose ranking. It’s not a pretty situation.
Spamming Ratings and Reviews from Friends and Family
So what if you ask all your friends and family to leave reviews? While this isn’t really in the same category as purchasing or swapping reviews, it’s still not a great idea to have only people you know leave positive reviews. First of all, if your friends and family don’t regularly review other places, Google will find it suspicious that all reviewers only have one positive review in their histories. Second, people who want to look into your reviews are going to notice that the reviews are pretty vague, and in some cases, they might even notice that the reviewer and business owner share a last name. Hmm. Again, there’s nothing wrong with family and friends leaving a review if they choose to. You just can't rely on that en masse. So you need to make sure that you’re getting reviews from REAL customers to ensure your listing is legitimate and reliable for potential customers.
Three Tips to Get Real Customer Reviews
So now that we’ve covered things you should not do, let’s cover some ways that you can do get real reviews.
Encourage customers to leave reviews for a chance at winning something. Now, some people might consider this “bribing,” but when done correctly, this is actually a great way to encourage participation as well as return business. Some good ideas include leaving reviews for a coupon, or enter the reviewer in a lottery for a chance to win something small from your store. You should avoid big rewards, as this could be considered “purchasing” a review.
Encourage reviews and social media interaction with a sign at your place of business. Strategic placement of signs around your place of business can help remind your customers to leave a review. You can also add to “like” or “follow” you on social media platforms!
Post links everywhere, and send out a newsletter. If your type of business allows for easy email communication with your customers, and they have agreed to have their names added to a newsletter list, make it easy for them to click a link to leave you a review. Place the link in a visible place on your website and post about it occasionally on social media. The easier you make it for them to leave a review, the more likely they are to do it!
Do you have any other tips to help local businesses get reviews? Let us know!