For local small businesses, customer reviews—especially those on Google—can be powerful. The reviews your small business receives on Google and other review sites can be the difference between your business’s success or failure.
In this article, we’ll explain why customer reviews are important, how to get more reviews, and tips to leverage the power of these reviews.
Why Reviews Matter for Your Small Business
Just how important are reviews? Recent data shows more customers are reading online reviews today than ever before.
According to Brightlocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 77% of consumers say they “always” or “regularly” read reviews when they’re looking for a local business—that’s up from 60% in the previous year’s results. And 78% say they turn to the Internet to find local business information more than once a week.
The takeaway: Reviews of your business matter to potential customers.
How To Get More Reviews
You know that online reviews matter to your business. But how do you go about getting more reviews on sites that you don’t control?
The good news is, there’s a lot you can do.
Start Asking For Reviews
Ever hear the popular quote, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”? There’s a good reason for its popularity—it rings true for most things in life, including customer reviews.
If you ask for reviews, you’ll end up getting more of them. And the research backs this up. According to Brightlocal’s survey, 12% of consumers say they’ve left a review every time a business asks them to, while another 23% say they’ve left a review more than half the time when asked to.
Lay the Groundwork for Your Ask
Before we dive into ideas on how you can ask for reviews, there are a few things you can do to make it more likely that your customers will take action when you ask.
Verify your profile across review sites. Make sure your profile is verified, if possible, on sites where you’ll be seeking reviews. This is an extremely important step on Google: If you haven’t verified your Google Business Profile, your business might not even show up on Google Maps or in Google search results. If you need help setting up and verifying your Google Business Profile, check our Google Business Profile guide. You can also verify your business on Facebook in the settings.
Send customers directly to your reviews page. If your customers feel they have to take too many steps to leave you a review, they’ll be more likely to put it on the backburner—which means they may never get around to it. Create a link that will take your customers directly to your reviews page. Google has detailed instructions for creating your link here.
Shorten your reviews link. Use a link shortener like Bitly, Rebrandly, or TinyURL to turn your link into something that’s both short and memorable.
Create QR codes. You can create a QR code at a site like QR Code Generator to link to your reviews page on Google or other sites. Sharing scannable QR codes in your store and on marketing materials creates a frictionless way for customers to get started with their review.
How to Ask Your Customers for Reviews
Feel free to get creative when it comes to asking for reviews. Here are some ideas and suggestions to help you get started.
Ask for reviews on your website
Your website is a great place to ask customers to leave you a review. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Include a link to your review page in your header and your footer.
- Use an image editing site like Canva to create an eye-catching image for your link.
- Create a standalone reviews page on your site where you can also ask for a review.
- Embed your latest reviews in the sidebar, with a link to your reviews page on Google or other sites.
Calibrate your timing
You want positive reviews, so the timing of your request is important. To increase the chances of a positive review, choose points along the customer purchase journey when your customers are likely to be satisfied with your product or services.
For example, if you’re sending an email after purchase to ask for a review, make sure enough time has gone by for your customer to use your product or services.
On the other hand, be careful not to wait too long: You want to ask for a review while their experience is still fresh.
Include an ask in other interactions
In addition to purchases, consider other key areas where you’re likely to engage with your customers, such as during customer support interactions.
Make your request for a review a standard part of the process. For example:
- If you use an automated email asking for feedback after the resolution of each support ticket, include a request for a review in that email.
- Instruct your support team to ask for a review after they’ve resolved a customer’s issue.
Use your QR code in-store
Pay particular attention to areas where the code would catch your customers’ eye or places where your customers are likely to linger.
For example, you could put your QR code linking to your review site on a sign by your checkout counter. Or you could place your code on a two-sided custom window decal adhered to your door, where it can catch the attention of both current and returning customers.
Print out review request cards
Include both your shortened link and your QR code on printed cards. Your ask can be as simple as “Please leave us a review” on a business card. A postcard provides extra room to include a longer message with additional branding or promotions.
Leave a stack of cards by the checkout where people are likely to pick one up. Employees can also hand them out, and you can keep some on hand for whenever the opportunity to ask crops up, such as during conversations with customers.
Tell customers how long it will take
If your customer has never left a review on Google before, they might think it’s a long, drawn-out process involving multiple steps. If they assume it will take up a lot of time, it will be easier to put off writing a review “until later.”
So let customers know leaving a review will only take a few minutes. Explain that the link will take them directly to the page where they can quickly rate and review your business.
Post your request on social media
Since you’re already interacting with an engaged audience on these platforms, they’re good places to ask for reviews.
It’s also a place where you can get creative with your request. For example, you could screenshot a recent positive review and share it. Then, ask your audience to share their personal experiences in a review of their own.
Tell them why
Don’t be shy about telling customers why reviews matter to your business. Your most loyal customers will likely be happy to support you.
You can also let them know that their review can be helpful in other ways, such as helping:
- You identify areas that need improvement
- Other people decide whether your business is a good fit for their needs
- You see what you’re doing well
Should You Offer Incentives for Reviews?
You may have seen other businesses offering a discount or a free gift in exchange for reviews. Is this something you should do as well?
Offering incentives for reviews is a gray area. Some review sites prohibit incentives entirely. Google considers incentivized reviews “fake engagement”, and also frowns on discouraging negative reviews or soliciting positive reviews only. Yelp prohibits incentives for reviews, and they even take their stance a step farther by prohibiting the solicitation of positive reviews; users caught doing this may receive a review solicitation penalty.
Before using incentives or soliciting reviews, be sure to research your review platform’s policies and rules.
Should You Respond to Reviews?
The short answer: Yes.
According to Brightlocal’s survey, 89% of consumers say they’re fairly likely or highly likely to use a business that responds to all of its reviews, both positive and negative. On the flip side, 57% say they’re either not very likely or not at all likely to use a business that doesn’t respond at all to reviews.
By responding to each review, you can leverage the power of positive reviews (and mitigate the effects of negative reviews).
You might feel you don’t need to respond to positive feedback. But a response to a positive review shows customers that you appreciate their thoughts and value their time and attention. It can helps build trust and credibility.
Responding to negative reviews can be even more powerful. Business owners often feel powerless in the face of a crushingly negative review. But the ability to respond in a fair and reasonable manner gives you an opportunity to address a problem and show other customers how you manage this kind of feedback. You may even be able to convert a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one, turning the interaction into a win-win situation.
Customer reviews have become an essential element of small business success. Fortunately, small business owners can proactively manage their reviews. With a bit of time and effort, you can harness the power of reviews for your small business.
Next steps: We’re here with more tips to help your small business get ahead. Sign up for the Small Biz Ahead newsletter today for more small business tips and advice.
Very helpful. All my customers love my product. Makes their lives better and more money.
Requesting reviews or responding to reviews online can be an ethical/HIPAA issue for those in the helping professions.