Updated: Sep 16, 2021
With Covid-19 upending the way that local companies do business around the world, consumers are forced to alter their buying behaviors during these unprecedented times. Being able to trust a local business became more important than ever – with online reviews playing a key role in consumer decisions.
Why is it important to respond to online reviews?
Owner responses represent one of the greatest assets your local business has for becoming an active contributor to your online reputation.
The responses you write to happy or unhappy reviewers aren’t just for a single customer to read - they’re for all future potential customers to read. What you say to one customer signals to all others how they can expect to be treated by your business, according to Moz Responding to Reviews. It is incredibly important to keep in mind that your response can and will impact future sales.
When you reply to reviews, it shows that you value your customers and their feedback. High-quality, positive reviews from your customers can improve your business visibility and increase the likelihood that a shopper will purchase from you.
While there are many factors that determine search rankings, online customer reviews, such as Google reviews, can also provide a strong signal to search engines to communicate authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
Why Do Reviews Matter for SEO?
Google trusts consumer reviews to be an accurate depiction of your business. Similar to link-building (when your site receives a link from another relevant site), Google sees a review as a kind of endorsement of trust and rewards you with better visibility.
Reviews help Google understand more about your business. Whether they know it or not, Google is reading a customer’s review and is pulling keywords to understand more about your site. Reviews help to fill in content gaps.
Great reviews mean more clicks. If a high percentage of searchers choose your site from the search results, search engines assume that you’re doing something right and will reward you with better rankings. More stars = more clicks. More clicks = higher rankings.
What are best practices for Google reviews?
Add a “leave a review” link on your homepage to make it easy for customers to leave a review. Obtaining Google reviews is an easy and free (!) way to get ahead of your competitors by building customer trust and increasing search engine visibility.
Have a strategy in place for getting more reviews. A happy customer is more likely to spend the time leaving a positive and detailed review so ask! This can either be in person or online (through email, text, and more).
Update basic information including address, location, hours, etc. To maximize how often users find your business in local search results, ensure that your business information in Google My Business is accurate, complete, and engaging.
Respond to reviews even when they only leave a star rating. Always thank your customer for leaving a response and offer a phone number or email address for them to reach out if they have any questions or concerns (for one - three-star ratings).
Respond to all reviews in a timely manner. Don’t get caught up with only negative reviews. Responding to positive reviews is just as important and can further enhance the relationship with the customer.
How to respond to positive reviews:
Step 1: Address each reviewer by name in your response. Albeit small, this is an incredibly important part of your review. Your goal is to humanize the interaction as much as possible and this creates a connection between your business and the customer.
Step 2: Thank your customer and be specific in your response. Whatever you do, do not copy and paste a blanket response - good or bad. You want to demonstrate that you are actively listening to your customers rather than just checking something off of your “to-do” list. We realize that it’s hard to say “thank you” 30 different ways, but make a point to differentiate your responses, even if only slightly. One good way to do this is to repeat what your customer wrote in their review.
Step 3: Use the business name and keywords in your review response. Using the business name, category and location in your response will help the review appear in search results. For example:
Step 4: Add some marketing without sounding too salesy. “Did you know that we just started a customer loyalty program? We hope to see you in again soon to try it!”
How to respond to negative reviews:
Step 1: Apologize and sympathize in your response to the negative review. Take responsibility for your business (I am the owner, I acknowledge your review and am a person who can provide insight).
Step 2: Show accountability and validate the customer’s experience. Explain what your customers usually experience. “We are normally known for our exceptional customer service and regret that we missed the mark.”
Step 3: Provide a resolution or move the conversation offline if necessary. Offer an appropriate means of atonement. “If you come back in, we’d be happy to get your next coffee on the house.” Make sure you acknowledge that they had a bad experience and how you’re going to help in the future.
Step 4: Keep your response short and sweet. Resist the urge to ask questions or go into too much detail. This could risk upsetting your customer even further. Three sentences total is a good length for a response.
Reviews can be an incredibly useful tool for attracting new customers, not only through their persuasive effect on the reader, but also by boosting local rankings so that businesses are more likely to show up in search results. It’s very important to carve out time to respond to reviews and to use each interaction as an opportunity to connect with current and potential customers.
In general, responding to reviews — positive and negative alike — shows you’re an engaged business owner who cares not only about your business but about your customers, too.
About the Author: Carolyn Cummings. Optimist. Risk Taker. Snail Mail Enthusiast. Started out in big business at a company of 350K+, moved her way to a privately owned company of 300+, and then eventually found herself at Rolling Hills Media on a team of two. Carolyn thrives on change and is stimulated by the ever-changing SERP landscape. Bringing over seven years of digital marketing experience to the team, she believes that patience, coffee, and a heavy dose of creativity can drive quality traffic to sites of all shapes and sizes.