For businesses focused on selling to a local market, reviews are crucial not only for driving business to your door (as many as 90% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase), but also for helping your business appear higher up on search results. Having positive, recent reviews can significantly improve your search rankings in your local market.
When it comes to writing reviews, there are a few types of people who are more likely to do it than others.
- Repeat customers
- Members of your loyalty program
- Customers who leave positive feedback via posts on Facebook or other social media
- Customers who open your email newsletter
- Customers who have already left positive reviews in the past
These are the customers you're really hoping will write reviews, because they've already expressed interest (and hopefully their positive feelings) about your business. Plus, according to a recent BrightLocal survey, the majority of consumers will write a review if asked.
This is not to say you shouldn't welcome reviews from people who don't fit into the above categories, but it does mean that you should give loyal, satisfied customers the chance to write reviews.
Studies have indicated that some reviews and review practices count more towards your position in search results than others.
- Quantity: More reviews are better.
- Positive sentiment: Positive reviews are better.
- Recency: Recent reviews are better: 3 months old or less.
- Quality: Thorough reviews are better; Google is looking for more than just a star rating.
- Keywords included: Reviews that contain keywords related to your products or services tend to be better.
- Frequency: A steady rate of new business reviews is best.
- Responses: Reviews with owner responses are better. Not responding to negative reviews may cost you in rank and reputation.
- Diversity: It's best to have reviews on many different sites, although Google may weigh its own reviews as most valuable.
You may be thinking: that's great, but where in particular should I encourage customers to leave reviews?
Some of the top review platforms that continue to be important for local businesses in 2020 include:
- Google My Business (GMB): Google compiles information about a local business into a single listing which should be claimed and managed by the business.
- Facebook: The social media giant doubles as a reviewing platform. 90 million small businesses use Facebook.
- Yelp: A platform used primarily for restaurants and trades
- OpenTable: A reservation and review platform for restaurants
- Angie's List: A review platform for trades and other professional services
- Better Business Bureau (BBB): An organization that accredits businesses that doubles as a reviewing platform
- Trip Advisor: A reviewing platform for businesses in the travel industry
- Manta: An online directory and review platform for local businesses
- Foursquare's City Guide: An online directory and review platform for local businesses
So, how should you ask for reviews? We've summarized 10 approaches below and categorized them into four groups: in person, over the phone, by text, and by email.
How to ask for reviews (nicely and tactfully): 9 approaches
1. Spontaneously when feedback is given in person: When someone compliments your business, this is a great opportunity to ask for a review. Let’s say that you’ve just finished a project for your client, and they express what a pleasure it was to work with you. This is where you can say, “It was great working with you, too. We’re on [platform] if you’re comfortable leaving us a review. It would really help us out.”
2. Planned in-person follow-ups: Similarly, you can ask for feedback on a customer’s experience. Let’s say you own a tech store. A customer service representative could ask, “How was your experience today?” then, if the customer seems open to sharing, the customer service rep could follow up with a suggestion to leave a review.
Over the phone
3. Planned review requests: At the end of a phone support session, the customer service rep can say “Would you be willing to give us feedback about your experience?” Then, a follow-up email could be sent if the customer says yes.
4. Automated text invitations: About 1/3 of consumers in the US prefer to text with businesses than use other channels. You can send customers a follow-up text after they make a purchase, like “Thanks for working with us,” or “Thanks for purchasing [product],” and include a request for a review by asking, “How did we do?” or “We’d love your feedback.” Then, you can provide a link to a review platform.
5. Post-purchase or post-engagement email follow-up: The best time to ask for reviews is usually right after a purchase or interaction. If they purchase something online, put your request for reviews right in the order confirmation email. This does three things: 1) helps ensure that they open it, 2) reminds them what they’re reviewing, and 3) means that any reviews generated are directly linked to a verified purchase. According to ReviewTrackers, 70% of reviews come from post-transactional review request emails.
6. Delayed email follow-up: The only time you should wait to ask for a review is if a customer purchased a product that needs to be used for a few days first, like a vacuum cleaner. In this case, you can send a follow-up email a few days after the purchase, and ask them how they like the product. Make sure to include a direct link to the place you'd most appreciate a review, such as your Google My Business page or Facebook. It's best not to embed review forms in emails as this might cause them to be flagged as a security risk.
A review request made a week after delivery
7. "Thank you" emails: Send an email that thanks loyal customers and mentions how your business is doing (growing, an anniversary). Ask them what they love about your business, and link to a review platform.
8. Personal customer outreach from staff: If your business is small, you might ask staff to send emails to customers they have personally worked with to ask for reviews.
9. Vendor reviews: Write reviews for vendors and/or partners you have worked with. They may return the favor.
How to make asking for reviews easier
An email with a link to the review site is simple enough for online businesses. It really just comes down to whether or not the customer wants to do it. But what about physical businesses? If you're a hotel, or a restaurant, or a salon, what can you do to encourage people to leave a review?
First, outline the entire process in as much detail as possible. You can use this free tool from Whitespark to generate a review handout that takes the customer through each step of the review process. All you have to do is provide your information, and Whitespark will automatically enter it into a template.
A personalized email
Second, make sure you personalize each review request email, (such as by inserting their name) instead of sending one out to everyone on your mailing list at one time. This will help stagger the number of reviews you receive over time. Plus, it will mean you aren’t breaking Google’s “no mass review requests” rule.
Third, direct your customers to enter the review site as organically as possible (logging into their Google account and searching for your business). This way each review will have a different referral.
Fourth, try review software if your businesses has many clients. These tools offer features like:
- Review monitoring: You get a notification when someone posts a review.
- Automated campaigns: You are able to create campaigns that automatically ask customers for a review, rather than having to ask them individually.
- Social media monitoring: You get notified when someone mentions your brand on social media so you can check it out.
- Analytics: It generates analytics reports based on social media and review site activity.
- CRM integration: Some software can plug into your customer relations management data so that you can ask previous customers for reviews.
As a general rule of thumb, the larger your business and the more locations you have, the more substantial the review generation software you will need. However, simple software can meet the needs of most smaller, local businesses. Some review generation software is designed for a particular industry, while others are useful for many different industries.
For small and local businesses:
- Nearby Now: Local business, service industry
- Broadly: Small business, service industry
- NiceJob: Service industry, agencies
- PulseM: Home service industry, medical industry
- Customer Lobby: Local businesses
For any business:
Review don’ts: tactics to avoid
Some businesses offer prizes and discounts to those who leave reviews or fill out customer satisfaction surveys, but this is a bad idea.
Depending on the platform, incentivized reviews may be flagged as dishonest and filtered. Yelp, for example, has rules in place that strictly regulate review solicitations, and will even remove reviews if businesses break these rules.
Google also has iron-clad rules for Google My Business reviews. These forbid:
- the use of reviews for advertising
- manipulating reviews
- including promotions in reviews
- “accepting or offering money” for reviews
- mass review solicitations
Sometimes it might seem like the only way to get people to actually leave reviews or fill out a survey is to give them a chance at a prize. However, by doing so, you may receive dishonest reviews that will immediately disappear.
In the end, it's always better to delight your customers with your products or services, and then ask them for a review soon after.
Some businesses use kiosks to collect reviews, prompting customers to fill out a digital form on a tablet or computer. It's best to avoid this tactic, since many reviews coming from a single computer or mobile device tend to be filtered out by review sites.
If your business does decide to use a kiosk, use it to send users an email containing a link to a review platform. This way, customers can write reviews on their own devices.
Review gating and fake reviews
As Google’s guidelines mention, your business should never engage in tactics like “review gating.” This is a practice where a business determines whether a customer had a positive or negative experience, and then invites only the happy customers to post a review.
In this way, customers with negative experiences are steered away from posting negative reviews. This is against the rules for most major reviewing sites, including Google, Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.
Another “black hat” strategy is posting fake reviews. These are filtered by Google and other platforms.
Google filters content that it deems "inappropriate," including:
- Fake (spam, fake comments)
- Restricted (leads to a method of buying something restricted)
- Off-topic (comments are not relevant to the location or product being reviewed)
- Sexually explicit
- Offensive ("contains obscene, profane, or offensive language or gestures")
- Dangerous or derogatory
- Deceitful (The reviewer is not who they present themselves to be.)
- Conflicting in interest (such as a review from a competitor)
These regulations protect consumers and businesses from malicious content. Most honest reviews will not anger Google.
If you encounter a fake or otherwise inappropriate review, you should report it to the review platform for three reasons: 1) if someone posted a fake review of your business, it could unfairly hurt your reputation, 2) if your competitor is posting fake reviews, calling them out may improve your standing, and 3) harmful reviews could disturb your customers.
How to spot and respond to a fake review
1) To help determine whether a review is fake or not, check for one of these common signs:
- They reference a product or service you don't offer, a different business's name, or other incorrect information.
- There is no record of this person in your customer database.
- The name of the reviewer and/or their profile image is missing.
- The reviewer leaves a very low rating but doesn't say the reason.
- The reviewer left other businesses reviews like this one.
2) Identify how this review violates the platform's policy. You may need this information later. For example, if you received a Google review that expresses dissatisfaction with another businesses's product, it would be considered "off-topic" by Google's Prohibited and Restricted Content guidelines.
3) Once you feel certain that you are dealing with a fake review, write a helpful, polite reply that draws attention to whatever issue you have identified. For example, if they reference a product you don't sell, suggest that they might have left a comment for the wrong business. This way, every person that sees the fake review before it is taken down will know that there is something wrong with it. Plus, you may get SEO credit for replying to a negative review.
4) Flag the review.
How to report a fake Google, Facebook, or Yelp review on a computer
1) Sign into Google My Business.
2) Next to the review, click "Flag as inappropriate." If you are looking at your GMB profile in Google search, click the flag icon. If you are in Google Maps, click the three dots icon next to the review and select "flag as inappropriate."
3) Next, you will be taken to a page where you can enter your contact information and the reason why you flagged the content. Submit your answers.
1) Log into your business's profile.
2) Find the review.
3) Click the three dots icon in the upper right corner of the review.
4) Select "Report post"
5) Follow Facebook's prompts to report the post.
6) Facebook should examine your case within the next few days.
1) Log into your business's profile.
2) Find the review.
3) Click on the three dots icon and select "report review"
4) Hover over the flag icon next to the review to check the status of your request.
How report a fake Google or Yelp review on a mobile device
Google My Business app (Android and Apple)
1) Open your GMB app.
2) Go to "Customers." Select "Reviews."
3) Find the review you want to flag.
4) Tap the three dots icon. Select "Flag as inappropriate," (Apple) or "Flag review" (Android).
Google Maps App (Android)
1) Open the Google Maps app.
2) Go to your business's profile.
3) Enter your business's name.
4) Tap "Reviews"
5) Find the review you want to flag.
6) Tap the three dots icon. Select "Report review."
Google Maps App (Apple)
1) Open the Google Maps app.
2) Find your business's listing.
3) Find the review you want to flag.
4) Click the three dots icon. Select "Report review."
Yelp (Android or Apple)
1) Access Yelp on your mobile device.
2) Find the review you want to report.
3) Click the three dots icon. Select "Report a review."
Net Promoter Score
Instead of engaging in risky tactics, encourage customers to provide honest feedback. Then, monitor your reviews so that potential customers can watch you thank positive reviewers and respond tactfully to negative reviews. According to BrightLocal in 2019, 46% of consumers “always” read a business’s replies to reviews.
You can also help identify problems by determining your Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is one way to learn how customers assess your business’ performance. You can determine this by asking customers to rate the likelihood that they would recommend your business from 0-10.
The results fall into 3 categories.
Promoters: scores of 9–10
Passives: scores of 7-8
Detractors: scores of 6-0
Promoters are the most likely to leave a positive review. Detractors are most likely to leave a negative review. Passives are most likely not to leave a review at all.
To determine your business’ score, subtract your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters:
(% Promoters) - (% Detractors) = NPS
If your score is low (below zero) then you have more detractors than promoters. In this case, you might want to investigate what is causing dissatisfaction. If your score is above zero, that means that your business is doin well. In that case, this might be a good time to contact more customers for reviews, since you have more promoters than detractors.
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