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In the past, local businesses could largely rely on foot traffic and word of mouth to grow their brand. Nowadays, however, most customers begin their search for businesses online — even when they’re looking for something in their local area.
Local business searches can be highly influential. According to data from HubSpot, 72 percent of consumers visit a store within five miles of their location after conducting a local search.
While there are many factors that can influence a customer’s decision to buy from you after doing a Google search, few are more influential than reviews. User reviews build trust and credibility, serving as the modern-day word of mouth. The more reviews a local business can get, the more influential it will appear in search results. Here are a half-dozen tips to get you started.
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1. Claim your Google My Business profile
If you haven’t already done so, you need to claim your Google My Business profile. This profile is completely free and gives you total control over the listing for your store that shows up on Google searches.
Claiming your profile allows you to update basic information such as your address, business hours and link to your website. You can also upload photos of your store. Filling out this basic profile information tells users that this is an official profile, which makes customers more likely to leave a review.
2. Send email reminders
Most customers aren’t going to leave a review right after they order a product from your website or after they finish a transaction in-store. They need to fully experience the product or service before they feel comfortable leaving a review. This is part of the reason why Metacritic recently changed its review policy for video games, making it so players can only leave reviews after a game has been released for 36 hours and they have truly experienced it.
For a local business, it’s best to send an email reminder a few days or a week after the completion of the transaction. You don’t need to have online checkout to collect email addresses, either. Smart in-store checkout devices offer the option to send digital receipts to a customer’s email, which you can use later to request a review.
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People like to know that their opinions have been heard. I recently spoke with Ryan Chaffin, founder of KAHA, a digital marketing agency that focuses on helping small- and medium-sized businesses grow through SEO and customer reviews. “Maximizing the reach of your positive reviews is a win-win,” Chaffin explained. “Great reviews can provide marketing materials for Facebook or Twitter, or serve as verifiable testimonials for your website. At the same time, many reviewers like seeing their comments shared more broadly, which can encourage even more people to leave reviews for you.”
Curating positive reviews to be featured on your website or social media profiles will provide powerful social proof for customers who don’t discover you through a Google search. This ensures that all potential customers are exposed to positive word of mouth.
4. Use physical reminders for digital reviews
You’re not always going to be able to collect email addresses to remind customers to leave their feedback. However, using some old-school methods can still help you collect more reviews.
For example, contractors and service companies often leave business cards after completing work for a client. Alongside your business card and any other paperwork you leave (such as warranty information), consider adding a Google review card. This card could provide a link and brief instructions for leaving an online review. Remind customers that sharing their experience helps others.
5. Respond to current reviews
Regardless of whether you get a good or bad review, it is important to respond to the Google reviews that you do receive. A Harvard Business Review analysis of hotel reviews on Google found that locations that responded to customer comments received 12 percent more reviews, while also increasing their rating by 0.12 stars.
Be careful when responding to negative reviews, however. Look at this as an opportunity to learn and grow your business. Offer to help the customer and make things right, rather than try to argue with them. A Moz analysis determined that many customers view their reviews as living documents and are willing to change their negative reviews if the business attempts to rectify the situation.
6. Go above and beyond
The internet tends to amplify extreme experiences. As a result, most of the people who are going to leave reviews for your business are those who were completely blown away by your service or those who were extremely disappointed in it.
Consistently going above and beyond what customers expect and truly wowing them with your service will motivate them to leave glowing reviews on Google. It will get them to come back to you in the future, building the kind of loyalty every local business needs to thrive.
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The days when people would go through the phone book to find a local business are long gone. For many, the internet is the first place they go, in large part because of the transparency provided by online reviews. As you increase the number of reviews your business receives on Google, you will strengthen your digital reputation and get even more customers.