With consumers continuing to utilize their mobile and tablet devices while researching or considering a purchase, a business’s reputation is more public and more easily accessible than ever before.
Think of your search experience for a service on Google or a restaurant on Yelp and how many “stars” and reviews were attached to each listing or search result. While these “stars” are more prevalent on searches with local intent, the importance of corralling reviews from various online sources is paramount.
Whether you are a small local business or a major corporate brand, online reviews must be handled in a very strategic and thoughtful way.
First, you should understand that many reviews can be negative because unsatisfied customers feel a need to vent their frustration about their experiences. These users go out of their way to voice their displeasure more often than those who are satisfied because most people expect to have a good experience.
The way a business handles these negative reviews can either help the brand or further damage their perception in the eyes of potential customers. Brands have a unique opportunity now with social media to use Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms as tools to interact with consumers. Social is also an incredible opportunity for companies to respond and engage directly with those who have a poor experience and try to make things right.
Most of the time, no matter how upset the customer was to begin with, they appreciate the brand attempting to make things right and enjoy knowing that their voice is heard. Always be monitoring your brand mentions and use social media to your advantage!
Reviews are a critical aspect of a company’s image online, and people are reading and trusting user reviews more than ever because of social media, online communities, and how connected the Internet has become. Not only do reviews help the consumer with their purchasing decisions, but Google also places a lot of importance on reviews and factors them into your local SEO and search rankings. Since Google wants to provide the user with ultimate relevancy and the best possible search experience, they use reviews as part of their algorithm in order to rank businesses and advertisers in their results. The more mentions, engagement, links, and reviews your business has online, the higher you are likely to rank in the search results.
Below I explain how to get stars to appear in your PPC ads as well as what you SHOULD DO and what you SHOULD NOT DO when it comes to gathering online reviews.
How to Get “Review Stars” in Google AdWords
If you invest in Google AdWords PPC, a major focus should be to gain enough reviews (never solicit) to get stars in your ads. Without getting too technical, you can see from the image below that an ad with stars pulls the focus to that ad and helps raise its CTR (click-through rate), which has immense benefits to your AdWords account performance. Your ad will stand out from the competition, receive more clicks at a lower cost, and users will establish a sense of trust solely from the star rating.
In order to get these stars, your website must gain 30 unique reviews in the last rolling 12 months with an average rating of 3.5 or higher from specific review sites that Google scrapes to formulate your average rating. The most popular review sites are listed below, and to learn more, read this article in the Google Help Center.
The DOs and DON’Ts of Online Reviews
Best Practices to Get Natural Reviews
1. Do create an ongoing strategy to encourage (but never solicit) reviews from the various outlets below.
Review Sites for PPC Stars:
Other Sources For Reviews:
2. Do get creative and utilize social media, email marketing, and thank-you emails from a purchase or transaction to collect natural reviews.
3. Do monitor feedback and respond to all negative reviews—it seriously goes a long way to the user.
4. Do register your business with the Better Business Bureau and other industry-specific accreditation services.
5. Do engage with your customers to encourage not only online reviews, but offline as well.
How to Stay Safe From Review Spam Filters
1. Do not review your own business, service, or product.
2. Do not write fake reviews or post reviews on behalf of others.
3. Do not acquire reviews in bulk, even if natural—they will appear to look spammy to the bots (Google).
4. Do not offer payment or entice users to leave reviews with bribery.
5. Do not have customers post reviews from the same location or device.
So What Have We Learned?
Reviews have a real impact and can positively or negatively influence a purchasing decision. Get creative with your outreach and engagement (like using a specific Twitter handle as a customer service tool), make it a focal point to collect reviews naturally, and don’t allow your customers be swayed to a competitor because of your poorly managed online reviews.
Matthew Knapp is the Director of Marketing at Highly Relevant. In addition to lending his online marketing expertise to the team, his interests include traveling, technology, sports, food, cars, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.