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Google is changing what business owners see when they view their own reviews in order to make it easier to encourage new reviews.

In the past, business owners or account managers would see a button which directed them to “write a review” from their business listing. Now, many are reporting seeing a new button which instead reads “get more reviews.”

"Get More Reviews" button

While the function has not changed, the new text makes it more clear exactly what Google is offering – a chance to share your review links across Facebook, Twitter, email, and more.

The meaning behind the text is also much more clear as leaving a review for your own business is strongly frowned upon and can get your listing penalized by the search engine.

When shared, the review link directs people to your Google Maps listing with a pop up to immediately write a review.

Google My Business has released a new way for business owners to respond to online reviews, giving increased flexibility to when and where you can reply after a review.

Now, you can reply to your business reviews from your listing in Google Maps from any desktop device.

In the past, replying to reviews was only possible from the GMB app or website.

Of course, you will still have to verify your listing before you may be able to respond to reviews. Still, the release of the new way to respond to reviews makes it easier than ever for business owners to reply to reviews as soon as they see them.

Along with the new way to respond to reviews, Google has also updated its help document on the subject by adding tips specifically for responding to negative reviews.

How Google Says to Respond to Negative Reviews

First and foremost, Google encourages business owners to remember that negative reviews are not always reflective of a bad business. For instance, some customers may have mismatched expectations. In this case, replying to the review can help other customers set their expectations appropriately and provide more customer satisfaction in the future.

Additionally, Google says to follow these tips when leaving a negative review:

  • Do not share personal data or attack the reviewer personally. Instead, suggest that they contact you directly.
  • Investigate the reasons behind the reviewer’s negative impression of the business.
  • Be honest about mistakes that were made, but do not take responsibility for things that weren’t your fault.
  • Apologize when appropriate. It’s best to say something that demonstrates compassion and empathy.
  • Show that you’re a real person by signing off with your name or initials.
  • Never lash out. Never get personal. Always be polite and professional, just as you would be face-to-face.
  • Respond in a timely manner to show that you pay attention to your customer’s experience.

It is important to keep in mind that negative reviews will not automatically hurt your business. How you respond can be just as important in shaping the public perception of your brand.

Not long ago, it seemed like every business website had a “Testimonials” page filled with reviews and references from either past-customers or fellow members of their industry. If you have a keen eye, though, you might have noticed these pages are slowly falling out of use in favor of posting your Google, Yelp, and other online reviews on your site.

The practice has led to some confusion, as many experts claimed putting your own online reviews from across the web on your site could be potentially dangerous for search engine optimization. There have even been suggestions it could lead to Google penalties.

Now, you can breathe easy and share your online reviews with pride, as Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has confirmed that it is totally fine to highlight your reviews on your company website – with one exception.

While posting your reviews on your website is acceptable, Mueller warns that you can not use review structured data on these reviews.

As Mueller explained on Twitter:

“From a Google SEO point of view, I don’t see a problem with that. I imagine the original is more likely to rank for that text, but if you use that to provide context, that’s fine (it shouldn’t be marked up with structured data though).”

Mueller then went on to explain that review structured data is intended for reviews “directly produced by your site” and using them on third-party reviews on your own site would go against Google’s guidelines.

Every small business person knows there is no marketing quite as powerful as word-of-mouth. No matter what you promise in your ads, it won’t pack quite the punch as a positive, well-written review for your business. But, what if you could turn your positive reviews into your ads?

With the help of Google’s #SmallThanks Hub, you can no do just that. The new online resource aims to help small businesses create top-quality digital and printed marketing materials based on your Google reviews.

“Simply search for your business name on the site, and we’ll automatically create posters, social media posts, window clings, stickers and more — based on the reviews and local love from your customers on Google,” writes Google’s vice president of marketing for Ads & Americas, Lisa Gevelber, on The Keyword blog.

The new resource is available to all US businesses with a verified Google listing with an address.

“Reviews from your fans are like digital thank you notes, and they’re one of the first things people notice about your business in search results,” writes Gevelber in the announcement.

In the post, Google also highlighted data indicating that up to 71% of consumers say positive reviews in search results make them more likely to visit that business and that business listings boasting positive reviews receive up to a 360% increase in click-throughs to their website.

As part of the launch of the #SmallThanks Hub, Google also included a few tips for small businesses. These include keeping your Google listings up to date, encouraging customers to share reviews online, and posting “Find us on Google” stickers in their store and across social media.

They say word-of-mouth is the best advertising a business can have. The same could also be said for the online version of this: user reviews. There are few better ways your company can earn the trust of potential customers than showing how much other customers have enjoyed your services or products.

Now, Google is giving an even bigger platform to user-generated business reviews by adding “Reviews from the web” to its Knowledge Panels that appear in search results. This comes a month after Google started including best-of lists and critic reviews in results for local search.

local-reviews-google

Source: Google

Consumer reviews will appear in the Knowledge Panel exactly as critic reviews do, but they will be more visible on mobile where they appear before both critic reviews and best-of-lists. You can see how they will appear in the screenshots above and below:

localsearch-1

Source: Google

If you want to feature user-generated reviews from your site or another prominent review site, you need to mark up your content with Google’s review Schema. You must also abide by Google’s guidelines for inclusion.

Including the new “Reviews from the web” section, Google’s Knowledge Boxes are now prominently displaying three review sources. It will still be collecting and highlighting its own reviews, making it more important than ever for businesses to have a strategy to collect reviews from customers across a wide range of platforms.

Thanks to the increased profile of user reviews, it has never been easier for your customers to spread the word about your business to thousands of potential customers every day.

Google Authorship

In a move that should please many online businesses, Google is making it easier to leave reviews on the platform. Finally, users can leave reviews without a Google+ account.

To clarify, while you don’t need a Google+ account, you do still need a regular old Google account. The change was first spotted by Conrad O’Connell from Serptests.com.

The difference seems small, but in this case, semantics is everything. By not requiring a Google+ account, Google is opening the door to a considerable number of reviews. Considering review counts and overall rating are top ranking signals for local search, this also means it will be easier to improve your local rankings with reviews.

This doesn’t mean you will have to do with an enormous amount of anonymous or troll reviews either. The first and last name of the reviewer will still be shown, so you shouldn’t have to worry about being flooded with one-star reviews by nameless accounts.

At the same time, Google also fixed a well-known bug which would keep reviews from being submitted from a mobile device for businesses without another pre-existing review.

Reputation is everything for local businesses, and these changes make it easier than ever for your customers to spread the gospel of your quality service or products.

3872691762_723d015a2aAny business owner who has ever received online reviews – whether they were negative or positive – can tell you the power online reviews have in influencing how others perceive your brand. All it can take is one glowing or irate review on a popular service such as Google or Yelp to make or break your business.

Most business owners will also tell you the most likely person to leave a review is an angry customer, but a new survey from Mike Blumenthal published on GetFiveStars suggests those business owners may be wrong.

While it is true that extreme reactions are the most likely to result in reviews for your business, the evidence suggests consumers are actually more likely to reward excellent service than they are to attack businesses which provided a bad experience.

Blumenthal surveyed over 600 consumers that self-reported being active online reviews, asking when and why do you typically leave a review for a local business, and the findings show that few reviewers see calling out exceptionally bad service as their primary motivation.

In actuality, most reviewers actually see their reviews as a means to help inform the community, the business, and other consumers.

when-why-consumers-leave-reviews

For the survey, Blumenthal and colleagues allowed the respondents to answer in their own words, which were then categorized into the following categories:

  • When Experience was really Good or really Bad
  • Only When the Experience really Good
  • Only When the Experience was really Bad
  • To Help Other Consumers
  • To Help Business/Community
  • To Inform Business
  • Other

While the largest cohort of consumers was defined by extremes with a third of respondents only writing reviews based on really good or really bad experienced, the second largest group is entirely characterized by individuals who only use reviews to celebrate excellent service.

Importantly, this group was not much smaller than those who were motivated by extreme experiences on both ends of the spectrum, suggesting business owners are more likely to get positive reviews for good experiences than they are to receive poor reviews when they drop the ball.

To put this in context, 25% of active reviewers reported leaving reviews only when the experience was overwhelmingly positive, but 5% of reviews only leave reviews for truly poor experiences. That means the average reviewer isn’t the perpetually angry critic they are often portrayed as.

The truth is the vast amount of reviewers aren’t out to get anybody. They view themselves as integral parts to the current business ecosystem and an important part of society.

Ultimately, the reason online reviews may seem overwhelmingly negative is because it is simply much more difficult to provide exceptional service than it is to provide a terrible experience. That doesn’t mean it is impossible.

As a business owner, you should naturally be striving to provide the best service possible. If you are doing that, all you have to do to start drawing in scores of positive reviews is make it easy for your consumers to give you feedback and be sure to listen to their needs. If your customers feel like you are listening and responding to what they have to say, you should expect to see great reviews flooding in within no time.

Read the full report from GetFiveStars here.

Online reviews can be the deciding factor in the success of small businesses or companies that are just starting out, and yet many businesses ignore the single most powerful free form of marketing. This infographic from Web Republic breaks down the current trends and effects of reviews including:

  • Amazon is the leading review site in America and 42% of all its customers have left at least one review.
  • Other top US review sites include Google+, Yahoo, Yelp, and TripAdvisor
  • Yelp is the review site with the most global traffic
  • 84% of all consumers read online reviews, reading an average of 4-6 reviews before they begin to trust a business
  • 76% of customers are willing to pay more for hotels with better reviews.

How are you encouraging happy customers to leave reviews?

Online Reviews infographic