You Can Incentivize Google Plus Reviews…Just Not in the Way You’d Think

It’s bad form to offer customers hard incentives to write you reviews.  That includes money, products, work, massages, Starbucks cards, Chuck-E-Cheese tokens, or anything else of tangible value.

On Google Plus it’s also against the rules.  For once, Google’s review policies are relatively clear:

Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.

You can’t hold raffles or contests that reviewers can enter by writing you a review.

Then there’s the unofficial word from 20 months ago that you can’t hold review contests that donate to charity, where Google apparently stated that “Any incentive offered in return for a review of a specific business is against our policy.”  But that “policy” wasn’t part of the rules then, and it certainly isn’t now:

To encourage reviews for your business: Remind your customers to leave feedback on Google. Simply reminding customers that it’s quick and easy to leave feedback on Google on mobile or desktop can help your business stand out from sites with fewer reviews.

Even in the “Tips for writing great reviews” document there’s no such broad stance against “any incentive.”

After flip-flopping for too long, Google’s’ not only OK with your asking customers / clients directly for reviews, but also encourages you to ask.  It’s just that you can’t butter your reviewers’ bread.

So what can you do besides beg?

You appeal to the little Mr. Rogers within each of your customers.

You do it by telling customers that whichever employee, technician, hygienist, etc. who helped them will get a small bonus for any positive feedback about the job they did.

It’s not a new concept, but it’s worked like a charm for my friend and long-time client, who’s put it into practice for getting reviews on Google and elsewhere.  Here’s exactly what he tells customers:

By the way, any members of our crew who served you today will get a bonus for any positive comments you’d like to add about their performance.

This works because you’re not waving money or an Amazon gift card in reviewers’ faces.  You’re not telling them that their word – their very reputation – is worth just $25 or $50.

Rather, you’re appealing to the part of human nature that enjoys helping other people out.  You’re also deferring to your customers’ judgment.

Of course, you’re not telling reviewers to give you 5 stars.  They can write, “The prices were high, the person who answered the phone was an ogre, but at least Fred was polite and did a good job for me.”

To me, this approach is just a smart way of encouraging – not even “incentivizing” reviews.  You’re not trying to grease customers’ wheels, and you’re only asking for positive feedback to the extent that your customers feel that someone on your team earned it.  And it seems to work.

What do you think of this approach to encouraging reviews?  Have you tried it?  Leave a comment!

Print Friendly

Who Stretched Google’s Map?

Here’s a question that’s relevant to my post from last week on competitive-intel:

Which of your local-search competitors is most worth learning from?

One obvious answer would be, “Whoever’s #1, Sherlock.”

A lot of times I’d agree that – all other things being equal – you should probably pay more attention to the King of the Hill than to the Prince of the Pile.

But what I’d really want to know is: Who’s stretching Google’s map?

Dig that D-ranked lawyer.  Pretty much all the other attorneys in Jackson, TN are right in the middle of town.  If not for that one guy, the map would be centered on central Jackson.  But he causes the whole map to pull north – by 5 1/2 miles.

I’ve seen this kind of thing for years, and probably so have you.  Much ink has been spilled on the “distance” topic.  But yesterday a conversation in the Local U forum (worth joining, by the way) made me think about it in a new way.

Ben Walsh of Baseline SEO asked a great question about the “attorney Jackson TN” example I just showed.

Then Dana DiTomaso said something that I thought was brilliant:

Find out whatever D is doing – they’ve managed to drag the map which means that they’re doing something right.

(Joy Hawkins of Imprezzio coined the “stretch the map” term.)

Turns out that the attorney who stretches that particular map isn’t doing anything extraordinary.  On the one hand, he’s got clean citations, a page for every case type, a good homepage title tag, and no toxic links.  But on the other hand, he’s got no Google reviews, no noteworthy links, and he doesn’t seem to be listed on many attorney-specific sites.

But being solid on the fundamentals is usually all you need to rank pretty well – if not to stretch the map.

I’ve had clients in that nice position, and I’ve had clients up against stretchy competitors.

Pay attention to businesses that stretch the map (in your market and in others).  They’re easy enough to spot.

Print Friendly

When Can Digging for Competitive Intel Help Your Local SEO?

People often ask me what kinds of competitive fact-finding I think can help their local SEO efforts.  My answer usually is, “Not what you’d think.” The theory is solid enough: you want to know why your competitors outrank you in the local results, so you try to find out everything you can about them.  Knowledge […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]

What’s Missing from the Google Places Quality Guidelines?

The rules governing Google Places (or “Google My Business”) have never quite done their job.  They’re thick, short on examples, and wide open to (mis)interpretation. The Google Places Quality Guidelines doc doesn’t even contain all the rules you need to follow.  Between the scattered letters of the law, gray areas abound. It’s harder than it […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]

Hijacking Google’s Local Knowledge Graph

I was just going about my business, monkeying around in the local results.  Then something caught my eye: Given that Google just started testing green review stars, I could only draw 2 conclusions: 1.  Google must think it’s St. Patrick’s Day, OR 2.  I just stumbled across a crafty business owner. Looks like it’s the latter.  Here’s what […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]

How to Cultivate Hearty Local SEO Genes for Your Business

If you’re opening a new business or considering some changes, can you make your business itself local-search-friendly? Can you bless yourself with an inherent advantage in the local rankings – like super local SEO genes? Yes ma’am. It’s like with athletes.  Of course, hard work separates them from each other and from couch potatoes.  But […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]

My #1 Local Citations Tip: Do Another Round

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/chrisgold/6282077864/

A recent conversation with my LocalSpark amigos Darren and Nyagoslav got me to thinking: Yes, there are dozens of things to remember do when working on your citations.  I offered 43 bits of advice in my giant post on citations from a year ago. But you don’t want all the details – major and minor […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]

Local U Boot Camp in NYC: New Local SEO Event

The Local U crew is putting on a new event for business owners and marketers who want to learn the ropes of local-search marketing. It’s called the Local U Boot Camp.  It’s a one-day event in New York City on September 29, 2014 – the day before SMX East.  In fact, it’s one of the […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]

12 Points Your Customers Should Know Before Writing a Review

You know you need to encourage customers / clients / patients for reviews.  If you don’t, you’re stunting your local visibility and your ability to get the phone to ring. Easier said than done.  Your effort to earn reviews quickly turns into a juggling act: You want to earn reviews on a variety of sites. […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]

Too Many Donuts for the Google MapMaker Anti-Spam Cops?

Google’s finest aren’t throwing the book at spammers. I recently asked Dan Austin – a longtime buster-upper of MapMaker and other spam – to help with a project.  One of my client’s competitors was doing the following: Created multiple pages for the same business at the same address Created additional pages using a residential address […]

Print Friendly
[Continue reading…]