Effective “Review Us” Pages for Local Businesses: a Fistful of Examples

Having a solid “Review Us” page can help you rack up reviews on the local review sites that matter.

When you ask customers / clients / patients to review you, you can send them to a simple URL on your site, where you ask for feedback and give them a choice of review sites.

If it’s a page that’s visible to non-customers on your site, and if it shows off the reviews you’ve already got, it’s a great social-proof element that can win those people over.  It can also “condition” those customers to write you a review, in that they’ll probably expect you to ask later.

But of the few business owners who are gung-ho enough to put together a whole page for encouraging reviews, even fewer actually build  good pages.

That’s why I’ve rounded up a few examples of well-built “Review Us” pages.  I’ll go light on the explanation; be sure to click the links, so you can draw your own conclusions and get the creative juices flowing.

 

Example 1: Melvin’s Hardwood Floors

 

This page does a good job of showcasing other customers’ reviews / testimonials, of explaining the ins and outs of writing a Google review, of offering Facebook as a 2nd choice, and not being too pushy about filter-happy Yelp.

 

Example 2: McKinney Firearms Training

 

Several choices, links to instructions, and lots of evidence that other customers wrote reviews and that you should, too.

 

Example 3: Orange Restoration

 

Again, lots of social proof.  Also, they picked review sites that are relevant to the remediation industry: Houzz, Angie’s List, and Thumbtack.

 

Example 4: Commonwealth Oral & Facial Surgery

 

First they ask if you’re happy.

If you click the thumbs-up, here’s the page you see:

I like how they let you pick your location and doctor.

 

Example 5: Pet Medical Center and Spa

 

These guys do a great job of explaining why a review would be so helpful, and of making it seem too daunting.  The doggie photo is a nice touch, too.

Do you know of any solid examples of “review us” pages?  If so, what makes them good?

How well have they worked for you?

Leave a comment!

60+ Questions to Troubleshoot and Fix Your Local Reviews Strategy

https://www.flickr.com/photos/57855544@N00/340654164/

Most business owners know they need online reviews if they want to get more customers.  Some of them have actually tried to get happy customers to speak up.  Very few get anywhere.

Even if the business owner makes a reasonable request at an appropriate time, customers still have to follow through.  But they forget, or get distracted, or get confused, or aren’t asked to write a review on a site they find convenient, and so on.  The business owner gets frustrated and concludes reviews are impossible to get and not worth the effort.  He or she then loses would-be customers to someone else.

One thing I hang my hat on is being able to help business owners put together and execute on a review strategy that works: better reviews, more reviews, and more customers.  I’m talking about getting reviews on Google+, Yelp, Facebook, other sites you and I are familiar with, and on industry-specific sites.

I’ve taken part in gnarly failures and bust-out-the-Champagne successes.  I’ve worked with clients in more industries than you can shake a stick at (and have made review handouts for many more), and know all the things that can go wrong and what you really want to get right.

On the one hand, it’s a simple trinity: do right by your customers, provide instructions that they find easy to follow, and ask whenever possible.  As long as everything you do is with those principles in mind, you’ll do fine on reviews.

But on the other hand, the devil is in the details.  Also, you may be in a tricky situation (e.g. you’re a therapist or bankruptcy lawyer).  Or maybe you just want to go from good to world-class.

I’ve rounded up all the 64 questions I use to determine how my clients can get their review strategy on-track.

If you’re a business owner you’ll want to ask yourself these.  If you work for the business owner you’ll want to see how many of these you can sniff out on your own, and then have your boss or client fill in the gaps

I’ve also put together a Google Drive doc of all the questions – just the questions, without my explanations underneath them.

You probably won’t have to address all the questions.  I list 64 here simply to cover all the possible issues your review strategy might have run into.

FYI, it might be tough to use this as a checklist.  Some questions a “yes” answer is good, for others a “no” answer is good, and for other questions you might want a different type of answer.

Happy troubleshooting!

 

Basic questions

1.  Do you want to get more reviews?

Some business owners think reviews are too hard to get, or that in their unique situation getting reviews is impossible, or that customers don’t care about reviews.  Usually they end up agreeing with me that none of that is true, but some people are dead-set in their thinking.  If that’s you or your client, the rest of these questions probably won’t help you much.

 

2.  Are most of your customers happy?

If they’re not, you should still try to get the happy ones to speak up, but you may have a bigger challenge to work on in the meantime.

 

3.  What have you tried so far?

Broad question here, but that’s because there are so many possible answers.  The answer will give you an idea as to what other diagnostic questions (see below) to ask next.

 

4.  Do you provide easy-to-follow instructions for writing a review?

As opposed to simply making a request and assuming customers know what to do.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sa_steve/2732053391/

5.  Do you offer reviews a choice as to the site?

Don’t focus too much on Yelp and Google+: they’re the only sites that really filter reviews (especially Yelp), and Google’s steps for posting a review are cumbersome and not clear to most people.  Steer at least some customers toward easier sites, and maybe use my “zigzag” strategy.  But you’ll want to diversify where you get reviews anyway, and that’s one way to do it.  I suggest you offer customers 3-6 choices.

 

6.  In what medium have you been asking for reviews?

Do you ask in-person, by email, by phone, on invoices, or what?  If you’ve only tried one method of asking for reviews, try another method – or ideally a combination.

 

7.  Do you know which customers are happy?

The worst thing to do is not to ask anyone because you’re so afraid someone might write a bad review.  It’ll happen eventually, if it hasn’t happened already.  But you want to get the happy customers to speak up, and asking them is the only good way to do it.  If you can’t tell who’s happy, just ask.  It can be as subtle, like, “So, is there anything else we can do for you today?”  Then ask for a review if it seems like a good idea.

 

8.  When you’ve asked customers for reviews, how did they react?

Did they say yes when you asked in-person, but never followed through?  Or did they ask whether they have to use their full name?  Did they snail-mail you a testimonial – rather than post an online review?  Their reactions will tell you what to change, or at least which diagnostic questions to ask yourself next.

 

9.  Do you know the laws or regulations on reviews in your industry?

The financial-consulting industry is the only one I know of where you just can’t ask for online reviews, according to the SEC.  My understanding has always been that doctors and psychotherapists can ask for reviews if they ask patients in an FTC-compliant way and if they tell patients that they don’t need to get into specifics (as per HIPAA).  Get the facts if you have any doubt as to the legality of your review strategy.  Don’t let uncertainty make you beat around the bush and not encourage happy customers to speak up.  Oh, and you don’t want to get in hot water.

10.  How likely is it that your customers / clients / patients would have privacy concerns if they used their full name to post an online review of you?

Make sure they know two things: (1) they don’t have to describe anything too specific or personal – they can focus on describing you and your service – and (2) they can review you on private / anonymous sites.

11.  How long have you been trying to get more reviews?

You don’t know how well your strategy works if you’ve only tried it for a month, or you’ve asked fewer than about 20 customers, or if you’re new to the whole idea of asking for reviews.  Try it for long enough that you can draw conclusions, and then tweak or change gears as needed.

 

12.  How long have you tried whatever strategy you’re currently using?

Give it a chance.  But be willing to change it or try something else if it doesn’t seem to work (see below questions).

 

13.  Do you have a problem with passive ways to encourage reviews (ways that don’t involve asking specific people directly)?

Add review badges or widgets to your site, consider copying and pasting reviews and featuring them throughout your site (see this and this), link to your reviews in your email signature, and include instructions on the “Reviews” page on your site.  You won’t get a ton of reviews, but these indirect methods may help you get a trickle.  Do this if you’re gun-shy about asking directly.

14.  How often do your customers’ reviews get filtered?

Having lots of filtered reviews (on Yelp and Google+) can be a good sign: it means people are following through.  Something’s working.

 

 

Setting the stage

15.  Do the names of your online listings closely match the name your customers / clients / patients know you as?

They may not even be finding the listings they want to post reviews on.  Work on your listings and make sure you can pull up the correct listings.

16.  Do you know for a fact that you don’t have any duplicate listings on the sites where you want reviews?

They may be posting reviews on the wrong listings.  Find the duplicates and fix or remove as many as you can.

 

17.  Do customers know that you will personally read and acknowledge their reviews?

Say so in your request.  Make it clear you’re looking for honest feedback, not just 5 stars.  Also, post responses to at least some of the reviews.  You don’t want reviewers to feel they’re shouting into the wind.

 

18.  Have you posted overheated responses to reviews?

Don’t scare people off.  Respond to negative reviews if you feel you need to, but don’t lose your cool.  Sleep on it before posting a response, and see if you can turn lemons into lemonade.

 

19.  If you’ve already got any reviews, do your customers know about them and know that they won’t be the first?

They’ll feel more comfortable if there are precedents.  It’s good if you can point to reviews that aren’t too long or personal, so that reviewers don’t feel daunted.  But then how do you get your first review?  Either by accident (from someone you didn’t expect to write one), or by asking enough people, or by reaching someone who wants to be the first because he/she is a really happy customer and wants you to stay in business.

lawyer-reviews

20.  Have you personally ever written an online review of a “local” business?

Do it.  Know what’s involved, and what you’re asking people to do.  Ideally you know what it’s like to write a review on the specific site(s) you’re asking customers to review you on.  (That’s half the reason I review businesses on Yelp.)

 

21.  How do most of your customers find you originally?

The ones who found you online are more likely to have checked out your reviews, to care about reviews, and to recognize their value to you and to other customers.  You’ll still have to work to get them to review you, but the point is they’re a little better-conditioned than are word-of-mouth referrals (for example).  To any customers who didn’t find you online you’ll probably need to explain why reviews matter to you, show how easy it is to post one, and provide step-by-step instructions.

 

Whom to ask

22.  Have you asked your very best, closest, most-loyal customers?

Give them a choice of at least two sites, give them simple instructions for each (more on that topic later), and follow up if they haven’t written you a review after your initial request.  Chances are they’ll review you.  If so, you probably have a workable strategy, and can start asking other customers.  (If they don’t review you, use the other questions to figure out why.)

 

23.  Take 5-10 customers you asked for a review – or plan to ask for a review – and look them up on Google+, Yelp, and Facebook: how many of them have ever written reviews of other businesses?

Customers who already write reviews understand why reviews matter to you, and probably don’t need much hand-holding.  You can also discover which site(s) they might prefer to review you on.

24.  Have you read the reviews you’ve already got and understood exactly what kind of people end up reviewing you?

If you can identify a type of person who’s likely to review you, you may have a better idea of whom to ask (and not to ask).

 

25.  How would you describe most of your customers’ economic situation?

Some groups of people are more likely to use their phones for most things they do online.  Make sure you give mobile-centric review instructions to customers who may not have much access to (or use for!) a desktop / laptop.

 

26.  How old is your typical customer? (Or if your customers fall into several age groups, what are the biggest 1-2 age groups?)

Sweeping generalization here: younger customers are a little more inclined to write you a review on mobile, whereas older ones might be warmer to a desktop / laptop.

 

Who asks

27.  In your company, who besides you might be able to ask customers for reviews?

Don’t want to ask customers yourself?  Don’t want to ask all of them yourself?  Want to run a “test” and figure out who’s the best?  Distribute the work, at least for a while.

 

28.  Who do you think would be the best person in your company to ask for reviews, and why?

Maybe you’re the boss and know your business best, but maybe Sara at the front desk has the relationship with customers, and might just be more charming than you.  Or maybe Louie is your best tech and would haul in the reviews, if only you could get him to start asking.

 

29.  Even if someone else usually asks customers for reviews, have you ever tried asking customers yourself?

Just so you can speak from experience, and tweak your strategy based on experience.

 

30.  Have you heard or seen exactly how people in your organization ask customers?

Do they emphasize that the review is a favor, and not an obligation?  Do they provide clear instructions?  Are they patient?  Are they polite to customers who don’t want to write a review?  Do they thank all customers?  Listen to some phone calls and read the emails.  Whether you do that openly or channel your inner Dick Cheney is up to you.  Just as long as it leads to a constructive talk.

 

When to ask

31.  When do you ask customers?

Your initial request should be right after the job is done, if possible, and then you should follow up within about a week.  You probably won’t have your best results if you let a month go by, or if you only ask immediately after the job is done.  (More on the topic of following up later.)

 

32.  Does at least one of your requests happen when the customer is in a position to write you a review immediately if he or she wants to?

Some people are more likely to follow through on the spot, rather than later.

 

33.  Have you tried asking at different times?

Ask on a different day, or at a different time of day, or both.  In particular, test if it seems to make a difference whether you ask during the week or on the weekend.

 

 

What to ask

34.  Do customers know you’re asking for an online review on a third-party site – not simply a testimonial that they let you stick on your site?

Too many business owners have told me, “Yeah, I have tons of reviews – I have a whole bag of ‘em in my office!”  No, those perfumed letters are testimonials, which presumably your customers gave you permission to put on your site.  I’m talking about online reviews, which people can post whether you ask them to or not, and which you can’t edit or cherry-pick.  Make sure your customers know the difference and know what you’re requesting.

 

35.  Do you encourage honest (even critical) feedback?

You don’t want your review corpus to look fishy.  But you do want to know how to provide a better service – for obvious reasons, and so you can earn even more “review stars” long-term.  Also, if you’re the type who’s concerned about asking customer for reviews only to have them leave you bad ones, encouraging honest feedback means you’re less likely to gall the less-happy customers.  They’re less likely to think, “How DARE they ask me for 5 stars – I’ll show ‘em where they can stick their 5 stars….”

 

36.  Which site(s) do you ask customers to review you on?

Try a different site.  Preferably one that’s less painful than Yelp or Google+.  If you get reviews there, you’ll know you’re at least on the right track.

 

37.  Do you comply with the rules of the sites where you want more reviews?

The consequences of ignoring Yelp’s polices can be pretty ugly.  Once upon a time Google+ reviews were also policed, and although now it’s no neighborhood for Mr. Rogers, you should still follow the rules.

 

38.  Have you avoided incentivizing reviews with things like gift cards or discounts?

It’s cheesy, ethically questionable, and might insult some customers (who may beat you over the head with it in their reviews).  Your payola will probably work, if your definition of success is simply getting reviews.   But those reviews will probably be short and pro forma and not too compelling to would-be customers, or they’ll look outright crooked.

 

39.  Do you make it clear which review site is your “first choice”?

You need to offer choices, but not so many that your reviewer freezes.  (As I mentioned before, I suggest asking any given reviewer to choose from one of 3-6 sites.)  They may also freeze if they have to decide between sites.  Provide a slight nudge.

 

40.  Do you ask any one customer to review you on more than one site?

Don’t turn it into a big chore, or make it seem that way.  You may be able to ask a customer who just successfully wrote you a review on one site to review you on another, but it would have to be a customer you’re pretty close with, and even then you wouldn’t want to wear out your welcome.

 

41.  If a customer seemed ready to write you a review on the spot, do you know exactly what you would ask that person to do?

Once in a blue moon, you may ask in-person for a review and your customer will say, “Sure.  I’ve got my phone right here.  Tell me what to do.”  Know what you want him or her to do.

 

42.  Do you tell customers roughly how long it will take to write a review?

Tell everyone that you appreciate a short review, but that you also love detail.  You’re respecting their time either way.  That’s a good way to get reviews from people who’d otherwise think it’s a pain and not bother, and to get the juicy, keyword-rich, in-depth, helpful reviews that can really convert readers into customers.

 

How to ask

43.  Do you make your review request sound like a personal favor (and not an obligation)?

You’re more likely to get a review, and you’ll stay classy.

44.  Do you email a bunch of customers at once?

Don’t.  Especially early on.  You don’t want to send an ineffective or ill-timed request, have it flop, and then have no more customers to ask.  (And if you’re using a personal or email account you don’t want to get in hot water with your ISP.)  Your reviews might also get filtered (at least on Yelp and Google) if too many people try to review you at once.  If you must request reviews in batches, keep the batches small (5-15 people).

 

45.  To what extent do you personalize each request?

I’m far more likely to review you if you say “Hey Phil” or “Mr. Rozek” than if you say “Dear Valued Customer,” even if the rest of the email is boilerplate.  And I’m way more likely to put in a good word for you if you allude to the specific service or product I paid for, or a conversation we had, or build off some rapport.  The more bespoke your request, the better.  Of course, that’s hard to “scale,” so pick your poison.

 

46.  Do you ask customers in more than one medium?

In my experience, the best is to ask in-person with printed instructions (like these) and later to follow up by email.  But you may find that snail-mail or a phone call or a review-card / review-page work well for you.

 

47.  Have you tried any tools?

You should.  Don’t expect them to work without any strategy or finesse on your part.  Don’t rely on them 100%, or stop experimenting even if they work well.  But tools like Grade.us and GetFiveStars (my personal recommendations) can serve you well.

 

48.  If the tools you’ve tried haven’t worked so well, have you tried others?

Again, you’ll probably need to experiment before you find a tool that helps.  (But again, don’t expect it to haul in reviews  without any thinking or effort on your part.)

 

49.  Have you relied solely on tools like DemandForce or SmileReminder?

These tools have their place in the world, but the trouble is that (last I checked) the reviews just sit in a walled garden on DemandForce.com or SmileReminder.com, because that’s where patients / clients write them.  They aren’t going to Yelp or Google+ or Facebook or HealthGrades or wherever.  I’ve seen businesses (usually medical practices) with 500 reviews on, say, DemandForce.com, but none on Google.  You need some reviews on the BIG sites – no matter how hard it is to get them – and you need diversity.

 

Your instructions

50.  If you tell customers that you’d like a review on any of a variety of sites (rather than just one), do you give them instructions for how to post a review on each of those sites?

Google+ is the site where they’ll probably need the most guidance, but you should provide at least rough instructions for whatever other sites you care about.

 

51.  Do you know for a fact that your review instructions are up-to-date?

On Google+ the steps change on average about once a year.  Facebook probably has tweaked them a couple of times, too.

 

52.  Do you make it simple for people to review you on any device?

Make sure they know whether to use their phones or desktops (if it matters), and make sure mobile reviewers know whether they need to download an app and that shorter reviews are OK.  If you send follow-up emails make sure to send a test email to yourself, and pull up the email and walk through the steps both on your desktop and on your phone.  Try your best to the stumbling blocks before would-be reviewers do.

 

53.  Do your printed instructions look well-designed and feel like good paper?

Consider printing on a thicker stock.  Or laminating your instructions.  Your request will seem more thought-out, and people will be less likely to use them to scoop up cat hairballs.

54.  If you’re using a “Review Us” page, do you link to instructions on how to post reviews?

It would be a shame not to: the customer is happy enough and cares enough to have visited your page.  Make it easy from here.  Nice examples here and here.

 

Following up

55.  Do you follow up on your initial request?

Just because they haven’t reviewed you doesn’t mean they won’t.  They forget, or their spouse hits them with the honey-do list, or your nice printed instructions enter the Doomsday Machine of papers on the kitchen table.  Follow up once.  Be nice and casual.  You won’t be considered a pest.

 

56.  Do you follow up in a different medium from the one you used to ask the first time?

If you ask in-person, maybe follow up by email.  If you only sent an email, ask the customer in-person next time, or maybe send snail-mail.  Experiment.

 

57.  Does your follow-up include (or point to) instructions for how to post a review?

For the same reasons you included instructions the first time around.  Make it easy to say yes.

 

58.  Does your follow-up seem automatic or stuffy?

Make it as customized (or even more so if possible) than your initial request.

 

Other troubleshooting questions

59.  Do your customers accidentally review the wrong business?

Check competitors’ listings for your reviews – especially if those competitors’ businesses are named similarly to yours.  Report those reviews and show how they’re for the wrong business.  (They may not get transferred to you

 

60.  Have you tried to learn from anyone who’s got more / better reviews than you, or who just has a lot of experience with online reviews?

Don’t cut corners if they cut corners, but see if there are any smart moves you can try.

 

61.  How many of the reviews you’ve already got are from people you asked for a review, versus how many were written spontaneously?

If nobody reviews you unless you ask, you know you need to ask.  On the other hand, having more than a few spontaneously written reviews means customers probably don’t find it tough or uncomfortable to review you, so the wind may be at your back if you just start asking.

 

62.  Have you had a little success on some review site(s), or do you have difficulty getting reviews on any site?

Having reviews somewhere probably means that they’re willing to put in a good word for you, but just need better-timed requests or reminders or clearer instructions.  It also means you could probably pile on more reviews there without too much effort.  Where you’ve got reviews so far may even tell you where those customers found you to begin with.

 

63.  How many of your customers have connected with your business on Facebook in some way?

That makes it real easy to ask for reviews on sites that accept Facebook logins – where customers don’t have to go to the trouble of setting up an account on a site just to review you.

 

64.  How do you encourage unhappy customers to update their reviews to be more favorable?

Get in contact and fix any issues you can, if possible.  If you can make that angry customer happier, ask if he or she will update the review to reflect that.

I hope that wasn’t overblown like an ‘80s power ballad, but I also hope you don’t say I wasn’t thorough.

Use the questions to tweak your strategy.  It will pay off.

Here’s the link to the questions-only Google Drive doc again.

Thanks to Alex Deckard of CAKE Websites for kicking around some ideas with me.

In your efforts to get reviews, have you run across a problem that my troubleshooting questions wouldn’t address?

Any questions or suggestions that are unclear?  Any others you can think of?

How about any questions that gave you a “Eureka” moment?

Leave a comment!

Updated for 2015: How to Write a Google Review of a Local Business

Google has changed the steps for writing a Google Plus review…again.

Unlike 3 years ago, this time Google made the steps a little simpler for customers, clients, and patients.  The new “Collections” feature in Google+ seems to have been the impetus for change here.

The review steps haven’t changed much.  Google removed the “Local” tab in Google+, along with the two-field search bar that you’d use to find the business you want to review.  Now all you do is sign into Google+ and look up the business in the search bar.

Here are the simplest steps for posting a Google Plus review (and they work whether or not the customer already has a Google+ account):

New Google Plus review instructions

You may have to include the city + state in the search bar, in order to pull up the right listing.

By the way, I can custom-make instructions like those for you ($20 per PDF).

Thoughts on Google’s latest tweak?

Do you think it makes the review process easier?

Leave a comment!

3 Nimble Moves for Local-Review Ninjas

It pains me to say this, but these review-encouragement ideas aren’t mine: Other people told me (or reminded me) about them recently.

We’ve walked step-by-step through what your strategy should be.  We’ve looked at which review sites you should focus on.  I’ve even breathed down your neck to keep you motivated.

But maybe you’ve got the basics covered and want some next-level ideas – ways to get more out of your current efforts to get reviews.  I’ve got 3 of those for you.

They’re “advanced,” but they’re not hard.  You can work them into your current strategy quickly and almost invisibly (without having to change your strategy).  That’s why I call them “ninja moves.”

Ninja Move 1: Feature your Google+ reviews in posts on your local page.

Darren mentioned the Blue Plate Diner in Edmonton in a recent comment, at which point I noticed the review they showcased in their “posts” stream.

This is a subtle way to encourage any customers who see your “posts” stream to write you a review.  But it’s more important as a way to broadcast your existing reviews a little more.

It’s also wise to showcase your reviews in your posts because anyone who clicks on the link to your Google+ page in the main search results will be taken straight to the “posts” tab of your page.

How do you feature a review in a post?

Assuming you’ve got the “upgraded” type of Google+ Local page, you first go to the “About” tab on your page and find a review you’d like to share.

Let’s use my poor, neglected local page as an example, and let’s look at the overly generous review by Angela Wright MBE.

If I were smart, I’d click the “share this review” arrow, and put the review in my “posts” stream.  That’s it.

Oh, and in the post you’ll want to thank your reviewer, as Blue Plate Diner wisely did.

 

Ninja Move 2: Hard-laminate any printed instructions you give to potential reviewers.

“But lamination is expensive.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have a laminator.”

“Why can’t I just email customers to ask for a review?”

“Get with the times, Phil.  If it’s not an app people don’t use it.”

Phooey.

Texas dentist Mike Freeman told me about this approach, and it’s brilliant.  Simply laminate whatever paper instructions you use to show your customers, clients, or patients how to leave you a review.

(Dr. Freeman ordered my battle-tested Google+ review handout, but you can laminate whatever instructions you like.)

You don’t need to laminate hundreds of copies of whatever instructions you use.  Try it with a few and see what happens.

The lamination accomplishes three things: (1) it makes the instructions hard to crumple up or fold up, (2) it makes them harder to lose in the sea of papers and bills on the kitchen table, and (3) it makes your request seem better-planned-out and more sincere.

It may be a professional touch, but it’s not expensive.  As Dr. Freeman told me:

“Laminators can be purchased on Amazon for roughly $30 and the plastic pouches cost about $20 for a pack of 100. A very low investment on what could potentially help a small business gain a lot of reviews.”

 

Ninja Move 3: Use Yelp’s “Find Friends” feature to identify active Yelpers.

This is another stick of Darren dynamite (see this and this).  As he, I, and others have written, the big factor that determines whether Yelp reviews get filtered is how active the reviewers are.  Anything written by a first-time reviewer probably won’t see the light of day.

So how do you find customers who at least already have Yelp accounts?  Log into your Yelp account and go to go the “Find Friends” area (https://www.yelp.com/find_friends/address_book).

This feature won’t help you much if you have no contact with your customers – by email or on Facebook.  But if you don’t have any means of reaching them, you’ve got bigger problems than reviews.

Yelp doesn’t want you even to ask for reviews.  I’m not alone when I say that’s a stupid rule, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  What you do with any “active” Yelper-customers is up to you.  This is just the best way to identify those people.

Have you tried any of the above?  How’s it worked out?

What are some “ninja” review moves that have worked for you?

Leave a comment!

Top Excuses for Not Asking Customers for Reviews

Many people don’t want to do things that, deep down, they know are good for them.

Asking customers / clients / patients for reviews can be one of those things.

You probably know that reviews are important not only to your local rankings, but also to compelling would-be customers to say, “Hey, I think I’ll give this place a call.”

But you might have some reservations about asking for reviews (to say nothing of some of the obstacles you can’t do anything about).  You’re not sure how best to approach customers, and you’re not sure if it’s worth the trouble.

Many of my clients know that when it comes to reviews I’m like the drill sergeant on Full Metal Jacket.  I’m hard-nosed about reviews, because I’ve seen what a smart, sustained effort to get them can do for a business’s local visibility.

I’m not talking about reviews on one specific site.  True, reviews on Google+ and Yelp are important, but so are reviews on InsiderPages, Yahoo, industry-specific sites (e.g. Avvo, DealerRater, WeddingWire, etc.) – you name it.  I’m talking about why you need to bother with reviews in general.

But some people are still gun-shy.  I’ve heard every excuse there is.  And I’ve got a rebuttal to every one of them.

If you’re ambivalent about asking for reviews – or if you know someone who is and who needs a nudge – then this post is for you.

 

Most of my customers aren’t computer-savvy.

Make it so they don’t need to be.  Make it easy.  Offer guidance.  Give them simple instructions (examples here and here).  You still won’t get reviews from every customer, but that’s always the case, and it’s not the point here.  If you break the process down into simple steps, you’ll get reviews.

 

 

My customers don’t want to set up Google+ accounts.

Again, make it as easy as possible for them – like by telling them that they don’t need to spend an hour filling out their profile, for starters.  Also, if there is a subset of people who are dead-set against touching Google+, just ask those people to review you elsewhere.  You shouldn’t be steering everyone toward Google+ in the first place.

 

They forget.

Then remind them.  Sure, don’t be a pest.  But a polite, casual follow-up to your initial request is appropriate – and it’s a great pretext for getting in touch to say “howdy” and see how they’re doing.  It’s also an important experiment to run: you’ll want to know whether many of your customers really do “just forget,” or whether there might be other barriers to their writing reviews.  Also, mix it up.  If you initially asked someone in-person for a review, send him/her an email as a follow-up.  Or vice versa.

 

I’ve tried asking, and very few people end up leaving me reviews, so I feel like it’s not worth the effort.

You probably won’t have a high batting average – and that’s fine.  As long as you occasionally get a couple reviews, things are heading in the right direction.  On the other hand, if nobody leaves you reviews, that actually tells you quite a bit.  That bit of intel may tell you that you need to tweak your approach to asking for reviews, or that you need to spend a little more time getting to know your customers in the first place.

 

My reviews will only get filtered, so what’s the point?

You’re making the dangerous assumption that reviews are useless for as long as they’re visible on your listings (e.g. Google+, Yelp, InsiderPages, etc.).  What if one of your customers – just one little old customer – told you that the deciding factor in hiring you was your impressive reviews?

(Some of my clients have told me the deciding factor for them was my testimonials, and some have told me that their customers went with them as a result of their reviews.  One of my clients, a top-notch window cleaner in Oregon, said he won a customer just as a result of his Google+ reviews – and he’s only got two of ‘em to date.)

 

There’s never a good time to ask.

Even if it seems that way (emphasis on “seems”), ask anyway.  Experiment with different media, and with asking customers at different times after the transaction (e.g. a day after, a week after, etc.).  Also, what might not feel like a convenient time for you to ask for a review might be a very convenient time for them.

 

I don’t have their email addresses.

Then ask them in-person for reviews.  And try to get their email addresses from now on.  You should be doing so anyway – if only for the reason that if they need your services again, you’ll want to be top-of-mind and as easily reachable as possible.

 

My industry has regulations against it.

If that’s true, congratulations!   You may have the only potentially legitimate excuse reason I know of for not asking customers/clients/patients for reviews.

But, even so, I’m pretty sure there’s no regulation that says your customers/clients/patients are actually forbidden from writing reviews if they so choose.  If that’s the case, then your mission is simply to build “awareness” (I hate that word, but couldn’t think of a better one).  Have links on your website to your Google+, Yelp, and other listings, include those links in your email signatures, and otherwise just generally let it be known that you dig anyone who writes you a review.

Also, you need to look to your competitors on this one.  If they have reviews, either they’re doing something illegal / unethical, in which case you should report them to whatever powers-that-be, or you’re just granting them the upper hand with a shrug.

 

My customers are too concerned about privacy.

Surely not all of them are so concerned that they won’t put in a good word for someone who did a good job for them (you).  But for the ones who are extra-shy, you can ask them to review you on sites that don’t require their full names to be shown in the review.

 

I’m in an industry where people might feel embarrassed to leave me a review.

Some people, sure.  But not everyone.  Let them know that they don’t have to go into detail.

I can’t think of an industry where clients are simply mortified.  When I type in “DUI lawyer,” I see lawyers with reviews.  Likewise if I type in “marriage counseling.”  I once made a Google+ review handout for the owner of a sex toy shop.  Now that place had some glowing reviews.

 

I don’t feel as though it’s professional to ask.

Why?  You shouldn’t be groveling.  That would be unprofessional.  Just make the review come across as a personal favor to you.  Odd as it may sound, people like doing small favors for people who’ve helped them out (even when there was money involved).  It makes us feel more like there’s more of a give-and-take.  But if you still don’t see it that way, have someone else in your organization do it – someone who doesn’t have those reservations.

 

I don’t have the time.

Asking someone for a review takes 90 seconds to maybe 3-5 minutes, depending on whether you ask verbally or by email or through some other medium.  You’ll get even faster once you’ve done it enough that you don’t have to think about what to say every time.  But if you’re that harried – which I doubt – then delegate it to one of your more-senior employees.

 

I already have testimonials on my site, so I don’t need reviews.

They’re not the same thing.  It’s nice to have testimonials on your site.  But they won’t help your rankings, and they won’t help attract people from other sites and get them onto your site in the first place.  Only online reviews can do that.  You should have both reviews and testimonials.  You need social proof everywhere – in every part of your “conversion funnel.”

 

I want to focus on my rankings first.

Can you chew gum and walk at the same time?  How about pat your head and hop on one leg?  Yes, you can multitask.  Also, it’s less likely you’ll get rankings in the first place if people never click through to your Google listing or website after seeing them in the local search results.  Google knows how much (or little) searchers engage with your rankings/listings and – in my experience – those engagement stats influence rankings.  Reviews are signs of life.

Even more significant, rankings without reviews can be a waste.  People need a reason to click.

 

Yelp doesn’t allow business owners to “ask” for reviews.

Yelp is just one site of several that you’d be wise to get reviews on.  Still, you bring up a good point: It’s absolutely true that Yelp is absurdly opposed to your asking for reviews (even in a no-pressure way).  That doesn’t mean you can’t find ways simply to let everyone know that you’re on Yelp.

 

I don’t want to invite bad reviews.

You won’t.  Truly angry customers will write them anyway.  You’re not giving them any ammo, or capability that they didn’t have already.  If they slam you, they were going to slam you anyway.  On the other hand, if some customers give you a 3-star review, there’s probably some constructive criticism in there that you could learn from. Your #1 goal needs to be to deserve good reviews.  How are you going to do that if you just assume that you’re doing everything perfectly already?

Having some bad reviews is inevitable.  You can either crawl under the blankets and pretend that impossible-to-please customers don’t exist and can’t figure out how to post an online review, or you can do what you can to get the happy ones to speak up.

 

It’s all so confusing.

Then read the following pieces and apply the advice in them:

Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews

The Complete Guide to Google+ Local Reviews – and Especially How to Get Them

My SMX West 2013 Presentation on Customer Reviews

 

I’m afraid they’ll say no.

Right: some people will say no.  What about the ones who will say “sure”?

 

What are your reasons for being gung-ho about reviews – or your excuses reasons for not wanting to ask for them?  Let’s agree or argue – leave a comment!

How to Edit Your Google+Local Page – Step by Step

 Update – 5:33pm, 6/10:

Be sure to read Linda’s super-helpful and clarifying comment at the bottom of this post.  The steps I lay out here may help you, but in a different way from how I thought they would.  Long story short, it seems I got my wired crossed 🙂

The switchover from Google Places to Google+Local pages has probably been pretty hands-free for you: Your Places page automatically became Google+Local page.

Unless you’ve already gone into your new listing, it probably looks a little bare.  Some of the info from your old Places page may be missing on your new page.  But making edits or adding info to your Google+Local page can be confusing – especially if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page yet.  It’s easy to get lost.

I think it’ll once again be easy to make edits to your local listing once Google goes through the next round of changes and switches over completely to “Google+ for Business” pages.

But in the meantime, during the long transition, you need to be able to navigate the confusion.  That’s why I’ve put together this step-by-step walkthrough on how to edit your Google+Local page.

(By the way, I’m assuming you created and claimed your Google Places page some time ago, and that you just want to know how to edit your listing through the new Google+Local interface.)

Follow steps 1-19 if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page, edited it, or added information to it since May 30, 2012.  In other words, if you haven’t done anything with your Google+Local page, follow ALL the below steps, 1 -19.

Follow steps 13-19 if you’ve spent some time in your Google+Local page but simply want to know how to edit it (or forgot how to).  If this describes you, scroll down to step 13.

How to edit your Google+Local page IF you’re logging into it for the first time:

1.  Click the “+You” button in the top-left of Google’s homepage.

2.  Click “Sign In” and sign in with the Google account you used to create your Google Places page.  (If this isn’t possible, it’s still fine if you use a different one.)

 

3.  Fill in your name and click “Upgrade.”

 

4.  Feel free to skip the next few steps – the ones that ask you to find your “friends,” add a profile photo, etc.  You can always loop back to these later.

 

5.  You should now be on your Google+ page.  In the bottom-left corner of the screen, click the “More” button, then click “Pages.”

 

6.  Click “Create new page.”

 

7.  Under “Pick a category,” select “Local Business or Place, enter the phone number of your business on the right, then click “Locate.”

 

8.  Click on your business listing (it should have a red map pin).

 

9.  Select a category from the dropdown menu.  These are only rough categories, so just pick whichever one seems most applicable.

 

10.  Click “Create.”

 

11.  Add a main photo to your Google+Local page, or click “Continue” if you feel like skipping this step.

 

12.  Click “Finish.”

 

How to edit your Google+Local after the initial setup (above):

13.  While logged into your Google+ page, hover over the “Pages” button on the left, and click on your business name when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

IF you don’t see the “Pages” button on the left, hover over the “More” button in the bottom-left, and then select the “Pages” button when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

14.  Your business name should appear.  Click “Switch to this page.”

 

15.  On the left, click “Profile.”

 

16.  Click “Edit profile” (near top of page).

 

17.  You’ll see a menu of info that you can edit (“Introduction,” “Hours,” etc.).  Click once on each area you’d like to edit, make any changes you’d like, and hit “Save.”

(Make sure to use the same info you put on your Google Places page, if it’s not already showing up.)

 

18.  When you’re done editing or adding your info, click “Done editing” (near the top of the page).

 

19.  Grab a cold brew to reward yourself for a job well done.  Then get back to work on the other steps toward more local visibility in Google, getting reviews, etc. 🙂

(In case you weren’t sure, despite the switch to Google+Local, these steps are as applicable and necessary as ever).

Also make sure to request to be notified by Google when the next changes roll out.

 

Cheat Codes for Google+Local Customer Reviews

Cheat codes to get you to the next level...of customer reviewsIf you’re confused as to how to get customer reviews on your Google+Local page (the page formerly known as Places), your customers are probably confused-er.

Common questions from customers include:

Do I need a Google+ page to write a review?

How do I find your business in Google now?

…and

How do I write you a review?

If you’re like many business owners, your big question is: “How do I show my customers how to review me – without overwhelming them?

Here are some instructions you can customize to your business – which walk customers through how to post a review on your Google+Local page:

This handout is specific to one of my clients, as you can probably tell.  But feel free to rip off the layout or adapt it to your business.

If you’ve got mad PDF-editing skills, you can customize the handout to your business.

Or you can take the images I use and stick them in a design program of your choice. (Here’s a zip file of the images.)

Or you can doodle it on paper, scan it in, and then print it or email it to your customers.

Note that the PDF contains embedded links that take customers straight to where they can sign up for a Plus account and to your Google+Local page.

As an alternative, here are some written instructions you can send customers (you can use them verbatim, though you may want to make step #5 specific to your business):

  1. Go to https://plus.google.com/
  1. Create a Google Plus page/account
  1. Log into your Google Plus page (or stay signed in)
  1. On the left side of your Plus page, click the “Local” tab
  1. Search for us near the top of the page (in the boxes next to where it says “Google+”)
  1. Click the little pencil for “write a review”
  1. If Google asks you any questions, just click “Continue”
  1. Select a rating number (“0-3”), write the review, and click “publish.”

Right now, in this “transition” period , there are several ways customers can post a review for you.  I’ve simply found that the above steps – particularly the ones in the handout – to be the most straightforward and the least likely to change long-term.

I’d love any suggestions for how to make the steps easier, though.

(By the way, you can always have me custom-make a Google review handout – like the one above – for your business.  I give these review handouts to all my clients, and I’ve made them as standalone pieces for hundreds of business owners who’ve just needed more Google reviews.)