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.)

My CliffsNotes on the Google Places-Plus Merger

About an hour ago I dashed off the following in an email to all the awesome people on my email list – my immediate reaction to today’s update:

Today Google officially merged Google Places with Google Plus.  You’ve probably heard about this.  (Google Plus – you know, that Facebook-wannabe social network that Google has been ramming down our throats for about a year.)

Some people have trumpeted this for months, and have been proclaiming “Google is dead”, “search is dead,” and spouting other nonsense.  They make it very easy for you to freak out and feel overwhelmed.

Sure, it’s a shake-up, but it’s not quite as dramatic as some people might lead you to believe.  You’re a business owner.  You’re tough.  You’ve adapted to online changes a heck of a lot bigger than this.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know – and what I suggest you do – in the form of good news and bad news:

The bad news:

  • Your business temporarily has two local “faces”: the Places page we’re accustomed to, plus the new “Google+Local” page (near the bottom are some links with more info about the latter).  People can still get to the old Places page, but the new Google+Local page will become your new “face” shortly and the old one probably won’t even be findable.  If you’ve set up a “Google Plus Page for Business,” great.  That will probably come in handy down the road.  If you haven’t, it’s not like you’re now invisible, but you should just create one as soon as you can.
  • Customers now have to take different steps for writing reviews for you.  Basically, they have to create a Google Plus page, log into it, search for your business in the “Local” tab in Google Plus, and finally write the review.  It’s not much harder: sure, it’s a little more involved, but it’s mostly just different steps for writing a review.
  • Google is trying to make you use Google Plus, whether you like Plus or not.  I know I’m not wild about it so far.  (I started using Facebook in 2006, before most people knew it existed, and even that early version was more fun and easier to use – which is why it caught on.)  At this stage, you only really have to deal with Google Plus if you’re trying to get customer reviews – which you should – but Google will certainly find more ways to get you to use it.  None foreseeable or worth worrying about for the immediate future, though.  Still, you should create a Google+ for Business page
  • Eventually it may be a good idea to ask customers for “feedback” other than reviews – like to “+1” your website or to add your Google Plus Business page (if and when you have one) into their “Circles.”  You’ll probably have to worry about this at some point, but not right now.
  • It’s confusing.  There are so many PR-stunt types making exaggerated claims about this change.  It’s hard to filter out all the noise and know what to do.

The good news:

  • The rankings haven’t been shaken up, at least based on what I’ve seen with my clients and others.  If you ranked well yesterday, chances are you’re ranking just as well today.
  • You can still manage your Places / Google+Local / whatever page the same way you always have: by logging into your Google Places page and editing it.
  • It used to be worthless to try to get links to your Places page.  But Google is treating the new pages as indexed search results – meaning that if you get link to your Google+Local page, you’ll probably get a visibility boost.
  • There may be fewer Google bugs down the road, and/or more “support” if you have a question or problem.  Google may continue to make things more confusing before they get less confusing, but eventually it will probably be easier to manage your local visibility in Google.
  • You the business owner don’t have to DO much right now.  Google has mostly just changed the look of how your business is represented online – and they’ve done it for you, rather than asking you to drop what you’re doing and take some action in order for the update to take effect.  (Again, the only caveat is you should create a Google + for Business page, but that’s quick to do.)
  • The fundamentals have NOT changed.  The steps for growing your local visibility are still the same.  There’s going be an increased emphasis on reviews, and probably eventually on “+1s” and having customers add you to their “Circles,” but we’re not there yet.

Here’s some great info I suggest you read when you get a minute:

Superb summary by Matt McGee

Professor Maps’s take

What The Man has to say about the change

Great in-depth perspective from David Mihm.  If you’re freaking out and feeling overwhelmed, I especially recommend read this.

Tones of great detail from Greg Sterling – with all the screenshots you need.

The bottom line is this:

If you’ve been working on getting more visible in local Google, keep doing what you’re doing.  The names and looks have changed somewhat, but the fundamentals are still the same, and they’ll still get you the results you need.  No need to worry.  You’ll be just fine.

If you feel like doing something right now, just go to http://www.google.com/+/business/ and create a “Google+ Page for Business.”  For now, just create

Your thoughts / questions?  Leave a comment!