Here’s the doggie door, which I’ll explain more in a minute:
1. Go to the Google Maps tab OR open up the Google Maps app and pull up any business. You must go either to maps.google.com or open the app, because this won’t work anywhere else, like in the Google Business Profile “dashboard,” in the Chrome app, etc.
2. Click on the “reviews” tab, as though you’re a customer who wants to browse them. (Of course, I’m assuming that the business has reviews.)
3. Click on the magnifying glass icon, type any word or brief phrase into the search bar that pops up, and check out the list of all reviews containing that word or phrase. The word or phrase will show up in bold lettering.
Here’s where the keyword-search feature is in the Google Maps app:
Handy, isn’t it?
Now, if your immediate reaction was “Why is that handy?” or “Umm, I guess,” a couple beats of commentary are in order.
First and foremost, this isn’t my “find” or anything. I’ve incorporated the Maps-review keyword-search move into my work for clients for several years now, and the fact that you can search Google Maps reviews by keyword has been news to everyone I’ve ever mentioned it to. Even so, the first report of this feature seems to be from 2018, and Greg Gifford did this nice quick video on the topic in 2022. So this post simply is my deep dig on why it’s useful, how I use it, how you can use it to advance your goals, and some details you probably won’t get anywhere else.
Anyway, if you’ve got more than about 20 Google reviews, it gets mighty tedious to sift through your reviews to find a specific one or to round up a group of them. Likewise if you’re doing competitive intel-gathering and want or need to sift through competitors’ reviews. You’ve got some business to conduct, and you can’t spend all day rummaging through Google reviews one at a time.
Google doesn’t make it easy to search through your reviews or anyone else’s. Google Maps reviews aren’t indexed, and you can’t pull up a list of all of them in the GBP dashboard. Even if you open up the reviews in the pop-up (where one usually goes to read a business’s reviews – see below), you may not be able or willing to scroll through the whole list, nor will you click on every “More” link to expand every review so that you can do a CTRL+F search. Google makes it easy to wander around, but not easy to zero in on what you’re looking for.
You might want or need to search a haystack of reviews for a variety of reasons, including to:
- Research keywords the smart way: by identifying specific words paying customers use to describe what they paid you (or a competitor) for. Then you can target those on your site as you see fit, or work them into a PPC campaign, or both.
- Gather competitive intel, like to gauge the popularity of this or that service your competitor offers, and to see the exact search terms their customers used. Also, once you identify reviews from the types of customers you’d like, you can click on their Local Guide profiles to learn more about who those people are and what cowpaths they tread.
- Find reviews that are relevant to a specific product or service, so that you can add them to your site.
- Find reviews that are relevant to a specific type of customer: someone who had an emergency, someone who has children, someone who had previously hired a competitor, etc.
- Pull up a nasty review that’s been sticking in your craw, so you can report it to Google.
- Search for a review that you think has been filtered, or for a review that may have reappeared after having been filtered.
You may have additional reasons to want to dig through a pile of Google reviews (in which case please leave a comment and let me know).
What do I suggest you do? Simple: search your business’s Google Maps reviews for various keywords, in the way I described at the top. Type in various terms you care about, and those you’re curious about. See what comes up. See what reviews you can copy and paste onto this or that page on your site, and see if you can create some spin-off pages based on terms that keep popping up. Then cast about in competitors’ Google Maps reviews for a while. You’ll learn a thing or two about their customers and how they are (or aren’t) hauling those customers in.
A few notes:
a. The search functionality is primitive. It’s literal. Google doesn’t just “know what you mean.” For instance, a search for “cleanup” will show you reviews that contain that one word, and a search for “clean up” will show you reviews that contain those two words, even though they mean exactly the same thing, so you’ll need to search for both. In general, searching for the singular will pull up more results than searching for the plural, so when in doubt type in “dentist” rather than “dentists,” “school” rather than “schools,” etc.
b. You can only search for phrases IN the text of the reviews. You can’t search by the reviewer’s name or by characteristics of the review – like by star rating or the inclusion of photos.
c. It’s location-specific. Let’s say you have 10 locations and 10 GBP pages. You’ll need to pull up the reviews of each GBP page and search for whatever you want to find. There’s no way to scour all 10 locations at once, although that would be nice.
By the way, Yelp has had this same search feature for as long as I can remember.
As I’ve said in various ways many times over the years, reviews are probably the most useful building material for your local SEO and overall marketing, pound for pound. That they can help rankings a little and help (a lot) to persuade people is just the beginning. It doesn’t matter whether the reviews are good or bad, long or short, yours or a competitor’s, recent or old, properly spelled or not, from a longtime or brand-new customer, and so on: All can be useful. All can help you research keywords, flesh out your site, make your site more persuasive, attract more customers of the kinds you’ve got or want more of, attract new types of customers, and get more reviews that continue the cycle.
Why do you want or need to scour your reviews?
Any tricks to find what you’re looking for, and quickly?
Leave a comment!