Local reviews: Good things come to businesses that ask

Google Places Caricature
Reviews can bring out the good or evil in your customers.

It’s essential for companies that want to show up well in local searches to have a plan for growing their reviews on those local listings. Of all the local listings, Google Places is the most visible –Google’s share of search is 64.8 percent, with Yahoo and Bing showing up much lower in the 2nd and 3rd places at 16.3% and 14.7%, respectively (comScore, Aug. 2011).

The 3-11 rule in business
A happy customer will tell 3 friends about his or her positive experience with your company, but an unhappy customer will try a lot harder, telling on average 11 friends about their experience.

This is unfair to businesses that try hard to deliver great service and value to all their customers. Why don’t happy customers leave more reviews? Quite simply, it’s usually more effort than they want to expend.

This is actually good news for you! If you can ask them at the right time, when they are happiest with your company, and you can make it really easy  for them to find the Places page, you’ll be on your way to building up positive, sincere reviews.

Example -Basil T’s in Red Bank, NJ
During the summer of 2011, this restaurant and brewery on the coast of New Jersey ran a review-building campaign. Observant servers would notice customers who could get on the Internet, such as those using smartphones and tablets. They choose their moment carefully and politely asked if the customers would mind leaving a review on their Google Places page. If they agreed, servers would leave a printed card with details on what to do.

Google Places page for Basil T Restaurant
This Google Places example shows the power of doing a Google review campaign – more than 200 reviews gathered!

When we pulled up the Google Places listing, they had 178 reviews. Now they have 229 (See Figure A in screenshot above). When we mentioned we had left a review, a manager showed up with a Basil T’s t-shirt as a thank you gift.  The t-shirt had a Google Places marker on the back promoting the listing to others who may see it on the wearer.

•    Hand out cards at your front desk or checkout, explaining briefly what to do (use a short link so it’s easier to type)
•    Post the request on your Facebook page with a link to the Places page
•    Create an email campaign with a link to your Places page (only send to those who have “opted in” to messages from you)

What you’ll need first:
1.    A claimed and optimized Google Places page for your business
2.    Regular link to your Google Places page for use in email and Facebook – find your page in Google Maps, then click “more” link and select “email” (Figure B in the screenshot above)
3.    Short link to your Google Places page for use in printed pieces – copy your regular link, then go to a new web page and use a URL shortener (go to http://goo.gl/ and paste in your link)
4.    Customers with Gmail accounts (required for leaving Google Places reviews)

Best practices for gathering reviews
This table gives a few best practices (and a few faux pas) to help you gather reviews from your customers.