Google reviews are digital currency.
Whether or not they increase the clickthrough rate of your business listing on the local pack or boost increase the chance of being included in the local pack, they definitely impact the customer journey.
In 2019, people of all ages and demographics want to see reviews when they're searching for a local business. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, online reviews matter, and the most important review is the Google review.
Whether you're doing digital marketing on behalf of your own company or for your clients, you need to have a Google review generation strategy in place to earn a steady stream of great reviews.
Fresh and positive reviews will build the visibility and credibility of your local company.
When it comes to review generation, earning a consistent and glowing collection of authentic reviews from happy customers is the dream. But for a variety of reasons (a brand new business, poor reviews from a past owner, a few year gap since we actively tried to earn reviews), it's tempting consider corner cutting when we start to focus on building or rebuilding our reputation.
[Webinar Recap] Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System and Bad Google Review Generation Strategies
I hosted a webinar with Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System where we discussed 7 "bad" review generation strategies.
I put bad in quotation marks, because while some of the strategies discussed are against Google's guidelines, they're not ideal for your business for other reasons. That's what we brought Phil in to address.
The one ground rule of the webinar was that:
Phil was not allowed to explain why a review strategy was 'bad' simply because Google said it was against their rules.
Check out the webinar and use the time stamps below the webinar to skip ahead, if you're curious about a particular strategy.
Some of these strategies may actually be effective when it comes to earning Google reviews, but ultimately could hurt a business in the long run. We also touched on some reasons why they might not be detrimental or consequential.
Time stamps for the each section of the video are included below:
1. Using contests to earn reviews ( 08:00 )
2. Incentivizing customers to write reviews ( 16:50 )
3. Review gating your review funnel ( 19:53 )
4. Having friends, family, or employees write reviews ( 34:07 )
5. Having customers write reviews at the location of business (ie in the doctor’s office) ( 39:10 )
6. Marking up *all* reviews with schema markup ( 44:02 )
7. Buying good fake reviews for yourself or bad fake reviews for competitors ( 48:33 )
Bonus Topic 1: What's the best communication channel for asking for reviews - email or text? ( 57:48 )
Bonus Topic 2: How valuable are reviews? ( 1:02:20 )
Additionally, Phil mentioned some absolutely resource-filled, relevant blog posts in the webinar:
Below are a few references to the key support documentation pages from Google to inform your own perspective on their rules (aside from Phil's reasoning as to why the strategies may or may not be bad.)
The Official Google Review Rules
When you re-enter your review management ecosystem, understanding the rules and best practices of Google can be tricky. The terms and conditions around reviews can lead to some gray areas, some white hat techniques, and some black hat, flat out, against-the-rules strategies. It doesn't help that there's a lot of 'noise' online about what strategies are allowed and what is against the rules.
The most important thing is to do your own research. While Google has some explicit support articles, how we interpret them can vary.
Let's look at the most up to date review related support documentation from Google.
How Google Says You Can Get Reviews on Google
Google provides a set of simple best practices in their support materials for how you can get Google reviews.
Standard Prohibited and Restricted Content
Google provides a standard set of rules around prohibited and restricted content.
Specific Guidelines for the Text in Google Reviews
When it comes to the guidelines for text written in a Google review, Google has a special section of rules. Notice this is the section referring to 'Review-Gating' that's never explicitly said in the guidelines (see Phil's thoughts on it in the webinar recap below).
A Small Google Review Incentive Footnote
Finally, there's a small reference to incentives on the creating a Google review link support article.
'Bad' Google Review Generation Strategies
One of the biggest takeaways from the webinar is that Google reviews are a valuable window into your business. They are a key part of the buyers journey. They're not necessarily 'easy' to earn, but they play a critical role in how potential customers evaluate your business.
The goal of generating reviews should always revolve around painting an authentic picture of your business. They should help business owners unearth those 'crunchy little details' that truly showcase the type of business that you or your clients run.
What do you think? Are these strategies bad? Should you or your clients completely avoid them? Let me know in the comments.