Google reviews are the most effective marketing that your business can ask for. In order to stay ahead of the competition in today’s environment, businesses need to stay on top of their online reviews. Reviews might not be the first thing you think of when you think of marketing. After all, businesses have no control over what customers say in reviews. Reviews are supposed to be for customers to share authentic experiences with one another. This fact is exactly what makes reviews such a great way for businesses to market themselves. Customers trust reviews because reviews are genuine. In a world where the average person is constantly bombarded with advertisements, a real recommendation from a real customer means everything. It’s estimated that 92% of customers consult reviews before making any purchase decision. Why Google Reviews? While online reviews on every platform are important, not every review platform is created equal. Right now, Google is king. Every time a customer does a search for a term like “restaurants near me”, they’ll instantly see how other customers are rating nearby restaurants and most likely, will choose the restaurants with the highest ratings and most customer reviews. Even Google knows the value that reviews have as marketing material. A new feature is giving businesses in certain countries 4-star and 5-star reviews that can be promoted on Google My Business. There’s nothing like an authentic testimonial to turn an interested prospect into paying customers. Google reviews don’t just help with customers. Reviews are one of the ranking factors that Google takes into account when determining local search ranking. The more reviews that you have, the higher the probability that customers will see you in their online searches. Remember, Google aims to give users the best search results. When users search for the best businesses near them, the Google algorithm uses factors to find out what local customers think are the best businesses in the area. So it only makes sense that they’d use customer reviews which reflect authentic customer opinion. According to Moz, customer reviews are the 3rd largest factor determining local search ranking. Now you know how Google reviews can help you market your business. Let’s talk about what you can do to increase your online visibility and get more reviews. Setting Up Your Google My Business Page The first step to marketing your business with Google is setting up a Google My Business account. This might seem pretty obvious, but studies have found that only 44% of businesses have claimed their Google My Business profile. This is a huge missed opportunity. Your Google My Business Profile is a great opportunity to market your business. Your profile is the first thing potential customers will see when they search for you on Google. By making a good first impression on customers, you can increase conversions. A few high definition pictures can make all the difference in the world. If your business has been around for a while, then chances are that you will already have a Google My Business profile. All you have to do is claim it. Then you’re free to add hours of operation, contact information, and images, all of which will help more customers come to your business. But setting up your Google My Business profile is only the first step. Remember, what customers really value are the opinions of other customers. Luckily, there’s an easy way you can get more genuine customer feedback. Send More Review Requests to Get More Customers Here’s a simple equation for business growth: More reviews = more customers. At the end of the day, having lots of reviews help signal to potential customers that your business is in high demand. Luckily, there’s an easy way to get reviews on Google: sending review requests. By sending a review request email or text to customers that links directly to your business’s profile, you can make it easy for customers to leave reviews. Some of you might be wondering what the point of review requests is. After all, can’t you get the same results by just asking the customer in person? It’s true that doing this might save you some time. Unfortunately, this process doesn’t work nearly as well as sending review requests. A customer might be perfectly happy with your business and agree to leave a review in person. But you’re asking them to do a lot of work. The customer has to find your business’s profile on Google and then leave a review. It’s more likely that the customer will just forget about the whole thing when they get home. Luckily, there is another way to get more reviews without such a heavy time investment. A review management service like BirdEye can help you send out more review requests. Services like these can send automated review requests by integrating with your Customer Relationship Management system. You can focus on your business priorities while still getting lots of customer reviews. Dealing with Negative Reviews Chances are that if you are sending review requests, you’re going to get at least a few bad reviews. You might be worried that this will cause customers to avoid your business. Though this is a perfectly natural fear, negative reviews are nothing to be afraid of. No reasonable customer expects that you’ll have no negative reviews. According to Spiegel Research Center, 82% of customers say that they specifically seek out negative reviews. Instead of looking at reviews as something that hurts your business, look at them as an opportunity to prove your dedication to customer happiness. Plus, only sending review requests to specific customers who you’re sure will leave a positive review is prohibited by Google. This kind of “review gating” creates a bias in your customer reviews and undermines the trust that customers have for the authenticity of the review ecosystem. If Google finds out that you’ve been review gating, your business can face a penalty in rankings. Instead of trying to avoid negative reviews, take an active stance. Respond to bad reviews with politeness and a desire to fix the problem that the customer experienced. Potential customers will see that your business is dedicated to making sure that everyone who walks through your front door has a fantastic experience. Of course, changing customer perception isn’t the only benefit you can get by responding to reviews. It can help your search ranking as well. Google has confirmed that review responses help increase your search ranking. Stay on Top of Google Reviews When you pay close attention to your Google reviews, you can make your business more visible to more customers. By sending review requests and responding to customer reviews, you can make sure that customers searching for your business are impressed the moment they stumble on your Google My Business profile.