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Google Limiting Feature in Google My Business During COVID-19 Reference

google covid responseWith the COVID-19 crisis, businesses are facing unusual challenges. Some struggle to stay afloat and retain relevance while others are overwhelmed with brainstorming strategies to help them recover when it’s over.

It’s at a time like this that most businesses can commend Google for some of their actions geared towards helping users and businesses.

On March 20th, 2020 Google released the first update to inform users and businesses of the new limiting features in GMB.

Let’s look at what they are and what they mean for your business.

New Reviews, and Review Replies

Following this period of the pandemic, users will be able to leave new reviews for businesses. However, while the users can see the review, it will not be publicly visible and will not impact the business star ratings or be added to their review count.

As for replying to these new reviews, Google disabled that feature as stated in the March 20th report. The reason being that the new reviews do not show publicly or count, anyway. Businesses were still able to reply to old reviews and even edit them.

But, as of April 7th, 2020 Google provided a new update now restoring review replies. They also say that “New user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will gradually return by country and business category.”

Q&A

For some businesses, their Q&A’s appear to have vanished. We believe Google aimed to limit users’ ability to post new questions, and that led to removing the feature completely.

Adding, Claiming, and Verifying Listings

Thankfully, it’s still possible to add, claim, and verify listings. There is only one small change which is that Google now prioritizes healthcare or health-related businesses for these processes. So those who are not under this niche will experience delays when performing any of these actions on GMB.

Takeout/Delivery Available Option

Now more than ever, customers need to know what options are available for food vendors across countries. To assist both users and businesses, Google has loosened its guidelines to allow restaurants to add ‘delivery available’ or ‘takeout available’ to their business names.

Temporarily Closed Option

Yes, many businesses have shut their doors during this pandemic, but how do customers know who’s open and who’s closed? To help both parties involved, Google now includes a temporarily closed feature. While this might influence business rankings because Google prioritizes open businesses, we can’t say for certain that the effects will be permanent.

What do the changes mean for you?

Depending on the nature of businesses, the implications differ. But there are ways to make the most of the situation. Google’s recent updates are helpful for the crisis and users. You can take this opportunity to boost your reviews and ranking on other sites like Facebook and Yelp. If your business can’t perform optimally due to the crisis, switch strategies to becoming a source of information, helpful tips, or encouraging messages. Stay relevant and preserve your business reputation through this time.

review response templates

How to Respond to Reviews: Online Templates

review response templatesReviews are vital to your business. When you get them – either positive or negative – your response can play an even greater role. For starters, your response to a positive review can enhance it maximizing its effects and making you irresistible for as long as it lasts. At the same time, your response to a negative review can salvage its negative effects and make you look good. These are all when you respond appropriately.

We agree that responding appropriately to reviews is not every business owner’s strong suit. For example, a negative review can leave you so angry and spiteful you don’t know when you try to let the entire world know how horrible the customer was with a lot of unprofessional words. A positive review can also either be shabby or good and you just respond with a short sentence or don’t respond at all.

Let’s dive right into how you can respond to reviews and make each one count.

  • Happy/Unhappy customer

These are quite popular and contradictory. The customer seems happy enough to leave 4 or 5 stars and some shiny points but still unhappy enough to say a few statements of disappointments or unmet needs. Don’t panic or focus only on the positive statements. Your response should be something like this,

Hello (name),

Thank you for your feedback, we are glad you mostly enjoyed the service. We apologize for those areas we have fallen short and are glad you are giving us a chance to make things right.

Your feedback has been valuable in improving our services.

We look forward to having you next time.

(Manager/company name)

  • Professional reviewer

They come along now and then. These customers know exactly how to leave a review, they are intentional about every word. You want to respond just as professionally.

Hello (name),

Thank you for this detailed and fair review of our service. It’s good to hear you (reiterate the positives). We certainly strive to be better each time and are happy you could feel that effort.

We also take your criticisms (if any) into great consideration to help us enhance our services.

It was a pleasure. See you again soon.

(Manager/company name)

  • Difficult to please customer

These bunch are usually happy and have nothing but good things to say but yet leave 4 stars and probably some negative details that should be irrelevant but were mentioned, anyway. This is where you focus on the positives.

How you respond,

Hello (name),

Thank you so much. We are glad you had a nice time and experience. (Emphasize on the positive points they mentioned)

We do look forward to your next visit and your even greater satisfaction.

(Manager/company name)

  • Those who love you

These are usually returning clients who have nothing but praises for you. And all 5 stars of course. Your response here should be in every way as warm as their review and happy.

Hello (name),

It was a pleasure having you over as always. Thank you for your feedback.

(Mention something good about them too)

We can’t wait for your next visit to do this all over again.

(Manager/business name)

The idea here is to match the customer’s approach and play on it to your advantage. Always remember your response isn’t all about that specific customer but mostly intended for new ones. Draw them in.

How to Get More Reviews on TripAdvisor

tripadvisor reviewsWhen you establish a business, it is with the aim to succeed right? And make profits, get a large customer base, and thrive? So you would brainstorm ways you can do this aside just opening a local office or location. Most business owners turn to ads but in recent times you can do much more.

If you are in the restaurant, hotel, vacation rentals, attractions, and other similar travel-related niches you should take advantage of a platform like TripAdvisor.

Just in case you committed the abominable act of asking why? Or mouthing who’s TripAdvisor? We will lay out the answers with fresh stats. As of 2019,

  • TripAdvisor has generated 795 million reviews and opinions
  • They have 8.4 million listings on their site
  • TripAdvisor receives 490 million unique visitors per month
  • They reach over 60% of worldwide travelers.

Travelers who use TripAdvisor:

  • Start planning their trips 20 weeks earlier
  • Research the platform for over 164 minutes
  • Read or visit 182 pages on TripAdvisor while shopping around.
  • Spend 25% of all shopping time on TripAdvisor.
  • 74% of all travelers use TripAdvisor to plan their trip in some way.

While these stats go on and on, you get the picture by now to know that TripAdvisor is too big and impactful to your business niche to ignore.

So let’s say you have skipped all this already and have your listing. You will get to know you need reviews to truly thrive on this platform because – again stats:

  • 53% of travelers do not commit to a booking or spending until they have read reviews on your TripAdvisor listing.

Also, you hardly need convincing on how travelers or shoppers need to see reviews to be completely attracted to what you are offering.

It all sounds so important but what is truly overwhelming is how to get these reviews especially when these same customers are reluctant to leave them. Thankfully, you have us and we put together the strategies you need to pull off getting more reviews on TripAdvisor.

Ask and receive – Did you know that 7 out of 10 customers say they would leave a review if asked? Asking is not overrated it is essential. Ask face-to-face at the end of the service. Since the client is likely to forget when they step out, send an email or SMS as a reminder.

Make it easy – The less hurdles to climb the better for your review game. Add a link that takes customers straight to your TripAdvisor review page. Display a clear prompt on your website for reviewing on TripAdvisor.

Use templates – When you send emails or messages use effective templates that are professional, engaging, and compelling. Use them at the right time too to ensure results.

Promote your presence – At every chance or touchpoint, you get, promote your presence. Let people know you have carved a niche on TripAdvisor. Show off your accolades or past reviews. You’d be surprised how this influences people to review your service too.

Monitor competitors – No doubt you have competitors doing better. Find out how they do it. Monitor them to gain helpful insight.

Respond – Let people feel your presence and care by responding always.

Real Estate Agents: How To Use Review To Attract More Customers

real estate agent reviewsYes, it’s true. In the past, real estate agents hardly ever needed reviews or even thought of them. That was simply because, in the past when people needed a real estate agent they asked their neighbors, friends, colleagues, or family. A real estate agent got leads based on word-of-mouth. And most times, your word-of-mouth referrals were easier to convert because they know someone close to them used your service.

Fast forward to now, things have changed. Word-of-mouth referrals still live on for real estate agents but it is now done on the internet. People are super dependent on the online world and they look to it for direction when in need. Since, physical referrals is dying out, people tend to look to your reviews for confirmation of your expertise. Doubting this change as a real estate agent is at your peril – or businesses’ peril. Here are what people are trying to find out when they view your reviews and likely compare it to a few other agents they have found:

Your reputation – Reputation is indeed everything in a business. You won’t help yourself if you have a reputation for showing up late, never delivering, or giving clients a hard time. Customers can tell much about your reputation from online reviews.

Competence and professionalism – If you lack either of these, how do you intend to sell or buy a house? Clients know these qualities go hand in hand and want to confirm your capability.

Other qualities clients try to discover about from your reviews are:

  • Are you trustworthy and reliable?
  • Your negotiating skills
  • Customer service and approach to client needs.
  • Would a previous client likely use you again?

Now, if reviews say so much, imagine not having any or having too little or all negative reviews. A disaster is what that is!

Here’s how you can use reviews as a solid lead generation and marketing strategy.

Ask – Your client is not a mind reader, and it is a known fact, that clients are often reluctant to leave reviews even when they know how important it is for you. Wait until the deal is done, and the client seems satisfied. Ask them about the service and if they need anything else. Then remind them to leave a review and thank them in advance.

Claim your online presence on platforms where reviews matter – This means platforms like Google my Business, Zillow, and Trulia. Even Yelp counts.

Ensure a positive review with outstanding service – It will be quite unfair/unwise of you to demand reviews from an angry or unsatisfied client. If you provide outstanding service in buying or selling their home/property, the client will be glad to leave a review that is certainly positive. Remember that it’s the positive that matters more.

Boost your reputation – Do all you can to protect a good reputation online. Improve your service, negotiation skills, and professional network. When your clients have a complaint duly respond and be genuine in your intent to help. Clients can sense this too.

Google Changes Review Button Text for Business Owners

google changes review button textAccording to Search Engine Roundtable, it looks like Google is shaking things up in the Google My Business realm.

A new finding indicates that Google has changed the wording on the button that businesses could use to gather reviews for their company. Instead of saying “Write a Review”, the button now reads: “Get More Reviews”.

It appears the change is slowly rolling out. When it’s available to all users, business owners will be presented with a button that, when clicked, will prompt the business owner to share the Google My Business listing on Facebook, Twitter, via email, and provide a link to copy.

This is seen as a great improvement as business owners shouldn’t be prompted to leave a review for their own business. More proof that Google wants to see those hard earned customer reviews!

Best Ways to Get Feedback From Customers

get customer feedbackIt’s true you can easily get insights on your business analytics and track almost everything you can think of. But what if you could learn all about your customers directly from them? That’s the power of feedback and businesses do not use this strategy enough.

Why do you need feedback?

Yes, why do you need to expose yourself to the good, the bad, and the ugly from the horse’s mouth? Well, if you are looking towards growth in your business and how to satisfy your customers to keep them coming back, spending more, telling others, then you need to know what to improve or slow down on.

Customers are a dynamic group of people. Some have a bad experience and would rather walk away and never look back than talk about it. Others can’t wait to tell the entire world including you. Then some who had great experiences might not be so vocal either, so you hardly know what they really liked. Feedback is a harmless way to get the information you need.

So, how do you do this then? Here are the best ways to get feedback from your customers.

  1. Surveys
  2. Surveys are the number 1 way to get feedback from customers. They are simple, straightforward, and serve your purpose. Now creating surveys can be tricky because, without proper precautions, people often create long and boring surveys that no one wants to complete.

    Start by making the surveys short – probably 5-10 questions is best if you want the customer to complete it. Ask only relevant questions that are clear and straight to the point. Don’t waste the customer’s time or yours by asking various irrelevant questions. Don’t opt for multiple-choice questions or rating scales yet. Start by giving the customer room to say what they really think. You can offer the surveys on your site or send it as an email.

  1. Reviews
  2. Honest reviews can provide some constructive feedback, although some clients tend to be vague. But it’s a good shot. Ask customers to leave a review after a service or completed transaction. Put the link in their faces (not in the violent way that sounds) to the review site of your choice.

  1. Ask for a rating
  2. The rating system never gets old. While it’s not based on details, when you pool the ratings together you can observe the pattern to know what you are doing wrong or right. You can use scales that start with ‘hated this service’ and end the scale with ‘loved this service’. Or the classic, ‘rate this service from 1 to 10’. Put it on a scale.

  1. Feedback box
  2. This one is very subtle. At the bottom of the page where customers complete their business with you (or any appropriate page on your website), add a small feedback box with a title like ‘How can we do better’ or ‘Please give us some feedback on your experience’. Make it clear and simple. Don’t booby trap your clients by hiding a complicated survey form behind the box.

BERT Update: Information You’ve Probably Already Seen But We Want to Provide You With Information Too!

bert update seoUpdates are not new to Google, and most times these updates have a direct impact on all Google users, especially business owners. Sometimes this impact is quite minimal. Other times it brings in penalties, so where does the BERT update stand? Is it scary stuff or not? Let’s find out.

On October 24, 2019, Google announced the BERT update. Google described this latest algorithm update as “one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search.” They are correct.

BERT is an acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. In scientific or more complex terms, BERT is a neural network-based technique used for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training.

In simple terms, it’s just a tool or technique for interpreting words better. Hence, Google has employed this update to help interpret search queries better. Yes, this means those unrelated search result you have encountered in the past that often seem like Google is just been difficult on purpose are now a thing of the past.

Your queries will get better interpretations and give more straightforward answers saving us all time, frustration, and the rigors of trying to simplify our queries.

Google has also referred to this update as the most important update in five years. Again, we agree. The BERT update will impact up to 10% of queries or 1 in every 10.

While this is thrilling on one part, it is mostly if you are looking at it from a user perspective. As an online business owner, it’s natural to wonder how this impacts your business SEO and overall digital health.

First, the good news is that this is a penalty-free update. It’s not one of those situations where you soon or suddenly end up penalized by an algorithm. It’s a good chance to get more intentional and upgrade your business to benefit from this update.

Experts will tell you that this update won’t help websites that have poorly written content.

This is the time for good quality update that answers your audience’s questions as clearly and directly as possible. Go for informational keywords that help you stand out to users now more than ever. Stick with writing in a natural way and offering value.

Aside from this small impact on SEO and search results, there’s pretty much nothing else to be worried about. In our opinion, this is no different from what experts have always advised – fill your website with valuable, natural, helpful content. Rather, it only enforces it.

Google is also trying to eliminate the common phenomenon of keyword-ese. Keyword-ese is the stressful situation where you have to be overly specific or twist the words in your search just to get the right answers from a search. In Google’s blog, it’s clearly stated, “No matter what you’re looking for, or what language you speak, we hope you’re able to let go of some of your keyword-ese and search in a way that feels natural for you.”

Free Review Resources from Google & More!

displaying reviewsA good review is hard to come by. That’s why it’s so important to use every resource you can to get one.

Sure, you can ask for a review (and that often works best!) but it can be hard to remember or make your employees do it. Distraction is a huge factor — your customers can get sidetracked very easily and forget about a verbal ask. Emailing and texting customers is a great and very powerful way to gain more reviews, but you still have those people who won’t respond.

If you meet with your customers face to face, you have more options. You can even ask… without asking! Printed materials make encouraging people to leave reviews easy. Sometimes even just seeing a poster on the wall or a business card can get your customer to take the next step — sometimes even while they’re still standing next to you!

Three of the biggest review sites have options to make this process very easy. Let’s take a look!

Free Google My Business Stickers and Posters

google stickers

Google is a great place to start if you’re looking for a quick way to produce materials. Go ahead and visit Marketing Kit with Google to get started.

Once you’re on their site, make sure you’re logged into your account that manages your Google listings. Then search for your business in the space provided.

Here you can find free stickers, posters, and more. You can even update your social accounts with your new reviews. Request stickers by mail or download everything and print it out yourself.

You know your customers the best so choose what you think would work the best. If you have table tents, download their table tent poster.

What are the pros of using a poster? The power of suggestion. You are reminding people that leaving a review will help your business. It’s often uncomfortable to go against the popular opinion — having positive reviews showing may influence the type of reviews that are left. Plus, if someone is only browsing your location, having positive reviews plastered around the place won’t hurt either!

Don’t go overboard here. One or two posters should do the trick but use this resource to your advantage!

Yelp Stickers

yelp stickers

Yelp’s popularity among business owners varies. Many are not big fans and often even mentioning the name can run chills up your spine.

There are still some benefits for directing people to review platforms where they find themselves most comfortable. In the retail and restaurant realm, Yelp’s importance remains steady.

Yelp’s printed materials are uber recognizable. Even reviewers who haven’t visited their site in years can still have their memory brought back by glancing at a sign in your window.

And… window stickers are free, so why not?

In order to request your stickers from Yelp, visit this page and fill out the form. There is usually a three to four week waiting period for delivery. Feel free to display yours proudly in the front window or door or even by your checkout counter.

TripAdvisor

tripadvisor stickersIf you are advertising to the traveling population, TripAdvisor is the place to be. From restaurants to hotels and even shopping centers, travelers of all ages and races are checking out TripAdvisor to see where to go next.

Luckily TripAdvisor provides free stickers to display in your location. Visit this page and fill out the form. Put it right next to your Google posters and Yelp stickers!

The fun doesn’t have to stop there. If you’ve got the creativity bug, take a stab at creating your posters! Make sure to pick some good reviews to showcase and leave a way for your customers to leave a review on the spot.

Our program does just that! All of our clients are provided with a custom QR code that allows your customers to scan and be sent straight to your custom landing page making it easy to leave a review.

On a final note…

We understand how hard it may be to ask your customers for reviews. It may be tempting to just let all these posters and stickers do the asking for you.

Resist that urge. Yes, these printed materials are helpful but they should not be a substitute for asking in person or for review reminders. Get out there and use your voice — or our email and SMS features.

Local Listings and Reviews

local listings and reviewsIt’s not strange to wonder what local listings have to do with reviews. It turns out they have more to do with each other than you thought.

Local listings describe your business online profile carrying details like business name, address, phone number, and more. You can create your business local listing on any online directory or platform that suits your needs.

The major platforms most business prefer to list on include Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and YP.

So, back to how local listings link up with reviews.

A lot of business owners don’t take their local listings and citations seriously. This is mostly because there is a general belief that it makes no difference in conversion and sales.

This thinking might just be what is causing you a major conversion leakage and giving your competitors an edge.

If you take a moment to view negative reviews on a business (look out for the ones that have the word ‘wrong’ in them), you will notice that a substantial number of clients relate a bad experience caused by inaccurate address, business hours, or some other part of the local listings and citation.

The influence of citations and local listings on your business might not be measurable with enough accuracy at the moment, but there is enough evidence to support their influence on customer experience and conversion.

Consider the following scenarios commonly experienced by customers.

Situation 1: Your business hours are not accurate but of course, there’s no way for a new prospect to know this. The customer goes to your local address at the time provided on your local listing only to discover that this time was incorrect. In this situation, the customer is already building up on a bad experience. They might or might not be converted but one thing you can be almost certain of is a review telling others that your citations and listings are inaccurate.

Situation 2: An incorrect or confusing office address can lead your customers to the wrong places not to mention wasting their time trying to find the correct address. Like the first situation above, conversion becomes a probability and a review stating their problem and experience is likely to show up.

Reviews and experiences like this are what create a conversion leakage that influences overall conversion or cash flow. Here is a clearer view of the consequences of neglecting citations.

  • Negative reviews from dissatisfied or unhappy clients
  • A decrease in future conversions from the negative reviews and customers losing interest.
  • Increase in negative sentiment about your business and service
  • Decrease in offline foot traffic because of inaccurate data or influences citations.

The solution to close this significant leak and move ahead of your competitors is to clean up your local listings and citations. Focus on accuracy. Think of how to use your profile to contribute to conversions and goodwill from customers. Track business improvements following this and use a local listing monitoring tool to ensure consistency across all your online profiles.

fake reviews

Fed Up With Fake Google Reviews? Learn How to Deal

fake reviewsYou work so hard to build a solid online reputation only to discover you might have to deal with fake negative reviews that threaten to disrupt your hard work. It can be quite the task.

Fake Google reviews are not hard to find on Google because anyone can create a Google account and leave a positive or negative review for your business or any business for that matter. These persons might have never contacted your business much less made a purchase to base their review on.

Having to experience something like this on a platform such as Google with its many policies, can be surprising or disappointing. But it is what it is and as a business owner, you must deal with this problem while saving your business reputation.

Who leaves negative reviews?

We would say anyone but it’s unlikely that a complete stranger has any reason to badmouth your business. The culprits are often competitors trying to disrupt your business, disgruntled employees you probably let go earlier, and trolls who just have a bad attitude.

Recognizing fake Google reviews

The first step to dealing with fake Google reviews is to be certain they are fake.

  • They are bogus: Fake reviews lack detail and present non-specific criticisms. They don’t talk about a specific issue but try to make everything look bad.
  • Strange pattern: You can click on a reviewer’s profile via Google My Business to investigate strange patterns of reviews. For example, if the reviewer keeps giving your business 1-stars with negative language but gives 5-stars to your competitors, then something is obviously fishy.
  • Your customers: Search the name of the reviewer against your customer database. If you don’t find their name there, it’s a fake review.

Getting rid of the problem

  • Respond
    Keep calm and think of the best way to salvage the situation. Think of what your real clients will see when they look at your business page. Respond professionally and get things back in your control.
  • Flag
    After confirming that the review is indeed fake, check which Google rules or terms it violates and flag it. Click the flag icon which appears at the top of the review. A violation page will open up. Enter your email address and select the most accurate violation. When all is done, submit.
  • Extra work
    It’s important to note that Google does not remove all fake reviews. When they do, it might take a lot of effort and patience on your part. Following no response to your first submission, contact GMB support team on Twitter. Send a clear message with details such as;

    • Records of the reviewer’s experience with your business
    • Google maps link and the review’s URL
    • NAP details of your business
    • Screenshot of the review – your evidence
    • Clear explanation on why it should be removed.

Wait for a response. You can also opt for a live discussion via call with a GMB associate.

If the reviews are finally removed that’s good news, but if not rest easy and keep up with your quality service. Authentic clients who leave positive reviews will help you drown out the negatives.