The Ultimate Guide to Online Review Platforms for Businesses, Part 1: Google My Business (GMB) 

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If you follow our blog, then you already know that we often share tips to help you respond to reviews of your business or clients’ businesses. Last week, for example, we examined some reasons why custom review replies are more effective than template-based responses and offered some “do’s” and “don’ts” to make personalizing your responses easier. 

This week, we’re launching a new series of articles that will focus on a different angle, exploring the ins and outs of essential review platforms like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and others. The more familiar you are with these platforms, the easier it will be for you to navigate and utilize them, making it simpler for you to engage with reviewers, reach potential new customers, and grow your agency or business successfully. 

To kick our series off, we’re starting with the most prominent — and most important — review platform of all: Google. Far beyond being just a search engine or map tool, Google also allows you to create a free profile for your business, which customers can rate and comment on with the option for business owners to respond. This article will explain how Google business listings work, why they matter for your brand, why Google reviews are important, and some tips for managing your Google business reviews more effectively. Our series will be back in Part 2 with an overview of Facebook and Yelp, then wrap up in Part 3 with a guide to industry-specific review platforms like Home Advisor, Cars.com, and Angi.

What is Google My Business (GMB), and Why is it Important?  

Google My Business (GMB) is, without question, the most important review platform that your agency or business needs to be monitoring. As Search Engine Land points out, “Google Search and Maps…are often the first points of contact for millions of consumers,” regardless of what industry you’re in or who makes up your customer base. Not only is GMB the most rapidly growing local review site, according to one analysis that placed it ahead of Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare — in addition, it also plays the most dominant role in your local search rankings, giving you an essential visibility boost over your competitors. For a more detailed look at that subject, we recommend checking out our article on the relationship between local SEO and online reviews; but for now, let’s take a deeper dive into how GMB works and why it matters so much for your business — particularly when it comes to reviews and owner responses. 

Your GMB listing is a business listing that, as Google explains, “lets you easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps.” It features key information that consumers need to know, like your hours of operation, directions to your business, and — most importantly for this conversation — your business’ rating. This is reflected as a rating of 1 to 5 stars, where 1 star indicates a poor experience and 5 stars indicates an excellent experience. Your rating is based, at least partially, on past ratings and reviews you’ve received. Unfortunately, Google provides limited information about precisely how star ratings are calculated, explaining only that each score is based on previous customer ratings “and a variety of other factors,” which are not specified (though Search Engine Journal recently noticed some changes to Google’s rating system). 

While those “other factors” may be vague, the importance of positive reviews to your score is crystal clear. The more 5-star ratings and reviews you receive from your customers, the higher your overall GMB rating will be — which is one of the very first details anyone searching Google or viewing Google Maps will focus on. And that’s not just our theory; there’s data to back it up. Recent research shows that only 53% of consumers — barely half — “would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars,” while conversely, “Having a 5-star rating earns a business 39% more clicks from Google local results than having a 1-star rating.” Meanwhile, “Going from a 3-star rating to a 5-star rating gets a business 25% more clicks from Google local pack”: an impressive reminder of the impact a single review or handful of comments can make. 

This research was conducted by BrightLocal, which also found that “local businesses have an average of 4.42 stars on Google My Business,” when all industries were averaged. Interestingly, senior living centers and car dealerships were both among the businesses with the lowest average ratings at 4.05 and 4.11 stars respectively, while photographers enjoyed the highest ratings with 4.84 stars on average. 

The number of ratings your business receives may be just as important as the ratings themselves. According to BrightLocal’s data, “Local businesses who rank in the top three positions in Google Local have an average of 47 Google reviews,” compared to the average 38 reviews for businesses occupying the seventh through tenth positions. If you or your client’s business needs more ratings — which not only helps with SEO, but can also instill greater trust in your brand — you may be able to get more reviews by asking or encouraging your customers to share their feedback, which Forbes and HubSpot both offer tips on.

Ultimately, you can’t control how (or how many) customers decide to rate your business — only the quality of the products and services you provide. However, while reviews of your business may be outside your control, it’s still critical to actively monitor and respond to them — especially those being posted on GMB, given the platform’s ever-increasing prominence. Keep in mind that Google currently controls more than 86% of the search engine market share, with other sources placing that figure above 92%. If your goal is to maximize your reach, increase your visibility, and gain that critical edge over your local or regional competitors, you simply can’t afford to ignore GMB as an unparalleled source of advertising. Not only does GMB allow you to reach more consumers with information like business hours, it also allows you to engage with them by replying to reviews, offering your business a unique (and highly public) opportunity to provide outstanding customer service while marketing your brand in an on-message, positive light. 

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How to Claim and Verify Your Business on Google and Respond to Reviewers 

This brings us to the basic how-to’s of actually using GMB and engaging with your reviewers. The very first step is to add or claim your business on GMB if you have not done so already. Next, you’ll need to verify your business, which will enable you to edit information about your company. According to a 2020 analysis by Whitespark, which looked at a total of 800,000 business listings, just under half of those analyzed — about 49% — had been verified on GMB. You can use this to your advantage over unverified competitors by ensuring your business is verified properly. To get started, simply follow these instructions on how to verify your business on Google

Claiming and verifying your business on GMB are two simple yet essential steps you must take in order to exercise control over your brand’s review response and reputation management strategy. Once you have successfully completed the process of claiming and verifying your business, you’ll be able to change information and interact with reviewers by responding to reviews. Google recommends reading and replying to all of your reviews — yes, including the negative ones — following the helpful step-by-step instructions here, which will walk you through the process of replying to your commenters on GMB. (Note that, in Step 2 of Google’s instructions, you’ll need to proceed differently depending on whether you are a single-location or multi-location brand.) In addition to replying to reviews on GMB directly, you can also reply to reviews of your business from Google Search or Maps simply by navigating from “Your Business Profile” to “Reviews” to “Reply.” 

However, there’s a faster and simpler alternative to constantly monitoring your (or your clients’) GMB accounts: our custom review management software, Review Navigator. Review Navigator aggregates reviews from across all of your online listings, ensuring that customer ratings and comments from GMB, Facebook, Yelp, and more all appear in one secure location. Review Navigator is equipped with flexible search filters and organizational features, such as options to sort by location, brand, date, and/or star rating. Combined with our unique review reply service, which provides your business or agency with custom responses to reviews on GMB and dozens of other platforms, Review Navigator makes managing your or your client’s reputation easier than ever before. 

With our response scribes creating owner replies to GMB (and other) reviews on your behalf, you’ll be able to provide personalized messaging to each of your customers  — all without ever having to write a single sentence. However, if you are interested in learning how to craft stronger and more effective owner responses, we recommend that you follow our blog or subscribe to our newsletter for helpful tips and pointers on best industry practices. Get started by exploring our guides to responding to negative reviews, responding to positive reviews, or responding to neutral reviews

Google Business Review Response Service for Multi-Location Brands and Agencies  

Google is one of the key players in the modern business landscape. Without an active, verified business listing on Google, you’ll be difficult for consumers to find — or trust. 

Reach more people, manage your reputation, engage with your customers, and improve your SEO by monitoring and responding to reviews on GMB and other platforms. Review management becomes stress-free and seamless with Review Navigator, which offers an elegant, centralized solution for agencies and businesses with multiple clients or offices. 

Whether you’re responsible for 50 business locations or 500, our reputation management and review reply services are built to support your evolving business needs. Contact Shout About Us to learn more, or request a demo to see how your brand could benefit. 

 

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