It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Positive online reviews have become critical to consumers’ purchase decisions. Globally, up to 89% of customers consult online reviews before they decide to buy. In 2022, more than nine out of ten customers (93%) claimed that positive reviews would significantly affect their final shopping choices.
In the world of online reviews, Google takes centre stage. As soon as you appear in local searches, your star rating out of five displays directly on your Google Maps listing. If your score is at least 4/5, you’re in good shape. But you may find that your latest favourite reviews do not all show up at the top. So Cheryl Strayed’s dreamy 5-star massage is buried deep at the bottom while Johnny D.’s grouchy play-by-play of how he didn’t have enough towels is the first thing your prospects see. If you’ve ever wondered why your most recent Google reviews don’t appear at the top of your profile, we’ve got answers, along with tips on how to get more stars more often.
Why don’t my most recent Google reviews appear at the top of my profile?
According to Google’s robots, not all reviews are created equal. Google will evaluate each review based on who left it. Let’s take a look at the different types of users you’re likely to find on Google:
- Local Guides: Designed by Google itself, the Local Guides program helps to increase the online information on local businesses, ensuring accuracy and trust through user-generated content. The program has a point system where users can work their way up from Earn 1 (0 points) to Level 10 (100,000 points). Starting at Level 4 (250) points, participants are granted badges which elevate their level of credibility both for Google and your average Internet user. Local guides earn a base 10 points per review. Beyond that, they can accumulate additional points for extras like photos (5 points each), videos (7 points), fact checks and Q & A answers (3 points), and place or road ads (15 points each!) Google will be able to detect if someone has a great deal of experience reviewing specific sectors, weighing the value of reviews accordingly.
- The Average Internet User: This is people like you and me who leave reviews from time to time, most often when we are either extremely happy or vastly disappointed. While these reviews are legitimate and precious, they may not automatically rank as high as Local Guide reviews.
- AI and bot users: Everybody knows you can’t trust everything you read on the Internet. But the bots are out there, automatically generating both positive and negative reviews. While it’s not always easy to flag a review that isn’t written by a real person, there are a few clues to look out for. Generic, empty phrases. Mysterious user profiles with little review history. Unverified purchase or service history. Google does its best to delete reviews that seem like spam; however, a few will inevitably creep in. If it happens to you, you can report a review or profile in the hopes of it getting taken down. In any case, bot user reviews will typically not gain the same relevance and ranking as Local Guide reviews.
- Fraud and Suspicious Users: Like the bots, suspicious users don’t have business owners’ or fellow customers’ best interests at heart. For whatever reason, they’re spending their irreplaceable hours on this earth creating fake accounts and contributing to an unreliable Internet. Some even create multiple accounts, going back and forth with their (often harsh) opinions and criticism. Signs of a suspicious user include accounts that appear out of nowhere, with no previous reviews, far-fetched and unrecognizable descriptions of their customer experience, rash claims, and a lack of logic. As with suspected AI users, it’s a good idea to flag these reviews and “report abuse” so that Google can stop this content in its tracks.
Just like it does for SEO, Google will rank reviews based on their relevance, accuracy, and value. Besides user credibility, it will look for keywords and rich detail, as well as engagement. Under each review, other customers can press the like button. There’s not a ton of data on this subject, but reviews with more likes tend to appear higher on Google Maps. That said, as a business owner, Google might not count your likes and may even penalize you for liking your own reviews; however, we could not confirm this anywhere on the Internet. What we could confirm is that responding to reviews does have a positive impact on their visibility.
So, if you’re frustrated that your most recent (and best, and most relevant) reviews are not appearing at the top of your profile, might we suggest:
Step One: Always Respond to All of Your Google Reviews
In Part Two of our Guide to Online Reviews, we have thoroughly discussed how to respond to all types of online with tact and with grace.
Here’s a quick refresher:
1 – Keep calm and steer the conversation offline: Do not say anything you will regret later. Do not make promises you cannot keep. Do not admit the customer was right in writing. Do not publish statements that could be held liable in a court of law. Briefly apologize, offer to resolve the situation ASAP, but save all specifics for a private discussion. In the best-case scenario, the dissatisfied customer might even retract and remove the review. Here’s hoping.
2 – Silence is not golden: Tantrums are to be avoided, but ignoring negative feedback is no good. Customers are looking to see how business owners respond their low-star ratings. A measured, diplomatic response can make the difference between prospects giving you a chance or heading elsewhere.
3 – Accentuate the positive: Celebrate glowing reviews with enthusiasm and thanks. Now’s the time to be specific to show you remember the interaction and that you care. (“Oh, I’m so glad the standing desk worked out!) (Your skin looks amazing!) (Such fun to design vintage cupcakes with you!) For extra visibility, you can even share the review on a special social media post. We say, spread the love however you can.
4 – Eliminate (or at least reduce) the negative – In case of spam, outrageous accusations, or complete defamation, go ahead and report abuse to Google and Google Maps. Though it might take a while–and not all reviews can be deleted—Google is committed to removing all reviews that fail to meet set guidelines. Meanwhile, extreme situations might give cause to consult your legal team.
Step Two: Earn as Many 5-Star Reviews as Possible
Even when customers are delighted with your work, they don’t always think to leave online reviews. So you have to remind them.
A few easy tips on how:
1 – Systematic follow-up: If you have your customer’s contact info, use it to follow up after every purchase or appointment. Ask them how their experience was. Share a link to your profile so they can simply click to leave a review. (See Google’s guide to creating and sharing a link) If you don’t have your customer’s contact info, it’s time to build a mailing list! If you’re looking for a hands-free way to build a mailing list, you might consider one of Linkeo’s online business solutions. Offer your clients effortless online booking (Planner), seamless Click & Collect, or free automatic estimates (Quote) and seamless bank and enjoy the perks of a built-in customer database.
2 – Newsletters: Email marketing is a stellar way to stay in touch with your clients. Tell them all about your latest promos, brand-new location, riveting milestones, upcoming events, you name it. And at the end, ask them to share their experience and leave a review.
3 – Your website and social media platforms: Add an easy link to Google reviews wherever people find you on the Internet. Explain to your customers that it really helps new clients to find you (it does!) and you would so appreciate their time (you would!)
4 – Ask and receive: When you see a gushing customer in person, don’t be shy to ask them to leave a review. Coming straight from their favourite store owner or service provider, they’ll be pleased to sing your praises.
5 – Partners, suppliers, and employees: Integrity is everything these days and how you treat the people you work with matters. Even if they’re not your customers, it reflects well on you if your staff and colleagues take the time to tell the world what a great boss/leader/role model you are.
A Five-Star E-Reputation, by Linkeo
Online reviews can be the stuff of nightmares. But they’re not going away any time soon. Luckily, Linkeo’s team of community managers is here to make sure you look great across every corner of the interwebs. With our e-reputation offer, you can relax in the knowledge that someone else is keeping track of your online brand image—de-escalating shrill reviews, multiplying positive feedback, and making sure you get all the stars and all the likes in all the places. Get in touch today to build your five-star e-reputation.