You know the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Sometimes you want to shout that at your computer screen when you read a negative customer review about your local business. But guess what? Customers who complain are actually doing you a favor.
Now, hear us out. Obviously, customers who write you glowing reviews are doing you the real favor. However, as it turns out, negative customer reviews can still be mildly beneficial to your overall web presence. Indeed, they’re better than no reviews at all!
Are you surprised to hear this? We were taken aback when we made the discovery, too. However, with one of our clients, we saw firsthand that a Google listing with a negative review outperformed one with zero reviews. So, how can you apply this new rule to your own online efforts? Keep reading to find out.
A Negative Customer Review Still Proves Authenticity
It seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it? Google has demonstrated time and time again that business listings with higher overall ratings will perform better than ones with lower ratings. In fact, on its Google My Business Help page, it states, “Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking [emphasis added].”
That’s why, when we saw a negative customer review come in for one particular client, we winced. They hadn’t prioritized collecting reviews, and this bad one was their only review. We assumed this lone negative review would surely hold back the client’s local ranking.
Yet, we were dumbstruck when we saw this client get significantly more phone calls than other clients who had zero reviews. And that’s when we recalled the first part of that quote from Google: review count. The number of reviews, in combination with the score of those reviews, is a factor in local ranking. Judging by our firsthand experience, your review count may even outweigh your score—at least, when the review count is one versus zero.
This is because your total number of reviews reflects how many customers you’ve had, and, therefore, how established you are as a business. Google cares strongly about credibility and authenticity. So, even though it’s a negative review, it at least proves you’re a real business with real customers. In Google’s eyes, that appears to count for something.
On the other hand, when you have zero reviews, Google has no proof whatsoever of your authenticity as a business. When you look at it this way, it makes sense that Google would favor a negative review over no reviews at all.
Get More Customer Reviews to Improve Your Ranking
Your takeaway here? Get more customer reviews. Period. Positive reviews are ideal, but, as we’ve discussed, any review at all is better than nothing.
Of course, if getting customer reviews were easy, every local business would have dozens of them. We know it’s a difficult task. However, as we’ve demonstrated, reviews are critical in improving your Google Maps ranking and increasing your new customer leads. In other words, gathering customer reviews may be time consuming, but it’s certainly worthwhile.
But, there’s also an alternative to doing all the work yourself. Do you have a little wiggle room in your budget? If so, we highly recommend using a professional service that will contact your customers on your behalf. They’ll ask these customers for reviews, direct them to your Google listing, and collect the reviews for you. In the past, we’ve successfully used Customer Lobby for our own customer review efforts.
How to Ask for Customer Reviews
However, if you decide to save money and get more reviews on your own, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- First, identify your best customers—the ones who loyally come back to you, and the ones who you’re confident will give you a good review. These people are more likely to help you out. (However, feel free to expand your list to include any customer from the past few months.)
- Next, contact these customers by phone or email and ask them directly if they would take a few minutes to leave you a review online. Tell them your preferred platforms: Google Maps, Facebook, and Yelp, in that order. This should give you an initial boost in your number of customer reviews.
- Then, develop a plan for future customers so you can start getting a continuous flow of reviews. Add an on-page feedback tool to your website (available through Prospect Genius). This way, customers can write a review in one place and the tool can disseminate the review to other platforms.
- In the future, ask customers at the very beginning of your service, before you’ve even started the job. Say, “When we’ve finished, if you’re happy with our work, please consider leaving us a review on Google.” This will plant the seed in their minds.
- Finally, remind customers again as soon as the job is complete. Attach links to follow-up emails, mention it in follow-up phone calls, and even add it to the bottom of your invoices. Customers are more likely to leave you a review while the experience is still fresh.
And, to make it even easier for you, here’s a handy infographic!
A Negative Review Is Better Than Nothing
By now, it should be clear that getting more customer reviews, even if they’re negative, is essential to your local ranking on Google. A negative customer review, despite its content and low score, will at least prove your authenticity as a real, local business. And, as you know, Google cares about authenticity first and foremost.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start asking for reviews. Your local visibility depends on it!