Google Reviews:
The Definitive Guide (2021)

You already know online reviews can either help or hurt your business, but did you know?:

  • 92% of consumers will read a review before making a purchase
  • 40% will form an opinion based on reading 1-3 reviews
  • 68% of people admit that positive reviews will make them trust a brand more

This shows just how impactful online reviews can be for your potential customers.

That’s why customer ratings have become such an important area for businesses to focus their attention on.

If you don’t have enough positive reviews — and your competitors do — you’ll miss out on potential leads and sales.

And having too many bad reviews will also hurt your online reputation.

Fortunately, with the help of today’s guide, you won’t have to face any of those issues alone.

We’re diving into everything you need to know about Google Reviews, including how to capture 5-star reviews and how to remove any bad ones weighing you down.

Chapter 1: Here’s Why Google Reviews Are Worth Your Attention

Chapter 2: How to Optimize Your Google Listing to Attract Customers

Chapter 3: The Winning Strategy for Consistent 5-Star Google Reviews

Chapter 4: How to Go From 6 to 130+ Reviews in 4 Months (Case Study)

Chapter 5: How 1st Light Energy Went From 3 stars to 4.6 (Case Study)

Chapter 6: The Top 3 Google Review Hacks

Chapter 7: How to Read and Reply to Reviews

Chapter 8: 5 Important Google Review Policies You Should Know

Bonus: How to Get a Google Review Removed

  Chapter 1: Google Reviews: Here’s What They Are & Why You Should Care You may not be familiar with the term Google Reviews, but there’s a good chance you’ve already seen a Google Review in action without even realizing it. Take a look at this screenshot to see what I mean: Notice any similarities in these top listings? Each one has key details about their business information prominently displayed, such as their address, website, and hours of operation. Look closer and you’ll see a five-star rating scale, along with the business’ average score from their tally of customer reviews. This powerful rating combination is what’s known as Google Reviews. And it’s exactly what we’ll be covering in today’s guide. Here’s why:
  1. It’s no surprise buyers are more likely to call or visit businesses and brands with the highest customer ratings and the most reviews. It’s human nature.
  2. Google also rewards businesses with multiple reviews and higher-than-average ratings by giving them a prominent spot in search results and a robust listing. This means your business listing will rank higher and stand out from the pack.
  3. Adding trust factors such as customer reviews to your Google listing also helps to build trust for new customers and strengthens your brand’s image.
Get all three of these factors right and you’ll not only set your business apart from your competition, you’ll also drive more traffic and more qualified leads your way. As an added bonus, you can also set up your Google Reviews as testimonials on your website which helps to double your impact in less time. But before you jump ahead and tackle advanced techniques like that, you need to lay a proper foundation first. Be honest: When was the last time you updated your Google business listing? Have you even verified it? Think back to the last time you actually searched for your business to see your live listing. If you haven’t done any of these since the last president was in office, your foundation definitely needs some work. So before you’re able to reap the perks of 5-star reviews, you need to remedy your foundational mistakes first. After all, Google is not going to reward you with high search results status if your listing is missing critical details such as your phone number, current address, or even your website. Remember, the goal is to make it super simple for your customers to get in touch with your business. And the easier you make that process, the better you’ll look in Google’s eyes — and the more luck you’ll have to convert browsers into customers. Use the checklist below to make sure your listing has all the necessary components to start ranking higher in searches practically overnight.

Checklist: Optimizing Your Google Business Listing

Work through each item on this checklist before moving on to our next section:
  • Make sure your phone number, physical address, and website URL are current
  • Add a succinct description of what your business has to offer
  • Include your business hours
  • Add your customer support hours in the more details section
  • Select the category/categories that best pertain to your business
  • Verify your listing. You can do that by following the instructions on this page.
To really make your listing stand out further, take advantage of the Google Business extra features. These let you connect your latest blog posts or customer support chat to your listing, if your brand uses either one of those. These features will prompt customers to engage with your business instead of your competitors. Once you’ve successfully completed all the items on the optimization checklist, it’s time for the good stuff: capturing those coveted 5-star reviews. With the foundational groundwork out of the way, you’re finally ready to master the art of how to get five star reviews. So let’s talk about how to get customer reviews in the first place. As you may have witnessed, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Some customers may promise to write you a stellar review and never do, while others simply forget or don’t care enough altogether. So what can you do here? You have three options:
  1. Keep asking your customers to leave you a review, and hope they do.
  2. Send a bulk email or survey to all of your customers, essentially doing the same as step #1 except on a much bigger scale.
  3. Send personal invitations to make it easier for customers to leave you a 5-star review.
Take the first route and the response rate is usually the lowest. You’re likely to find yourself in the same boat you’re in now if you don’t upgrade your strategy: with very few reviews. As soon as your customers leave your business, their busy schedules and hectic lifestyles catch up to them and make it difficult to remember to leave you a review. So you may be thinking, What if I just send more emails and surveys instead? But there are two issues with this plan:
  1. While it saves you time to ask for feedback all at once, surveys do very little to motivate your customer to complete them.
  2. Bulk reviews are automatically deleted by Google anyway.
So even though you may shave off a few minutes from your day going with bulk emails, it will still be a waste of time since this action won’t do much to increase your response rate. Additionally, you’ll never be able to create a stream of steady, consistent reviews if you can’t even get a handful to begin with. Which brings us to the third option: sending personal invitations. Before you decide you don’t have time for this course of action, what if I told you there was a tool that sends your customer invites for you? Let’s discuss this option next.

Review Ninja: Your Key to Consistently Getting 5-Star Reviews

If you want to consistently capture 5-star reviews, you need to accomplish two things simultaneously:
  1. Make the process extremely simple for your customers
  2. Personalize the experience
With the first issue, your customers simply don’t have time to track down how to leave you a review. That’s why streamlining this entire process and cutting down the number of steps it takes for customers to leave you feedback is key. I’ll share the best strategy for this shortly. Another important ingredient for this whole process to work is personalization. If your team is robotically telling each of your customers to “Visit Google to Leave Us a Review,” it’s no wonder you’re not getting any. A better approach is to make your customer feel as if you value their opinion specifically. With Review Ninja, you can get both of these done without wasting your whole afternoon.

What is Review Ninja?

Review Ninja is an easy-to-use tool that helps you quickly and consistently capture your customer’s feedback. Instead of sending your customer on a scavenger hunt to a review site or delivering an email to their already packed (read: ignored) inbox, Review Ninja bypasses all of that noise by sending your customers a text with a review link directly. Here’s what that looks like: In the first image, you’ll see Review Ninja instantly sends your customers a text with a:
  • Thank you message and short snippet of copy
  • Link to where they can take the survey and leave their feedback
  • Call to action of Can you take 30 seconds and leave us a quick review?
All three of these together prompt customers to complete the survey right away instead of waiting to do so. And once they click the link, they have the option to leave a review on Google or Facebook (see image above, #3). No matter which choice your customer makes, they’ll always see the last screen in the image encouraging them to leave a review and select a star rating. When they’re done, the review is automatically added to the platform they chose and then tallied with the rest of your other reviews and ratings. Easy, right? Plus, by sending your survey request via text message, you’re creating a personal relationship with your customer — one that demonstrates how much you value their input. Emails don’t offer this kind of deep connection. And since texts are also fast and most people have trouble ignoring them, they help you capture your customer’s feedback right away rather than trying to compete for their attention later on. Review Ninja transforms this entire process so it can all be done in less than two clicks. When you make it super easy for your customers to leave reviews, they’ll be more likely to take action right then and there. You’ll capture more reviews and ratings while also increasing the quality of those reviews. After all, when you can grab your customer’s feedback in the moment — aka, when they’re most happy with your service — you’ll likely see a huge uptick in your positive ratings and glowing reviews. To prove this, check out the next two case studies to see how two brands drastically improved their Google Reviews using Review Ninja. DeAngelos, a jewelry store in Modesto, CA, went from having 6 reviews with an average 2-star rating to over 140 reviews and an average 4.8 star-rating. And in case you missed the headline, this huge increase happened in less than 4 months of using Review Ninja. This isn’t a black hat tactic here. We’re talking a legitimate approach that’s Google approved. Here’s how it worked in this case: The employees of the jewelry store asked their customers to leave a review before they left the store. How do you get that to happen? In this example, team members asked customers to leave a review while their jewelry or watch was being cleaned or adjusted for the final time. While they waited for that to wrap up, their customers were more than willing to leave a review since they now had extra time on their hands and were in-the-moment. All the store clerks had to do was use Review Ninja to input the customer’s name and phone number. Then Review Ninja sent them a text while they were still in-house. Thanks to this strategy, they now have more reviews than any other jewelry stores in the region. And while these results are awesome, you have to know not everyone will leave you a review. Since the store in our example is capturing customers from a much larger geographical area, they increased their audience reach so the few who don’t respond won’t break the bank anymore. Remember, this business went from 6 reviews to 136… in 4 months. A similar strategy worked for a solar energy company too, as you’ll see in this next example. Before using Review Ninja, 1st Light Energy only had two reviews and a 3-star rating. But after putting Review Ninja to good use, they’re now at a 4.6 rating and scored 36 reviews, which far surpasses their competitors. Besides laying the right groundwork and using Review Ninja, these two companies also keep the following Google Review best practices in mind to ensure their reviews are prominently displayed. Are you? Review Ninja will help improve your search rankings, but this only works if you have the proper foundation laid (see Chapter 2) and you follow these best practices guidelines:
  1. Always respond to every review, both positive and negative. Yes it can be difficult, but it does pay off in how your potential customers view your brand.
  2. Understand Google Review’s policies so you’re always in compliance (more on this shortly).
  3. Practice patience. You must be ready and willing to play the long game with review invites. You’ll see it’s worth it.
If you’re unsure of how to tackle the first point, this next chapter can help. And the following chapter will be geared for readers who need to learn more about Google Review’s policies. But as for practicing patience, you’re on your own there… Check out the answers to these four most common questions about responding to Google reviews:

#1: How will I get notified when a new Google review comes in?

If you’re using Review Ninja, you’ll automatically receive an alert in your dashboard. For readers not on Review Ninja. You can sign in here to access that and to establish your baseline.

#2: Why should I respond to every review?

Potential customers will be looking to previous reviews to see how your company handled both positive and negative interactions in the past. By responding to each one, you’ll show potential customers your brand is trustworthy and promptly handles every piece of customer feedback.

#3: How should I reply to negative reviews?

Negative reviews are bound to happen once in a while. But if you handle the situation properly, you can put an end to them, or at a minimum, slow them down. Here’s how to respond to negative reviews:
  1. First, don’t let the computer screen distract you. It’s never a good idea to lose your temper or say things you would never think to say to a customer in person.
  2. It’s also crucial that you don’t offload on someone either. Typing big, long, chunky paragraphs for your response will overwhelm your already upset customer. Do this and they’ll never bother to sift through your message to see you were actually trying to help.
  3. But you also don’t want your response to be too short either. Strike a balance showing this customer and potential ones you’re there to help.
  4. Another good tip to keep in mind is that you should respond as soon as possible instead of ignoring the bad review. Try to rectify the situation right away.
  5. Use a polite, casual, and friendly tone here, like having a conversation with a friend.
  6. Don’t try to throw a discount at your customer. Thank your customer for their business and for reaching out, offer them a solution, and once they use your help, share a discount for their trouble. Do this in the reverse order and you’ll only add to your negative review and miss out on potentially positive ones from new customers.
Speaking of those, here’s how to respond to good feedback.

#4:How should I respond to positive reviews?

Positive reviews should be easier to respond to, so why is it so hard when you’re staring at the blank review space and can’t come up with the words to write back? Use this easy, 4-step formula when this happens:
  1. Always thank your customer for their business.
  2. Connect to 1-2 points in your customer’s response to show you’re really listening (example: We’re so happy you love your solar panels and that they’re less noticeable than you anticipated).
  3. Offer a way for them to contact you if further assistance is needed. (eg., We’re so happy you love your solar panels and they’re less noticeable. If you need help with anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out!)
  4. Bonus tip: If the reviewer clearly left their name, always use it! While honeyb627 can be hard to figure out, if you have a full name or just first names attached to your reviews, make sure to call your customer by that instead to personalize the feedback experience.
Use this exact template for each of your positive reviews and you’ll leave the kind of impression that both existing and new customers will appreciate. Up next, I’ll give you a brief overview of five Google Review policies you should familiarize yourself with. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most important Google Review policies:
  1. You cannot use reviews as a form of advertising
  2. Spam is also not allowed
  3. Reviews will be removed if they are considered a personal attack
  4. Owners and employees cannot review their own business
  5. You also cannot have a friend, family member, or other person close to you post reviews for you and to help boost your ratings
To learn more about these rules, and to see the complete list, check out this page. As an added bonus, this last chapter will help you get rid of bad reviews you can’t resolve on your own. Before obsessing about a negative review, you need to figure out if it’s real first. You can flag fraudulent reviews and they may be subject to a review by Google’s team. At any rate, you should still respond to the review. This shows potential customers that you’re addressing the issue at hand. With that in mind, you can actually address the parts of the review that seem off to you. While you should remain polite and conversational instead of investigative and accusatory, try to mention things like, “I was there on the 25th and can’t seem to find a record of your transaction. Can you provide more details so I can assist you?” This extra step also shows Google’s team that you’re trying your best to remedy the situation, even if it’s not a real one. There’s another reason for this step: if your fake review doesn’t get rejected, you could be stuck with it. The easiest way to fix this situation is to capture more positive reviews using tools like this one. Repeat this enough times and your negative reviews will be extremely hard to find. And if you are in fact stuck with the negative review, stay on it. Responding the first time is just the beginning. You should do everything in your power to completely rectify the situation. Do this right and your reviewer may turn around their feedback. In the end, Google will only reject a review if it goes against their policies. So disputes between transactions that may or may not have taken place are irrelevant to Google. That’s why it’s in your best interest to reply to all your bad reviews using the tips in chapter 7 just in case they can’t be deleted. Fortunately, Review Ninja It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to bury bad reviews under a mountain of good ones, or you’re just looking to improve your overall ratings and online listing, Review Ninja is the solution to help you succeed in your mission. By simplifying the process and using text messages, you’re able to capture your customer’s feedback right away as opposed to maybe never. And when they’re reviewing you in-the-moment, you’ll score positive reviews to boost your ratings organically. As I mentioned earlier, all of this will help you show up higher in search results and can help you build out your online presence. A solid Google listing shows potential customers your brand is the one to be trusted. So if you’re ready to crush your competition and finally reach that 5-star status, sign up for Review Ninja today!