Something happened in local SEO land recently.
Did you notice?
Something that – over time – will help you rank. Locally.
For those all-important transactional keyword phrases.
The sort online tools like SEMrush help you winkle out.
What Was It?
At first glance, it doesn’t seem significant. But dig deeper, and there’s local SEO gold in them thar hills.
Gold that you – whether you’re a small business bootstrapping your SEO or a large multi-site organization – can benefit from.
Just Tell Me!
This news may leave you slightly underwhelmed. But it’s an important development. Here’s why.
- Reviews are important, accounting for 8.4 percent of the local pack and organic results according to the latest benchmark industry study.
- Google Reviews, especially in B2B/service sector industries, are criminally underused. And while Google takes into account reviews on other sites, they put most weight on their own when it comes to your local rankings.
- Reviews are an important part of what Cialdini characterizes as social proof. Aside from local SEO benefits, they are immensely valuable in their own right.
- Other local SEO game-changers take a lot of time and effort. Sorting out your citations is like planning a lengthy military campaign. Link-building ditto. Asking for Google Reviews from your customers is second only to refining your Google My Business page in terms of time spent versus benefit accrued.
So why haven’t more businesses done it? Two words: Google Plus.
Until recently, to leave a Google Review you had to have a Google+ account.
Now, I don’t know about your clients, but 95 percent of mine don’t have a Google+ page.
And if they do, they haven’t got a clue how to use it.
And that goes for my clients’ clients, too.
It meant that for most people – without a detailed set of instructions – leaving a Google Review was a confusing chore that would made your client feel an out-of-touch dinosaur.
When faced with being asked to write a Google Review, clients’ internal dialogues usually went something like this:
“What the hell is this Google+ thing anyway? And why’s Dave asking me to do this? There must be an easier way. It’s all very well for him. Is this Google+ thing still a thing even? Aaargh, what the heck’s my password. Is it the same as my Google one? I hardly ever use that. What is it? I wish I used one of those password remembering things. Oh no, it’s crashed my computer. Well, it nearly did, Aaaargh, it’s still not working. Right, I’m off to check my emails before I hit the sack. Actually, five minutes on Facebook won’t hurt me…”
The result: no Google Review.
That Was Then. This Is Now.
Now, all your customer needs is a Google account to leave a review. (This is not to be confused with a gmail. You can set up a Google account with a gmail but you can set one up with any other email address too.)
Local search expert Mike Blumenthal reports this increases the pool of potential Google Reviewers threefold from 2-300 million (G+ accounts) to 900 million (Google accounts).
Consensus opinion among local Search aficionados? This is a good thing.
No faff. Easy. And a real potential boon to YOUR local Search rankings.
So, I Thought I'd Test It Out
And yes, it really is as easy as all that.
I Googled the business I wanted to review (I was there last week on holiday in case you’re wondering why I picked this one). Their GMB came up. I clicked “write a review”. I wrote the review. I rated them by clicking on a star. I pressed “post” to submit my review. The review appeared.
Initial Thoughts About New Google Review Process
The whole process took two minutes.
If I’d not been automatically logged into my Google account, it would have taken an extra 15 seconds to sign in using my email address and password – the one I’d used to create my Google account. Remember, it doesn’t need to be a gmail.
If I’d not had a Google Account it would have taken me an extra two minutes to create one (no need for a Google+ account anymore, remember). Here’s the form. See how easy it is?
How to Scale This
I’m now going to outline a six-step three-month process of how you too can get Google Reviews and benefit your local SEO.
Then I’ll show how it’s worked for my business (using the infinitely harder Google+ process) and why I thought hard before sharing the knowledge in this post.
Dave’s Six Step Google Review Magic Process
There are three core principles underpinning this process:
- Make it easy for clients.
- Space out your requests.
- Strike while the iron’s hot.
And here’s the process:
- Identify your clients (those you’ve done good work for). Rifle through your email list, look through your CRM, examine your LinkedIn connections.
- Grab their email addresses. You’ll probably have these but if not I find email hunter an invaluable tool. And remember this handy LinkedIn hack.
- Draft an email. Something along these lines:
Subject: Wee Favour
How are you?
XXXshoot the breeze hereXXX.
I'm after a wee favour but it will only take a few minutes of your time.
I wonder if you would mind reviewing my business on Google. Here’s what you do:
- Tap “XXXinsert company name hereXXX” into Google.
- Click on the “write a review” button in the box on the right of your screen.
- Sign in to your Google Account.
- If you haven’t got one, it takes two minutes to create one. All you need is an email address (it doesn’t have to be a gmail).
- Write your review, give us a star rating, press “post.”
Gratefully (for considering this request) yours.
P.S. XXXshoot the breeze hereXXX
Using Streak or Boomerang (if you use gmail or Google Apps for Work) or this Outlook hack, space your client emails to go once weekly. (This is important because Google will not like it if you get a slew of reviews in the space of a week). Make sure you personalize the email a bit. Something more than changing their name. These are important contacts of yours. There has to be a bit of chat.
When you get a review, you’ll be notified. When that happens, go online and respond.
When you’ve done all this, remember to ask for Google Reviews from all your satisfied customers in future. And strike while the iron’s hot. Just send them the email above.
Case Study: How it Worked For My Business
This is the bit I maybe shouldn’t share for fear my competitors ape me. But that’s not really the spirit is it? So I’m sharing.
Eighteen months ago I reached out to people I knew well with a variation on the above email. Back then it was infinitely more complicated. The email was three times as long, explaining, as it did, how to navigate the Google+ morass.
At the time, my firm wasn’t even ranking in the top 10 for its top transactional keyword phrase “Glasgow PR companies.”
Over the course of four months, the reviews started coming in. We hit five reviews and got a star rating. And a nice little stand-out flag (at the time) on Google Maps.
Eighteen months on and Zude’s ranking 1 and 2 for “Glasgow PR companies” and its showing in the local pack is impressive. And, as is common across many professional services industries, competitors (by and large) have no Google Reviews.
This ranking leads to a solid stream of business enquiries from firms living within an hour’s drive of the Zude PR office. This a good thing:O).
Local SEO is not all down to Google Reviews, by any means. But they’ve certainly helped me.
And they would help you too.
My advice: get in there before everyone cottons on. A great local-SEO-boosting tactic just got a “whole lot easier.”
Did you try this tactic? Let me know how it worked out for you. Leave a comment!