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Getting Google Places Reviews

Search Engine Optimization September 29th, 2011

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google places

A Google Places review bring social authority to your local business listing on Google.  Launched in 2009 and still being developed and improved by Google, “Places” are business listings which are displayed when someone searches for geo-targeted keywords.  For example, a search for “Toronto pizza” gives us results Places listings as seen in this screen shot:

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This is obviously prime search engine real estate that anyone doing online marketing for their business will want to have, especially if they have a local marketplace that they hope to capture.  The importance of an effective and high-performing Google Places listing cannot be overstated, but what makes a Google Places listing perform well?  There are several factors, including:

Relevance of content and categorization.

  • Google Places listings allow a customized description (up to 200 characters) which should offer clear and informative details about your business.  The description should include your most important keywords, but should also be written in a way that will be appealing and make a good impression.  You can also select up to 5 categories for your listing, and these too should be completely relevant to your business and the products or services that you offer.  Images and videos can also be added, as too can coupons, promotional offers and other details.  The details in your Places listing should of course also correspond with the content of your website.

Number, authority and relevance of citations.

  • Citations in the context of Google Places are mentions of the business that Google detects elsewhere on the web e.g. on other websites and other business directories, such as Yelp, HotFrog, Yellow Pages, niche directories and so on.  For a listing or mention to be considered by Google to be a citation, the contact details (business name, address, phone number, website URL) must match those in the Places listing.  When Google has detected citations, they are factored-in as a “vote” for the listing, adding authority and benefiting the ranking.

Reviews.

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  • This is what we’re focusing on here.  Reviews by clients of the business bring a social element into play and will also help boost rankings.  Happy customers, or even unhappy ones who are logged-in to their Google account can post a testimonial review of your business and service as well as assign it a rating out of 5 stars.  The more reviews your Places listing has, the higher it will likely rank.  One of the important things to keep in mind about Places is that Google wants listings to be informative and useful to their users.  The more accurate and complete a listing is (including reviews), the more useful it will be to Google users, and such higher-quality Places listings will therefore rank better since Google wants to feature them for all to see as valuable content.  So user reviews are important in that respect but also because, like any testimonial, they will show people that your customers are happy with your product or service.

How Do You Get Google Places Reviews?

As is often the case, the simplest answer is the best – to get reviews, ask for them!  If you have a customer who has voiced their satisfaction, invite them to go to your Google Places listing and post their praise there.  Google makes this very easy.  Once on the listing, they should have no problem finding the large red “Write a Review” button at the top-left and there is a second one lower on the page as well, right next to where other reviews may already be posted.  To post a review, they’ll first need a Google account, but then all they have to do is either find your Places listing by searching for it, or you can provide them with the direct link to it.  The direct link to the Places listing can be found by clicking on the “Link” icon in the top-right of the listing page itself.

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Simply copy and paste this link into an email and invite your happy customers to post their testimonial, and their 5-star rating too, of course!  As straightforward as this is, your customers will be doing you a huge favour so it’s important to make it as easy as possible for them.  Sending them the link to your Places listing will make it easier and you can also encourage reviews by posting a QR code somewhere highly-visible where your customers will see it, such as on the wall in your lobby, on a door or window in your place of business, in your waiting room or on any printed material that you give to your customers.  QR codes are like a square bar code and, when they’re scanned by most smartphones or mobile devices, are encoded to function exactly like a link on the web, in this case launching a link directly to your Google Places listing.

TechWysePlacesQRcode

When someone snaps a picture of the QR code above they will be taken to the TechWyse Google Places listing, please feel free to write a review!

There are plenty of free QR code generators available online which allow you enter any URL, in this case the direct link to your Google Places listing, and instantly create a new QR code image which you can use for this.  Enter the direct link to your Places listing, generate the QR code, print it and use it wherever your customers will see it and you’ll provide people with a very easy way to find your Places listing and post their reviews.

Reviews from Other Sources

yelp

In addition to reviews entered directly into your Google Places listing, reviews are also pulled-in from other websites and directories.  These external, third-party reviews are usually simply annotated below the main reviews, but they are nevertheless worth having.  To facilitate the acquisition of these reviews, it’s a good idea to add your business listing to other local business listing systems such as Yelp, HotFrog, Yahoo (and so on) or niche directories specific to your field or industry.

How Not to Get Google Places Reviews

Some tips on getting reviews suggest hiring people to add them for you.  There are lots of networks out there, such as Fiverr.com, populated with thousands of people who for a very low fee will happily provide you with some glowing reviews.  These should be avoided.  When a review is entered, Google receives the IP address of the person posting the review, digitally identifying the submitted review.  At this point, it doesn’t seem that Google is making much of an effort to detect, track, filter out or penalize fraudulent reviews, but they do have the data (the IP address) and the risk that they may one day target bogus reviews seems too great to take the chance.

Dealing with Negative Reviews

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If you have a Google Places listing, eventually and whether you deserve it or not, you may receive a negative review.  Don’t despair!  This is a golden opportunity.  If you respond publicly and promptly to the negative review and attempt to resolve the person’s concerns, just as you would with any dissatisfied customer, others will see your willingness to engage and appease an unhappy client as a positive.  Besides, everyone knows that there’s always those people who simply like to complain (especially when safely hidden behind the relative anonymity that the web provides). So don’t fret that others will necessarily believe the negative review anyway, especially if it’s outnumbered by a larger number of positive reviews.

Bottom Line on Google Places Reviews

The growing importance of social authority to organic rankings on search engines makes acquiring reviews in your Google Places listing something that should not be overlooked.  They make your listing more complete and therefore rank higher and, just as importantly, glowing reviews from happy customers provide a clear signal of quality and legitimacy to your online presence that potential clients will appreciate and respond to.  Be willing to ask for and invite reviews, make it simple for people to post them and be prepared to deal with any negative reviews publicly, quickly and effectively.

Post By Chris Ward (14 Posts)

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