How to Create a 5-Star Local SEO Review Strategy

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Local SEO Review Strategy

According to a recent local consumer review survey, 84% of people will trust an online review as much as a recommendation from a friend.

This can be a good or bad thing for your business, considering not all reviews that you may get are positive.

However, putting the democracy of the internet (a person’s ability to say whatever they want) and reviews aside, there are some ways that you can encourage positive reviews so that you can cater to the 74% of consumers who say that they trust your business more if your reviews are good.


Local SEO Review Strategy

In addition to the obvious psychological effect negative or positive reviews have on consumers, there is also another reason you should implement a local SEO review strategy: SEO.

In Moz’s most recent Local Search Ranking Factors, review signals such as quantity, velocity, and diversity account for 13% of the local pack (Google’s local search results with the map).

Moz review signals

Today, I’m going to go over an awesome 5-star review strategy that will help you encourage more trust in your brand, more website visits, and ultimately, more business. I’ll take a look at the most important review site (for most businesses) Google, as well as some other popular one’s like Yelp or Angie’s List, and how to strategize which review sites you should funnel your clients/customers to.

The Best Approach for a 5-star Review Strategy

Before diving into this winning strategy for pushing your customers towards a 5-star review, it’s important to recognize that good SEO can’t fix a bad business. In other words, if there are real problems with your products, your customer service, your food, or the way you handle conflict with customers, you can’t expect to have an average of 5-star reviews.

Bad reviews can actually be a positive thing for your company if you listen to what problems your customers have with your business, then fix them.

For example, we took on a local gym that had a terrible cancellation policy, a parking lot that did not accommodate all the members, and a leaky roof that would drip in the middle of the weight room. Naturally, people would take to Google and Yelp and leave poor reviews. The silver lining though is they knew what to do to correct the reviews.

However, do not fear implementing a review strategy even if you have a lot of moody or finicky customers. I’ll teach you how to push your loyal customers to leave 5-star reviews and divert your unhappy customers towards options that allow you to provide them with your choice of customer service options.

5-star Reviews Start with Email

One of the best ways to get in touch with your customers is via email. If you are a smaller, more boutique type of business like a law firm or doctor’s office where you and your staff meet your clients or customers, this works particularly well.

You probably have access to the email addresses of your contacts and can place them in a list that you’ll learn how to use to generate positive reviews. More on that below.

What if My Business Doesn’t Collect Emails?

If you don’t have your customers’ emails or don’t collect them easily, now is the time to start. This isn’t a post about list building, but if that is something you are interested in, check out this post so you can gather lots of emails. Sure, not all the emails will be from people who are previous customers, but chances are the people who are your clients will also be opting in to get emails from you because if they are doing business with you, they probably like you. If they like you, they’ll probably leave a positive review.

Using Your Email List to get 5-Star Reviews

When emailing your customers to solicit 5-star reviews I find it works best to segment them by the ones that you are sure will give you 5-star reviews. You can, of course, just blanket email every customer you have an email for, but sometimes it’s nice to test the waters before sending out this magic email.

Here’s how it works.

Login to your email client (MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, etc.), and create a new list with your preferred clients or customers’ emails. Then, create a new email that is short and sweet and uses the following text:

We want to know what you think

Thanks for being a customer of [example company]. Please let us know how your experience with us was.

Then, have two buttons:

One that says “Great, 5-stars” and another that says, “Not what I expected.”


Here is an example what that email may look like from a CrossFit gym up in Long Island, New York:

email review strategy

The next part is deciding where the button click takes your customer.  

If they clicked the 5-star button, you’ll want to take them towards a page on your site that has links to the review sites you want to push. You can also direct them directly to your Google review page if that is what you want to focus on. More on that below.

If they select the “Not what I expected” option, you want to take them to a page on your site that allows you to open a customer service conversation. For example, here is a dialogue you can place on that page:

Hello [example company] client/customer,

We are sorry that our products/service/company did not live up to your expectations. Here at [example company], we strive to deliver the best customer service and provide the best products and services in the industry.

I’d love the opportunity to help make things right.  If possible, can we look at your specific experience and see where things went south, and determine how we can make you 100% satisfied? Please fill out this form so that we can contact you and try to deliver a better experience. Or, if you want to contact us immediately, please call us at 555-5555 or email directly at sam@example.com

Sincerely, 

[primary manager or customer service manager]

Next, have a contact form with fields for:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Complaint or reason for poor experience

This method will divert the upset, disappointed or unhappy customer to your customer support staff so that you can listen to them and provide a remedy to the situation. It also allows you to divert their negative review away from the review sites and towards your company so you can give them individual attention.

This may not be the most perfect dialogue for your company, but the idea is to:

  • Direct dissatisfied people towards a page on your site
  • Issue them an apology
  • Provide options to communicate you to discuss their issue
  • Provide an offer to make things right

Hopefully, this happens less than 5-star reviews, but none-the-less helps show customers that you are interested in delivering exceptional customer service.

If the customer did have a great experience, you now have the option to direct them to a page on your site with links to review sites of your choosing. Let’s learn how to select the appropriate review sites to direct people to on your site if they chose the favorable option before we get into how to send people to your Google review page.

Which Local Review Sites to I Target?

The page you create that helps guide people down your review path should be separate from the reviews or testimonials page you have on your site and, ideally, hidden from navigation. This is recommended because if you linked to your review sites straight from your review page, you would not be able to filter out potentially bad reviews.

The process for selecting the review sites to feature on this hidden page (only accessible through your review solicitation email) is really quite simple:

  • Do a Google search for “[your company] reviews”
  • Make note of all the review sites that come up first
  • Make note of the reviews sites that may have less than desirable review averages
McCranels ortho reviews

The above is an example of one of our clients with a great review presence.

We created a reviews page on their site specifically for searches like this (Google Search Console proves there are searches like this occurring frequently every month). If you have a decent SEO campaign in place, this page will usually rank high in the results like it does for McCranels Orthodontics.

What you really want to look at though is the other review sites that pop up on Google’s search results. For McCranels office this would be, in order of importance:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Rate-a-biz
  • Healthgrades

If you are looking at 5-star reviews across the board like this office, your major concern would to be keep up the good work and generate more positive reviews, especially on Google.

If you were looking at unfavorable review averages, you’d want to target those sites first on your review links page.

Another recommendation for determining which review sites to push to is performing a search for “[business industry, city].” This will let you see which of your competitors rank best and if a site like Yelp has a roundup type post that ranks well and that you’d want to be on.

For example:

Orthodontists WPB

I usually recommend limiting the review links you post on your site to two or three for a few reasons:

  • Not everyone will have an account with the review sites you prefer (i.e. not everyone has a Google account or Gmail address, negating Google reviews from their selection)
  • Some people trust other sites more than others (some people may prefer to leave and read reviews on Yelp over Google)
  • Having multiple sites helps spread out your reviews and increases your chances of ranking in each of the review sites (if you have positive reviews)

Now, most of your review sites can be linked to directly which makes sending clients there a breeze. So, if you wanted to send people to Yelp you’d simply grab a Yelp image and link it to your businesses Yelp page. Angie’s List of Facebook? Same thing.

Google reviews, however, are not so simple to get people to. This is particularly important because this is often the first place people will see your company reviews. So, here’s how to make it easier to get 5-star Google reviews.  

Get a Google Link for Your Local Review Strategy

Providing your customers with a direct link to leave a Google review is not as straightforward as you may like. The process is still quite simple though, and is outlined by Google here as well as below.

Steps to get Google review link:

Step one: Navigate to Google Places API

Step two: Enter your business address in the “enter your location” box

Google API location

Step three: Copy your place ID that is created

Google API place ID

Step four: Put your place ID next to this line of code to create the complete link:

  • https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=<place_id>
  • For example, my link for Digital Elevator is:

https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=ChIJazp767vX2IgR81q4tDSbgO0

Step five: Get 5-star reviews!

Why am I still not Getting Reviews?

Ok, let’s say you’ve rolled out the above review strategy or know that you have customers leaving you reviews but still don’t see anything posted in Google or Yelp.

Keep in mind that Google, and especially Yelp, have strict review policies in place that are there to prevent gaming of the system. If you’re thinking that you can just have your 15 employees create Google and Yelp accounts and leave 15 5-star reviews you may be flagged for trying to game the system.

These processes are in place to prevent businesses from unscrupulously generating fake 5-star reviews for themselves, but also from doing it to harm their competitors.

So, if you are implementing a review strategy and are still not seeing the reviews posted it could mean that Google, Yelp, or the other review platforms are simply questioning the legitimacy of the review. Why would they do this?

One thing that Yelp is particularly notorious for is a section under the published reviews called “[number] other reviews that are not currently recommended.” This means that they don’t publish these reviews in the normal section for a number of reasons:

  • The review seems fake
  • The review is not helpful
  • The reviewer has limited activity on Yelp and thus is flagged because it is odd they only review one company

This last reason, the one about the reviewer not being particularly active on the platform, may be the cause for a lot of your unposted reviews for both Yelp and Google. There’s  no real way around this, just continue to implement your review strategy and eventually real reviews will stick.

What Review Strategy Works for You?

Do these tips sound like they might work? Any other questions about reviews for your local business?

Still need local SEO help? We offer amazing local SEO services.

Daniel Lofaso
Daniel Lofaso
Daniel E. Lofaso is the lead SEO and founder of Digital Elevator. He loves classic Land Rover Defenders, surfing, and is a BBQ master. Connect with Lofaso on Twitter and LinkedIn

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