The importance of your Google My Business account and how to deal with fake reviews
A Google My Business account (commonly referred to as a GMB in the SEO world) is a free method of achieving increased online visibility. It allows you to connect with customers across Google search results and Google Maps. A GMB listing plays a major role in local SEO and if you don’t currently have one set up, you are potentially missing out on a large number of new customers.
GMB listings are becoming increasingly important as they heavily influence local searches. In the example shown below, a search for ‘seo agency near rickmansworth’ brings up all local relevant businesses. The user is then able to compare travel time and distances, in addition to the average rating of each company in order to make a decision.
There are many other features of a Google My Business account which can help increase organic visibility and new users visiting your site. These include:
- Google Posts allow businesses to share messages that show up in the local panel on the search results (towards the bottom of the GMB account) and on Google Maps. Each post can be anything from a review to a product on sale. These can also include a clickable call to action button to track conversions, but are only live in the search for seven days. The Google My Business Marketing Kit is perfect for creating Google Posts.
- Info is arguably the most important part of the GMB. This is where all the information about your business is shown, including address, opening hours, phone number, website link and business description. It is crucial that all this information is up to date as customers do not want to be misled to a wrong address or phone number when enquiring.
- Insights, found on your GMB dashboard, provide you with customer engagement data, derived from your GMB listing. Data includes how and where customers find your listing and what actions have been taken on the GMB listing.
- Reviews can be left on your business by customers at any time. With a high number of positive reviews, these could encourage new customers to try your products or services and they can also improve ranking within Google Maps.
- Messaging allows customers to contact you at any time through the “Message” button on your business profile on Google. If enabled, a “Get quote” or “Request a booking” button may appear within selected categories on your GMB profile in the search results.
- Photos is where your logo can be added to increase brand awareness along with other images such as team photos, interior and exterior photos of your business premises as well as photos promoting certain products.
- Products is another way of promoting products, and it is possible to split these into separate categories. Like Google Posts they have a call to action button but stay in the search results until taken down, unlike Posts which only last seven days.
How do reviews affect a Google My Business account?
Google reviews play a significant role in influencing the way customers think about your business. These reviews can also help or hinder your local search ranking. Monitoring reviews on Google will pay off in the long run, as you are able showcase your business in the best possible light and minimise the impact any negative or fake opinions might have.
As more customers leave reviews on your business, Google will calculate an average rating from the number of reviews left (shown above), and as this number grows it can also lead to a rise in potential new customers through increased customer trust. For example:
- Business A has 2 reviews with a rating of 5.0.
- Business B has 1000 reviews at a rating of 4.8.
Which business would you pick? The vast majority of us would choose to go with business B, as we would be able to trust them more based on the far greater number of positive reviews. More people having taken the time to write a review shows that they provide high quality service with a good customer satisfaction level.
Even though business A has two positive reviews, it has no negative reviews – and we expect to see these because nothing is perfect. Customers could have lower trust levels with business A as they may be wondering why there are so few reviews, or no negative reviews, therefore thinking that they could be hiding all negative feedback from customers. Therefore the greater the number of reviews you have (even if not every last one is positive), the higher the trust and confidence you will instil in your customers.
Everyone likes to read positive reviews about a business, but having negative reviews shows it’s natural that not everyone will be 100% happy with the services provided to them. However, it’s the way we respond to reviews that can help build the customers’ and Google’s trust. By frequently responding to both positive and negative reviews, you show that as a business owner you are active on your GMB account, and Google loves to see activity. The more active you are then the more Google will trust your business. This will lead to an increase in rankings over businesses which do not monitor, and are inactive on, their GMB accounts.
How to respond to negative and fake reviews?
When responding to negative Google reviews, there are a few golden rules to give the perfect response, by trying to show you care. These are:
- Address the reviewer personally
- Thank them for the feedback
- Apologise for what has happened
- Take responsibility for the problem
- Put things right
- Take the issue offline so it’s more personal
You have only one chance to respond to Google reviews, so it is crucial that you get it right. Below is an example of a draft response that can be used to respond to negative customer feedback:
“Hi (Name of Reviewer),
Thank you for your review. I’m sorry to hear you had such a frustrating experience, but I really appreciate you bringing this issue to my attention. Here at (Company Name) we set a high standard for ourselves, and we’re so sorry to hear this was not met when visiting (Location and Date of Visit).
I do apologise for this experience. Please know that your situation was an exception. As you can see from other reviews, (Make sure there are plenty of positive reviews live on the GMB before stating this) we are known for taking ownership and caring deeply about our customers.
We would like the opportunity to investigate your feedback further, so please could you contact (Email Address or Contact Name / Number)? We’ll be able to respond in more detail and work with you to solve the problems you experienced.”
This is a good template to use as it enables you as the business owner to respond to a customer’s issue, and it ticks all the golden rules.
On the other hand, what happens if fake or spammy reviews are left? These types of reviews can severely harm your GMB rating score, potentially put off new customers and make your business appear lower in the map pack rankings.
Below are a series of steps which will make sure you have the best chance of removing these reviews so your GMB reviews provide a fair and accurate representation of your business.
- Flag the spammy review within your GMB dashboard – see the image below.
- Get in touch with Google My Business. The best way is to contact them on their Twitter.
- Send a direct message which includes the details of the review name, a link to your GMB dashboard and an explanation proving insight why the review is either fake or spammy. A good template for this is:
“Hi there, one of my clients (Name of Company) has encountered an inaccurate and malicious review for their (Location/Branch). A link to their dashboard can be found here: (Dashboard URL)
The review is from (Name of Reviewer) who (Name of Company) has never had contact with. Please could you remove this from the profile as we only welcome valid feedback and let me know of any updates?”
It is important to monitor your GMB reviews regularly as going through this process can take a while, often up to two or three weeks. During this time, a large number of potential customers could see the review and be put off – all on the basis of something which isn’t true.