Stephen and his wife operate a small bar and restaurant in a small, residential Spanish town.
In this article, I will use my own business as my main example. My wife and I own a small bar and restaurant in a small, residential Spanish town. Our place is tucked away on a side street that leads nowhere, so there is no passing foot traffic to speak of.
We have always run on a limited budget and can't spend much on advertising. Competition is fierce, with over 100 bars and restaurants serving a population of around 18,000. Bars tend not to last very long, franchises come and go and independents, like us, find it hard to compete.
We aren't locals; we're not even Spanish; our bar has a limited capacity and is hard to find. Yet, despite our disadvantages, we have been open for 22 years and have built a loyal customer base. One of the keys to our success has been Google Reviews.
Your Google Business Profile can increase your traffic, and it's free.
Setting up your Business Profile on Google Maps is simple. There's no need to go through the process here. If you haven't already got a Business Profile, follow the link below.
Why Are Reviews Important?
An article by Craig Bloom on inc.com suggests that 84% of people trust online reviews. This is as many as trust personal recommendations. This may seem surprising given the publicity that is given to malicious reviews.
In our case, we have never had a malicious review—one or two bad ones, it's true, but that is not the same thing at all. Later, we'll discuss how to deal with bad reviews. But for the moment, back to the statistics that Bloom mentions. A staggering 91% of potential customers read online reviews, and 68% make up their minds about whether to visit a business after reading 1–6 reviews.
Imagine that someone is wandering around my town looking for somewhere to eat. Once upon a time, people might have trusted in luck. Perhaps a few still do, but most will check Google on their phones to try and find somewhere they fancy.
A lot of our new business comes this way. Google's mysterious algorithms will rate your business higher on Google Search if you have frequent and generally positive reviews. We currently have a rating of 4.5 from around 150 reviews. Probably, we should encourage more people to review us and hope that we retain our average rating. Still, we rank high among the local competition.
How to Boost Your Reviews
To leave a review, a customer has to:
- Open Google Maps.
- Find your business.
- Click on it to see your Business Profile.
- Find the review section.
- Click on this and write the review.
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It's simple enough and only takes a few seconds. However, it might take too long to explain the procedure to someone who isn't familiar with it. If your business has a website, you can set up a link that leads directly to Google Reviews. Here are a few other ideas:
- Encourage your customers to leave a review. Talk to them and tell them how important reviews are to your business. Ask them to give an honest opinion. We will talk about the value of honesty a little later on.
- Mention Google Reviews on your publicity material. For example, our menu refers to Google Reviews.
- Your website, Facebook page, and Instagram should also prominently mention the importance of reviews.
- Any communications with your customers should refer to Google Reviews. Include this in your emails and receipts.
Most people will be happy to give their opinion of your business.
How to Deal With Reviews
As I've mentioned, most of the reviews that our business has received have been positive, but there was one glaring exception. One evening, we had a band playing live in the bar. The guitarist was a customer and said that his parents would come and see him play and have dinner. Indeed, his mother rang to reserve a table on the terrace but wasn't sure how many there would be in her group.
It was a warm evening and, by ten at night, we were full with everyone eating dinner—people eat late in Spain. We only had one waitress, and she was run off her feet. Then the guitarist's mother turned up with 21 other people. We had to seat them in front of our neighbor's house. We were running out of food and were late in taking her order and serving her table.
Not surprisingly, she left a very poor review. I let it ride, but this was the wrong thing to do. We had our excuses, but in the final analysis, we had a customer who had left after a bad experience. I should have admitted our mistakes and offered to make it up to her. Still, we learned some valuable lessons.
Now, a bad review might sting, but it can draw your attention to shortcomings that you haven't considered. You should always reply to reviews. Thank people for good reviews and address any complaints that may come up.
Many people don't fully trust a place with very few reviews, but all of them give a glowing reference.
A review offers you an opportunity to showcase your strengths and show that you are willing to deal with problems.
How to Deal With Malicious Reviews
A poor review is one thing, but malice is entirely different. Fortunately, our business has not been a target, but I do know one restaurant owner who had a number of reviews that slated his business.
You have two options if this happens to you. You can flag the review as inappropriate, and Google will investigate. Don't do this if you simply don't like a review. If Google judges that a review is genuine, over-flagging can damage your listings. The second option is to report the review directly to Google. In both cases, Google will remove inappropriate reviews.
It's a good idea to let your customers know that you have been targeted by a malicious reviewer. They can then discount the malicious reviewer's opinions.
How to Set Up Your Google Business Profile
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.