They say that people buy from people. And in the digital world, people often buy because of favorable online reviews.
So when is the right time to ask your customers for a review? And how can you ensure that you don’t annoy them in the process?
That’s what we’re covering today with a man who’s worked in marketing for over 14 years across a number of disciplines including content marketing, demand generation, affiliate marketing, and SEO. He’s currently the demand generation manager at iPullRank. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Garrett Sussman.
This week, Garrett shares three ways to earn online reviews, including:
- Training employees to ask for reviews
- Email and text drip campaigns
- Deliver great customer support
Garrett: Thanks for having me, David. I love this topic. I can’t wait to talk.
3 Ways to Earn Online Customer Reviews
1. Training employees to ask for reviews
D: Superb. Great to have you on board. You can find Garrett over at ipullrank.com. So today, you’re sharing three ways to earn online reviews from customers starting off with number one, training employees to ask for them.
G: Absolutely. Whether you’re working in a local SEO, brick-and-mortar, online e-commerce, or even a service industry, it’s so important to make the ask because nine times out of ten, your customers aren’t necessarily thinking about leaving a review. But it’s so valuable to your visibility online. And as you mentioned, is social proof.
The first step is to talk to your employees to make sure that at that moment when your customer is having a positive experience, they say, “Hey, if you’re liking this, if this works for you, if this makes you happy, do you mind going and leaving us a review online?” In almost all review systems, we’re not even just talking about Google, any third-party review system allows the employees to ask the customer directly except for Yelp. But if it’s face-to-face and in-person, it’s not as explicitly against their terms and conditions.
D: I like that mention of the moment that they’re having a positive experience. Because I must admit, it really annoys me. I’m sure it annoys many people when you’ve just bought something and straightaway you’re asked to review it. And I’m thinking I haven’t even got this product in my hands. I can’t tell you what it’s like, please give me a moment. When do you identify when exactly is the right moment to ask that question?
G: It really depends on your product or your service. And a lot of that speaks to talking to your customers in general and understanding how they interact with your business. If you’re at a restaurant, probably at the end of the meal is a good time to ask for a review. Whereas if you are an e-commerce site, and you’re selling a TV, maybe don’t do it right at the purchase point. There’s no harm in doing it if it’s innocuous, but you’re much more likely to your point to get the review after they’ve tried out the product, had a good experience, and then follow up with you know that ask.
D: Is it a bit shady to try and skew your reviews by doing something like perhaps giving them a little survey to complete and trying to determine how positive they feel about your brand and their experience with your product or service? And then after that bring up that you’d love for them to write a Google review or is that not something that you should be doing?
G: It’s funny that you mentioned that because there are different rules and regulations depending on the review site. Google explicitly says you can’t incentivize reviews by saying that you’ll give this or I’ll give you a discount. And technically, they could remove all of your reviews or penalize you if they find out that’s the case. Now, they’re notoriously not great at getting rid of reviews that break the rules, but that’s always a risk. Whereas if you are a software provider, and you are getting reviews on G2, for instance, they will help you with an advertising campaign and offer $25 gift cards for someone to write the review. Yelp says don’t ask for reviews in any capacity. So it really depends on the third-party review site and understanding what their terms and conditions are.
D: And if you work in a business that has that physical interaction, you mentioned a restaurant earlier on, that perhaps has that face-to-face interaction with the customer or at least over the phone as well. Is there any phraseology that you should aim for? Also, is there any percentage that you should aim for in how many people actually proceed and leave a review for you?
G: It depends on the industry and the volume of customers. If you’re at a restaurant, you’re going to have a ton of people coming in and out. Whereas if you’re a lawyer you’re not going to have hundreds and hundreds of clients. So the ask is that much more important and significant.
The two keys for the face-to-face review is a making it very easy to get to the review site, whether that’s through a QR code, which some people use that will direct them to the appropriate link, or a very easy abbreviated, shortened link. So making it easy to write the review and removing friction.
The other thing is phrasing it in the context of attributes that you want to showcase. You can’t tell someone what to write. There are times when they want you to write it for them to reduce the friction even more. But obviously, it depends on the terms and conditions of the review ecosystem. But if you can say, “Hey, did you enjoy the pool at our hotel?” Maybe by planting that seed, they’ll mention the pool in their Google review. And then next time someone is searching for hotels with pools, you might be that much more likely to show up and be more visible because of that specific keyword mentioned. Now, the keywords matter in the actual review content, not if the owner responds to the review with the keyword, that doesn’t matter to Google.
D: I love that about planting seeds. Maybe you can have a conversation with customers saying, what they enjoyed the most about what we delivered to put it on top of their minds. They can be passionate about whatever it was that they enjoyed most about it, then you can say, “Would you mind leaving a review for us?” And that’s top of mind straightaway, that positive experience. The second way that you’d like to highlight in terms of a way to augment the number and quality of reviews that you get is email and text drip campaigns.
2. Email and text drip campaigns
G: Yes, so as important as reviews are to us as a business, it’s not always top of mind of the customer. To your point about percentages, there will be people who go and write that review right away, especially if you make it easy, but a lot of people don’t think about it, especially the minute they walk out that door. That’s not to say they didn’t have a great time. But typically, people are much more likely to write a review if they have a bad experience. So you need to balance that out with all of your positive reviews. So email and text campaigns. If you’re able to capture that information from your customer from your client, which is much more likely these days with POS systems where if you want your receipt emailed to you, you can get the email that way, then you can send some follow-up emails that aren’t too annoying.
But remember, if you don’t ask, people are not going to necessarily remember. What I found working at my past job at Grade.us was sending out maybe three emails over the course of a week or 10 days with a slight reminder like, “Hey, remember, you visited our restaurant, hope you had a good time, would you please leave us a review, it means a lot to our business.”
Or doing it through text. Now, with any sort of advertising or marketing, you have to make sure that you have consent from your customers to do that. But you’re much more likely to get the review with that reminder. And if they did have a positive experience, chances are you’re not annoying them. I mean, you think about how many newsletters or emails we get that slip down and you don’t even think about it. So making the ask is worth it in the grand scheme of things, just have an appropriate tone.
D: You mentioned having a receipt emailed to you after you’ve bought something physically. I was in a city just last weekend and I bought a couple of jumpers, sweaters, pullovers, or whatever you want to call them. And I was asked the question, “Can we email your receipt to you?” I said yes and gave my email address. Now, would it be legal then for them to follow up with a request for a review? Or should they have articulated at the time if it is okay that we send a follow-up email asking you about what you thought about the products or something like that?
G: As you mentioned, it really depends on the geography. For the EU, I don’t know definitively, but I would assume that it’s probably not okay, just with verbal consent. You might need some sort of terms and conditions or writing but I won’t speak to what I don’t know. In the US, it’s generally okay to at least have terms and conditions. A lot of times, when someone signs their online POS or they give their credit card, you can either train your employees to ask them or make sure that they see the receipt visually digitally. A lot of these systems like Stripe have these processes in place.
D: I’m not a lawyer speaking obviously, but common sense says that if at the time you say, “Can we send a receipt to you? And then would it be okay if we follow up with a quick survey so you can provide feedback on your experience today?” Just a simple question like that, I would think that the majority of people would actually say, yes, that’s okay. And then it’s possible for the customer service person to tick a box and do that. Does verbal consent make that more challenging? But I guess you could record most things nowadays as well to have a backup.
G: You always want to err on the side of caution and cover your bases. But I know, in the US, it’s very unlikely that someone would sue you or report you for sending a marketing email after having a good experience.
D: You want to demonstrate that you’re trying to do the right thing, rather than sneakily send something to someone that they’re not expecting.
G: Yes, ethically, it’s always good to treat your customers with respect. Respect their privacy, their communication, and all that. Risk-wise, I don’t think there would be any consequences, but from human decency wise, it’s the right thing to do.
D: Exactly. And they’re more likely to perhaps post on social positive things about your brand because of that positive experience. This leads up to the third point that you’re sharing which is to deliver great customer support and a memorable experience.
3. Deliver great customer support
G: Absolutely. Daniel Lemin wrote a great book called ‘Talk Triggers’ that talks all about creating customers via word of mouth. An example in the book is back in the day in the US, they used to leave mints on the pillow, or at Doubletree they would give you a fresh big cookie. And it would be this experience that was memorable. They would want to go back to this hotel because that little detail put a smile on their face. I remember a restaurant I used to go to call the Ground Round and they used to always have a basket full of popcorn when you sat down at your table. It was unique, they had video games, and it was a memorable experience if I was writing a review because of that specific experience that gave me this emotional reaction. And a lot of times people want to share that to your point, whether it’s on social media or in a review.
And all of this plays into the grand scheme of things with SEO, these E-E-A-T factors, experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Back in December, Google added the second ‘E’, experience. And a lot of review content falls under that. And so sharing these experiences through these reviews ultimately has a lot of SEO benefits.
D: That book that you shared reminded me of another book called ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ by Michael Gerber. And he used to talk about trying to create a business as being potentially franchisable. Now it doesn’t have to be franchised, but you’re creating a set of experiences for your customer that is highly replicable. And if you do that, that would work in this particular aspect of it in terms of asking for reviews. If it’s highly replicable, and it’s easy for your staff to do, you’re more likely to get a higher percentage of your customers engaging with it.
G: Yeah, and that’s why, especially in the US, so many of these franchises are successful. Think of Starbucks, wherever you go, no matter where you go, you’re always going to get the same experience. And it’s the experience that you come to expect. And that really drives a certain amount of brand loyalty. But the way that plays into your reviews and your social presence will help the visibility and getting new customers and growth.
D: Let’s finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
The Pareto Pickle – Internal Linking
G: Well, aside from automating review requests, the biggest thing I would say would be internal linking. Making sure that every time you create a new piece of content you are going back to anything that’s topically relevant, and linking it to those other pieces of content so there’s that page rank link equity that’s passed across, as well as using any sort of automated options in terms of related articles or top articles that are connected to whatever you are publishing.
D: Superb. And in terms of automation, do you tend to use WordPress plugins? Or is there some system that you would recommend to do that in the most efficient way possible?
G: I don’t know if other SEOs will get upset at me for saying it, but I am a fan of page builders like Elementor or Webflow. They typically have little sorts of widgets that will allow you to customize and set up automated posts, articles, and little widgets that will continually add relevant content in an automated way. But there are tons of plugins out there on WordPress if you don’t use an actual page builder.
D: Good advice. It’s the kind of age-old advice that’s been good practice for a long time, but it’s easy to forget about and not implement. Certainly, in the past, 10-plus years ago, I’ve always tried to have two different sections of links. One is related posts or related pages, and the other is more authoritative, longer-term pages. And there’s probably a third type, and that’s the most recent ones as well. I guess that’s the three types of links that I would probably focus on myself. Is that a similar way of doing it that you would agree with?
G: Absolutely. And I think in terms of those evergreen longer posts, I think you can even segment it further by what is the most popular because those typically will have a lot of authority in terms that they’re already performing well. So in terms of link equity, distributing that, in terms of RankBrain, will ultimately help performance for those newer pages to get indexed quickly and then ultimately to get ranked themselves.
D: I’ve been your host David Bain. You can find Garrett Sussman over at ipullrank.com. Garrett, thank you so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.
G: Thanks for having me.
D: And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at rankranger.com.