Did you know that 90% of customers use online reviews to decide whether or not they will buy a product or service? If that percentage doesn\u2019t move you, consider the following statistics from BrightLocal\u2019s 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey: 91% of consumers ages 18-35 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars 85% of consumers think that online reviews older than 3 months aren\u2019t relevant What\u2019s interesting about these statistics is that while consumers are more likely to trust a highly rated & positively reviewed business, the quantity and publish date of reviews matter, too. If you have many 4- and 5-star reviews yet they were all written a year or more ago, then how relevant or accurate would that testimony today? This is why it\u2019s critical to make sure your business receives a steady stream of customer reviews every month. So, how do you get customers to write reviews for you on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other review platforms? There\u2019s no \u201cone weird trick\u201d here \u2014 what you have to do is really simple: Ask your customers for reviews! Given the critical role that online reviews play in converting future customers, it\u2019s no time to be shy. If you\u2019re concerned that it might be awkward or gauche to come right out and ask a customer to leave a review, you can put those fears to rest. Requesting reviews is a very common marketing practice, and many customers are used to it by this point. The worst they will do with your review request is ignore it. \u201cWait, wouldn\u2019t the \u2018worst\u2019 thing be a bad review?\u201d Yes, there\u2019s a chance someone might leave a less-than-flattering review, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The fact is, you\u2019re not going to impress everyone and sometimes you might even make some mistakes. How you move forward from them is what matters the most. A negative review provides you insight into areas of your business that need improvement, and it also affords you the chance to respond to the review and clarify any misunderstandings publicly, which is very helpful for potential future consumers who are perusing your reviews. Now, let\u2019s get back to the topic at hand \u2014 what is the best way to ask for reviews? The Power of Automation If you\u2019ve collected a customer\u2019s contact information at the time of their transaction, you can use the power of marketing automation to request a review from them shortly afterward. It usually involves an automated email or a text with a canned message directing you to links where you can leave a review. This is generally accomplished through either an automated email marketing campaign or a third party review request service. If you\u2019ve ever bought something from a third-party Amazon seller, you might have received a follow-up email from that seller that requests a review. That is an example of an automated review request because it is sent to every single customer that purchases that seller\u2019s product. Prefer a More Personalized Approach? Depending on your business, an automated review approach may feel too impersonal for your business, which is why you may rather opt for manually requesting reviews. This is the simplest, zero-cost way to solicit reviews, and it\u2019s generally the most personalized experience for the customer. When you hear the word \u201cmanual,\u201d you might assume it\u2019s more work on your end, but that\u2019s not necessarily true! You can still streamline the messaging \u2014 just write up a basic template and personalize it to the client as needed. One of the benefits of manual review requests is that you can pick and choose which customers you\u2019d like to send review requests. This is useful if your business is one that works directly with customers because you\u2019re likely to know which customers are most pleased with your products or services. For example, perhaps you\u2019re engaged in email communication with a customer, and they express how pleased they are with your service or product. That is the perfect opportunity to say \u201cThank you so much for the compliment! If you have a moment, would you mind leaving us a review?\u201d A Quick Tip For Streamlining Review Asks Want to make it as easy as possible for customers to leave a Google review for your business? You can automatically direct customers to write a review for you on Google\u2019s review platform using a special URL that is uniquely generated for your business. Let\u2019s walk through the process of generating your special review link for Google Reviews: 1. The first step is grab your Place ID, which is a special code that is uniquely tied to your Google My Business account. Don't know yours? Here's how to find your Place ID: Go to Google Map\u2019s PlaceID Lookup Tool. In the "Enter a location" field at the top of the map, type your business name and select it to proceed. You should now see a map of your business location, along with a box containing your business name and Place ID. Below, you\u2019ll see that Southern Web\u2019s Place ID is \u201cChIJr_JjyfEF9YgRqmd6m6-x2Eo.\u201d Select and copy the Place ID to your clipboard. 2. With your Place ID copied, you need to paste it at the end of this URL: https:\/\/search.google.com\/local\/writereview?placeid Using Southern Web as an example, this is how the URL would look with our Place ID: https:\/\/search.google.com\/local\/writereview?placeidChIJr_JjyfEF9YgRqmd6m6-x2Eo 3. You can now share this URL with customers so they can rate your business and leave you a review. You can also shorten the URL. A Brief Word on Online Review Ethics While it's totally kosher to request a review from a customer, it is against the policies of most online review policies to: Offer incentives in exchange for a review Set up review stations at your place of business Require customers to leave you a review before completing a transaction. And we really shouldn\u2019t have to say this because it\u2019s so obvious, but DO NOT WRITE FAKE REVIEWS. There are serious consequences if you are caught violating these online review ethics. If a third-party review platform like Yelp discovers you\u2019ve posted a fake review, they may decide to purge all of your reviews \u2014 even ones that were earned ethically. And if you\u2019re inappropriately offering incentives for reviews, you could be fined by the FTC in addition to being penalized by the review platforms themselves. It\u2019s just not worth it! Are your customers leaving you reviews? Customer reviews can make or break your online reputation. Contact us today to learn more about the importance of managing your online reputation through a local SEO campaign.