By Alexi Venneri – Contributing Writer
Apr 26, 2019, 6:30pm EDT
Google is essentially the be-all and end-all gatekeeper of online information. It’s always there for you when you need it, whether you’re trying to find the latest news updates, the name of a TV show you faintly remember, or how your business stacks up to the competition. It’s probably safe to say that most businesses in 2019 understand the benefits and drawbacks of Google, but what isn’t as top of mind is Google’s little sister: Google Maps.
So, why should you think of Google Maps as anything more than a tool for the directionally challenged? The answer is simple—because your customers are using it. According to Digital Air Strike’s Seventh Annual Automotive Social Media & Online Trends Study, 73 percent of buyers are using Google Maps.
This matters because Google Maps displays your business’s star rating, alongside results from other local businesses. Customers see a poor star rating when they open Google Maps as a last-minute red flag that can be the difference between them driving directly to your business or looking for alternatives before you can even explain yourself.
Of course, no business wants to be left in the dust because Joe said he’d give your company zero stars if he could. Although it’s true that most businesses are more than their star ratings communicate, businesses with star ratings lower than four risk turning off potential customers, and this is especially true if other businesses listed near you have higher star ratings. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help raise your rating and retain your customers through Google Maps.
Focus on the Negatives
Yes, you read that right—focus on the negatives. And by negatives, we mean negative reviews. I touched on this in my March TechFlash article, but I want to dive into this a little bit more. It’s critical to respond to all reviews, especially the negative ones. If Joe’s in-person experience was really so terrible that he felt the need to give your business one star, take this opportunity to give him a better experience online. Express concern about his less-than-ideal encounter and offer to fix the situation. By publicly doing this on Google Reviews, others will see that your business cares about its customers, which will make them think positively about your business despite the negative review.
Responding to negative reviews does come with its own set of rules. Sometimes, no matter how much you try, the customer will still be upset. Always provide in your response to a review the email and phone number of a high-level contact and take the conversation offline. While this approach works most of the time, if the issue still can’t be resolved, investigate Google’s terms and conditions to see if the review violates the policy and can be removed by Google. By minimizing negative reviews and converting unhappy customers, your business should see its Google star rating increase on Google maps.
Celebrate the Positives
You’re an expert in your field and your customers know this but the reality is that most satisfied customers just don’t take the extra step of leaving a positive review. Just because they don’t gush about you on Google doesn’t mean they weren’t thrilled with their experience. It probably means that life caught up with them after they left your business. Mary might have loved how your sales representatives patiently walked her through her best options, but she had to get back to running her own business and her attention was diverted.
The best way to make sure your customers don’t forget to leave positive reviews is to prompt them immediately after their experience through text messaging and an email survey. Most importantly, make leaving a review as easy as possible no matter which review site your customers use, because many people simply search Google for your business before hitting “map”. This is where they’ll see reviews and star ratings from other review sites around the web — including Facebook — before ever finding your address. This is also why you need to optimize your Google listing and fully manage your online presence by adding positive reviews, special offers and more to your Google listing.
Customers are required to log into their Google accounts to leave reviews, and they only can do so through Maps. This isn’t always the most convenient thing, so take the time to give them a direct link to your Google Maps listing to make it as seamless for them as possible. This is the same advice for all review sites. Remember, the more positive reviews your business has, the less likely negative reviews will impact your overall rating on Google Maps.
Learn the Basics of Google Maps Marketing
Positive reviews are invaluable, but if most people aren’t seeing your business, they don’t matter. This is where local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes into play. First things first: any source that claims they have an inside look into Google’s algorithm is probably bluffing, so don’t trust anyone who thinks they can hack Google’s mysterious rankings. Despite this, you can still use real-world results to determine which factors make the biggest difference in your Google Maps rating.
When you conduct a local search, Google provides three featured businesses and the option to view more results. Following the featured businesses are the top organic search results—and your business needs to be a part of the top organic search group. Being part of this group is critical because businesses in the top 10 are more likely to be one of the featured three. Google rewards consistency. That means your business name, location, and more, need to be the same across hundreds of directory listings. Location also plays a small role, favoring businesses that are closer to the searcher. Google Reviews even factor into your ranking, making it even more crucial to invest time into cultivating your business’s online reputation.
No matter what industry you’re in, your business is affected by Google Maps. By making the effort to get and maintain strong reviews and think locally for SEO, Google Maps will give your customers a five-star reason to visit you.
How is your business doing online? To find out, visit digitalairstrike.com/intel-report to request a free, custom analysis of your online presence.