Just last week I talked to someone who explained how they did “Review Gating” for their company. This is a practice that was banned by Google back in the spring of 2018. This means you can get in trouble and in many cases lose all of your reviews if found to be “gating”. What is gating by the way? It is trying to keep the unhappy clients from leaving reviews but getting the happy ones. There are many review management tools set up to do this. You send an email asking for a client/customer/patients review on your business and then send the happy people on to please leave a review on Google, etc., but send the unhappy people elsewhere and try to prevent them from leaving a review. Sounds great right? In many cases, this is actually a selling point for different review management tools because it makes the business owner feel more comfortable that they will avoid those scary negative reviews. A recent study by GatherUP has shown very interesting data on how valuable the banned practice really is.
It turns out that you should just avoid all of that manipulation of your customer communications and just ask everyone. Here are a few reasons why.
Number of Reviews Matter
With reviews mattering more and more to local and even national business ranking success, the number and frequency of reviews is a big part of that. The study showed that by simply not review gating and asking everyone for a review, the total number of reviews went up 68%. That is a huge number of reviews that the risky practice of review gating is costing you. Just ask everyone.
Minimal Difference in Average Rating
Along with the massive increase in the total number of reviews, the study also showed that the average score drop from allowing everyone into the process was minimal at best. The average score in their study went from 4.66 to 4.59 from allowing those 68% more reviews. Well worth it for all of those extra reviews.
More Reviews Makes You More Relevant for More Services
Google uses words in reviews to learn more about your business. Since we have already removed the worry of how the score would drop from asking everyone, consider yet another advantage of that 68% increase in reviews from asking everyone. Though Google offers business categories, people search more and more for very specific services. Business and service descriptions can help with this, but you see more and more reviews highlighted in the search results to show that Google uses them to find relevance. For example, a recent search for “best espresso martini” near me turned up several local businesses where reviewers had commented about enjoying the espresso martini. So ask everyone for reviews and ask them to be specific. It can be the key to you popping up for many of these specific searches.
Negative Reviews are Scary
We are all afraid of those negative reviews, but in reality if we keep asking for reviews, the negatives will be buried in positives. As Google and users get better at understanding fake reviews, a perfect 5.0 review score starts looking untrustworthy and fake. As long as you respond appropriately to negatives, that crazy person will be seen for what they are by searchers, and if you make amends for a mistake, sometimes that will be enough to turn someone around. There is value in how people see you responding to negatives. Handling a less than 5-star review can actually be a great opportunity to show your skills at customer services. Embrace them when they come and know that if you keep asking, that review will be buried by positives soon anyway.
Just Keep Asking Everyone
So stop worrying about that one negative review and keep asking everyone. It will not only keep you out of trouble with Google, it will get you more reviews with a minimal drop in your overall review score. Stay positive. Typically the really upset people will go out and find you anyway, so it is better to keep getting ammunition on the positive side to balance it out. Just keep doing a great job and asking for reviews.