Google is constantly evolving and testing new features in local search, and this time the spotlight has fallen on business star ratings and reviews.
So, what has Google done this time?
Google has introduced a feature that enables users to filter local search results by various criteria, one of which is star ratings.
- In a recent study we carried out there was a 372% increase in UK Restaurants Review written in Google My Business in 2016
|Percentage Change in reviews written in year|
The increase in reviews has, in part, been due to increased awareness and use of Google My Business, but also because Google is prompting people to write reviews when it thinks that you have been to their premises. Google can tell where you are by your mobile phone, so if you visit a shop, restaurant, hotel or dentist for example, don’t be surprised if Google asks what you thought of your experience at that location.
Google, however, cannot tell whether you have used the services of a business that comes to your home such as pizza delivery, plumber or cleaner, so you won’t get a prompt asking what you thought of them; this may explain the big jump in reviews for business with retail premises, and not service area businesses.
People base their local purchase decisions on business star ratings
A 2016 survey conducted by Bright Local found the following key statistics:
- Star ratings were the number one factor used by consumers when judging a business.
- 87% of people say that a business needs a rating of 3-5 stars before they will consider using them
Another study by Review Trackers found,
- 33 percent of frequent restaurant-goers would never eat at a restaurant with an average 3-star review on online review websites such as Google.
These findings, coupled with the new review filter feature in Google is bad news for businesses with low star ratings. You could argue that users look at the most recent reviews to determine whether to use a business or not, however, the filter feature means that businesses with lower average star ratings will automatically be excluded from the search results. Research has shown people are not only likely to use the filter when judging a business but also that they will filter their search results to 4.0 stars and above.
So, who will this have the biggest impact on?
This new development will impact businesses who rely on customers finding them based on discovery searches (they searched for a category, product, or service that you offer, and your listing appeared), impacting; established businesses with lower ratings or businesses with no reviews at all.
Very frustratingly for established businesses, star ratings are based on an average performance over time, so an established business can find its’ star ratings dragged down by bad reviews from several years back!
In terms of sectors, BrightLocal looked at which sectors is reputation the most important. Unsurprisingly reputation matters most for the hospitality sector. It’s important to note however, with Google placing more importance on your reviews and star ratings, a positive online reputation will be vital to optimise your business in local search.
3 Tips to Improve your Star Rating
- You can’t polish a turd. There is no point implementing the following tips if you firstly don’t look at why you have a low star rating in the first place. Read your negative reviews, see what the issues are, and fix them.
- Set up analytics so you can learn about your customers. Gather and monitor feedback about what they like and don’t they like. You should then leverage the data to deliver what your customers want.
- Encourage customers to write reviews in the right places. The best way to get reviews is to ask for them! Unfortunately, unhappy customers don’t need to be asked to write reviews, but happy ones do!
There are many ways you can start generating online reviews from your customers
- Simply ask customers to leave a review face-to-face.
- Provide printed instructions to customers, for example on a till receipt, business card or flyer.
- Send a letter request with instructions.
- Send an email request with links to important review sites.
- Place a widget on your website with links to important review sites.
For more information and a look at our end-to-end review generation service, see WriteAboutUs here.