Before I jump into what small businesses can do, I want to start with what you can do. Yes, you.
Every single person reading this is a consumer, especially within their local communities, and you have the largest opportunity to help small businesses to be more successful.
I’m a Google Local Guide, apparently, I’m a Level 6, but I didn’t know that until I looked it up for this article. 🤷
When you’re in marketing like I am, you know how critical online reviews can be; so the first time Google prompted me for a review after using driving directions I wrote one. And then another.
Then one day, my husband and I went to lunch at a new Indian restaurant that opened in town. He took a picture of the outside of the building to post before we walked in and we both wrote a review when we left.
A couple of months later, he got a notification from Google that the photo had over 100,000 views; we live in what I consider to be a fairly small city, so this seemed unheard of in such a short time.
And that is how it started, it wasn’t long after that he reached 1 million total photo views.
Ever since, we both do our best to contribute when we travel, especially when we come across a local gem, and now I have a single photo with almost 2.1 million views!
I know you’ve probably put 2 + 2 together by now, but I’ll explain where I’m going with this anyway.
When you add photos, write reviews, and contribute on Google Maps, you help small businesses market themselves to other potential customers.
Think about it, you rely on reviews when making purchasing decisions and you aren’t alone, 82% of buyers find review sites valuable in their search. [Source: G2 and Heinz Marketing]
Just about every business with a physical location has a Google Listing (whether they manage it or not) and you take your phone with you everywhere you go, so it is easy to contribute once you start.
All you need is the Google Maps app and you’ll find a Contribute icon in the menu at the bottom.
In addition to reviews and photos, you can answer questions about businesses, like whether they are kid-friendly, wheelchair accessible, etc., and even add new places that aren’t listed yet.
You’ll get points for all of your contributions based on quality, which makes it easy to be helpful as you continue to contribute.
Adding photos to your review and writing a longer review to share more context about your experience tend to be the reviews that have the most views.
I can’t talk about writing reviews without sharing my thoughts on negative reviews. One bad review can have a significant impact on a business, if your overall goal is to be helpful, it is important to also be mindful of whether what you say will be hurtful.
It takes a lot for me to write a bad review, I’ll write good reviews all day long, but I reserve any negative feedback for circumstances that truly warrant it (specifically 1-star reviews).
There is nothing wrong with a 3- or 4-star review, as long as you provide the relevant context to support it. No business is going to be perfect and these reviews help add authenticity because that is what they are, they reflect that person’s experience.
I very rarely use 2- or 4- stars, for me, 1-, 3-, and 5-stars are sufficient:
⭐ 1-star → I have a major problem with the product or service provided, something I’ve attempted to resolve with the business and couldn’t.
⭐⭐⭐ 3-stars → Things weren’t exceptional, but nothing major to complain about. I see this as an opportunity to provide helpful feedback without raising the alarm. If I get a reply on a 3-star review, I will usually change it to a 4-star review because they made the additional effort and they are proactively monitoring their online reputation, which I think says a lot about their care for their customers.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5-stars → Everything went as expected, or even better, someone went above and beyond to provide a great experience.
Now that we’ve talked about online reviews (one of the major advantages of a Google Listing for Small Businesses) I am going to shift over to how to manage these reviews as the business owner.
➡️ First, you’ll have to claim and manage your Google My Business listing (now called Google Listings). This article from the HubSpot Marketing blog is the Ultimate Guide to GMB.
There isn’t a native tool within HubSpot to manage your Google Reviews, but with Zapier, you don’t need one.
➡️ The two zaps for Google My Business Reviews are an alert for New Reviews and Create Reply for reviews.
There are a lot of actions you can set up in HubSpot based on the New Review trigger, you can build a workflow that aligns with your review response process.
➡️ Then, you’ll have to work on your review response templates. You can create a basic framework and then personalize it based on the review.
Of course, HubSpot also has an Ultimate Guide for How to Respond to Google Reviews. 🙌
➡️ You can also create custom contact and company properties related to reviews, such as tracking contacts with whom you’ve requested a review from.
Once you have the custom properties set up, you can create a Zap for the reply.
➡️ Next, create snippets and templates to ask for reviews that already include your listing link so you can generate more reviews as part of your sales and service processes.
Your customers must understand how important reviews are to your business, so when you get a good review, make sure you use it in your marketing.
Create social posts, add to your website, use on printed materials, and make sure everyone on your team is incorporating testimonials and feedback in their messaging.
In addition to reviews, one of the key advantages of Google Listings is the ability to create posts that show alongside your business on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
The good news is that there is also a Zap for that, so you can find a trigger in HubSpot that works best for you and use it to create a post for your Google Listing.
Posting to your Google Listing weekly (they expire after 7 days) is an excellent strategy year-round, but it is also a great way to share promotions with your audience during the holidays.
Proactively managing your Google Listing is important, the worst thing you can do is provide inaccurate information to your customers.
Here’s a helpful checklist to prep for the holiday rush:
✅ Verify your business hours
✅ Add dates/times you will be closed for the holidays
✅ Verify your map location, adjust the pin to your main entrance
✅ Check your contact details, and make sure all links work
✅ Add new photos to show the exterior and interior during the holidays (especially if you decorate)
✅ Update your Products and Services, verify pricing matches any promotions
✅ Add Offers, this is a great way to share your BFCM and Small Business Saturday promos
🎯 BONUS: If you’re using tracking URLs or bit links, create a unique URL for your holiday promotions to be used on your Google Listing. This will make it easier to report on your listing performance relative to the campaign. Just don’t forget to change it back after the holidays.
Local SEO is a huge opportunity for small businesses with physical locations (or service areas) and while Local Guides can boost your marketing efforts, you don’t want to leave it entirely in their hands!