When it comes to your website, Google is like Rhett Butler in ‘Gone with the Wind’ asking: “Frankly, madam… why should I give a dear?”
Unfortunately, we live in a world that has come to rely on Google for all of its answers – from “where should we eat?” to “who should we call when our air conditioner dies?” (Well, I hope you’d know who to call, but stick with me here.) We all want to play to Google, trying to figure out what we can do to show our prospective customers why they should call us over ‘Joe Schmoe’ down the street. It also tells Google, this is why you should show me.
Relatively recently, Google actually threw the SEO world a bone and shed some light on how it ranks local searches. It boils down to three key points: Relevance, Distance and Prominence. To illustrate how Google works this all out, this is conceptually how its algorithm “thinks”.
Search “ac repair”
Google: Okay John Smith. You’re looking for “ac repair”. Well let’s see… I can tell you’re in Jamestown, Virginia right now. 1Let’s see which contractors provide ac repair service to that area?… okay. 2Now, where are they located in relation to you?… okay. 3Now, how well-known are they and how good are they at providing ac repair?…
Point #1 Relevance – That’s relatively easy for contractors to do between their Google My Business listing and their Google My Business listing and their website.
Point #2 Distance – This is harder. You have competitors in your service area, and some of them are closer to John Smith’s location than you are! Google thinks, “the closer you are to John Smith, chances are you’ll get to him quicker and the more likely you are to serve his area.”
Point #3 Prominence – This is the one I really want to focus on as it’s both the hardest of the three and probably presents the greatest opportunity for improvement. You should be doing everything in your power to help Google understand what people think of your service!Google understands that over 90% of consumers care about how good of a job you do by observing them hunt for reviews. People care, so Google does, too. Genuine, properly coded, online reviews are social word-of-mouth referrals. Google also puts a great deal of stock in them as they aren’t you saying how awesome your company is—it’s somebody else.
If you aren’t implementing some sort of campaign to receive more reviews, then you are shooting yourself in the foot. There are many different ways to get more reviews and countless review platforms to receive them on. While Google trusts a review on its own platform more than anywhere else, getting Google reviews tends to be a chore in-and-of itself. To leave a Google review, you must not only have an account, but must also be signed in. If your customer isn’t already signed in, I wish you the best of luck getting that review. We live in a world where manypeople have a hard time remembering their own cell phone number (not to pick on you if you’re one of them, but point proven). You want something that’s simple and easy and that your field staff can help you solicit. We use a system called Nearby Now to accomplish this very thing.
With Nearby Now, we build a unique page for every single city in your service area. Your field staff complete a brief check-in and then ask for a review. Currently, we have over 160 contractors using Nearby Now that we work with. When we last looked, our average customer response across all 160 companies using it is between 45-50 online reviews for every 100 customers asked. In fact, that response is so consistent, we notified an SRT contractor when their response rate dropped from 45% to about 8% that something was wrong with how his techs were implementing it. He was sure that nothing had changed but said he would check it out. A day later he called us back and told us we were right– the guys were not asking the way they had been trained, but were literally just “phoning it in”. The techs discovered it was easier to just sit in the truck and send the review request to the client using the email that was on the job sheet instead of actually asking them the way they were taught. After correcting this, his review return rate went back up.
The reason the rate on return is so high is because the techs ask the customers face-to-face and the customers understand that it’s helping the tech get better recognition from their boss. Additionally, making sure that the customer is aware of how easy it is to leave a review is important, too. Sales experience has shown that you want to ask for the review in a manner in which it’s obvious that you expect them to say “yes”.
The part I underlined is the most important. The true relationship exists between the tech and the customer, not between the customer and your company. An added benefit of framing the request as a benefit to the tech, is that the reviews customers write will typically rave about the tech because they’re trying to get them a raise. Since our techs are the biggest part of our customer’s experience, having reviews praising your techs are just about the best type of reviews you can get.
Bringing this home… Nearby Now tells Google what you do, where you do it and how good you are at it. Remember when we looked at how Google thinks earlier? Doesn’t that look like an answer to those questions? This is how you tell Google, “You know what? Even though I’m in Jamestown, I still provide excellent service to Newport as well and here’s what all these people say to prove it!”
As an added bonus, when you ask people what they think of the service you’ve provided them, you also increase customer retention! You’re asking people to actually put conscious thought into how good you are at what you do and this causes them to remember your service better. In a time where consumers seem to be progressively less loyal, anything you can do to “fence in your herd” is extremely beneficial. Remember, while your customers probably aren’t going to be thinking of you on a daily basis, you don’t want to give them any reason to think about going elsewhere. It’s the difference between a future search for “ac repair” or “Bob’s Heating and Cooling”.