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What Good Are Google Reviews?

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Google reviews are a great way to see what people are saying about a business and get a feel of how they may in turn respond to a problem or negative comment. But, there are a few things you should know. This is my opinion after 28 years of being in business.

  • They are generally made anonymously.
  • Very few people who are satisfied with a service leave a review. (my opinion)
  • A lot of people who are not satisfied with a service leave a review. (in my opinion)
  • People who leave a great review make it seem like the business is the best they’ve ever seen.
  • Some who leave a bad review try to make sure no one else ever uses you again.
  • Reviews are political and held in the court of open public opinion.

The truth is somewhere in the middle of the confusion and I’m going to give my honest take on what it’s all about. Let’s take a step back to 1993 when we started Club Mead.

The Beginning

We wanted to do pet boarding so we built a kennel, got all the permits and applied our knowledge of dog training and care to a commercial  business. For the first few years all we had to do was cater to our clients and take great care of the pets to succeed, which we did. In 1995, I thought I was way behind everyone else and got onto the ‘internet’. In retrospect, we were way ahead of the curve. ‘clubmead.com’ has been registered for over 25 years at the time of this writing and it’s older than the majority of domain names in Canada. I huddled in my corner and learned to make a website on Microsoft  Frontpage. YAY!! Netscape and AOL were big back then. I actually got stuck on the Microsoft net for a while before I realized it wasn’t the free whole world internet we have now.

Search Engines

I started to learn about these neat little trackers you could stick on your web page to actually see how many ‘hits’ you were getting. Then I learned to have a ‘links’ page so people could share links with you to draw in traffic from other sites. Eventually I got technical and created invisible pages in my site that had links to all my other pages in them. The tracking software called them doorway pages so search engines could find you easier. Around 2002 or so, our business got real busy and I must admit I lost track and interest of all that. Fast forward to 2015.

My site was getting pretty stale even though I’d been using Dream Weaver for quite few years on a self hosted server. So, I enlisted a web person to help me out. She kept using acronyms like SEO and SERP and API and who knows what….I then realized I was out of touch and things had progressed in the web world. All of a sudden I found out that all my old school modern stuff I had done was behind once again. Google was no longer just a search engine you could ignore if your business was viable and strong. The general public had been indoctrinated to relying on it for their day to day existence. 

Houston, we have a problem we can’t ignore any longer.

There it is, the place you want to be on the world wide web. A Google My Business listing. Of course, I hadn’t paid much attention to all that stuff by 2015. It was then I started to realize there was a whole generation of people who don’t know we existed because we weren’t placed well on Google. We did some serious updates and started to see results.

I won’t bore you with technical details on what I did but now I can get to the actual context of this blog post. What relevance are Google Reviews? Or all the reviews, Yelp, Yellow Pages, blah, blah, blah……

Anonymous Reviews

People are required to have a Google account to post a review, and that affords them an anonymous firewall when they post. That allows them to say whatever they want without having to accept responsibility that it’s correct or even truthful. A business is at a distinct disadvantage because we don’t enjoy that protection. All we can do is smile and nod, tell the truth and accept responsibility if we did something wrong and carry on. Let me get this straight, all businesses do things wrong once in a while. We are people too, so are employees.

Negative and Borderline Slanderous Reviews

That makes it easy for a reviewer to come on there with an axe to grind for whatever reason. A terminated employee, a person who got up on the wrong side of the bed, or who knows what. Those are the ones that blatantly tell non truths and embellish the story to intentionally smear the business. I suggest that people read between the lines on those and check to see who else they have reviewed in the past. Readers are encouraged to see those reviewers.

Responding to spurious negative reviews is a tough thing when sometimes the actual facts of the matter are quite different than the reviewer paints them. It can quickly devolve into a he said/she said spat. The reader, however, doesn’t care about that and only gets a first impression and moves on. That’s why it’s extremely important for a business to address the problem in a timely and honest manner with the client before it goes online in the first place. Honestly and integrity are the key. I have one  review where we absolutely screwed up and I said so. That’s all we could do. Now we work harder to not let it happen again.

Negative and honest reviews are a bit easier to deal with. The people are more rational and are eager to let you explain what you did wrong, if anything, and have a reasonable conversation.

Positive Reviews

The vast majority of reviews are positive. Every business owner loves those. I do. But like I mentioned earlier, very few people who are satisfied with a service will take the time to do a review. I don’t blame them. They are happy and are just getting on with their day. But, for the one who take the time to review, it’s also important to respond so they and everyone who reads them know that you are actually reading and paying attention to your reviews.

Summary

So, when you take the time to read the businesses review page, keep an open mind. It’s generally a good overview of what a business operates like and how they treat customers. Look at the reviewers history if you wish and get a feel of what they have reviewed for others. See how the business responds to their reviews and if they admit when they are wrong or in fact when they are not wrong. Reviews are not definitive. They are political too.  Court of public opinion.

Stu Mead

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