Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | December 29, 2018

3 Tips to Optimize Review Responses and Boost Local Search Rankings

According to the latest local search rankings factor survey, reviews make up over 13% of how Google and search engines decide to rank businesses in the local search results.

Local search engines use signals such as the number of reviews, quality of reviews, and the number of reviews responded to as factors to help determine how a business should rank in comparison to its local competitors.

Specifically, Google encourages businesses to respond to reviews in order to improve their local SEO. The Google My Business support page states, “Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.”

3 tips to optimize your review responses and boost local search rankings

1. Developing a review responding strategy

First things first, businesses need to set up a strategy that ensures someone is taking responsibility for reviews and ensuring that they are being responded to. Whether review responses are handled at the location level by each manager, sent to a handful of regional managers, managed by a dedicated in-house corporate team or entirely outsourced to an agency, responding to reviews is not something businesses can afford to overlook. There are pros and cons to each strategy and you should decide what works best for your company.

Responding at the Location Level – Responding to reviews at the location level empowers the managers to take control of their online reputation. Since they are at the location on a day-to-day basis and likely interacting with the customer who is leaving the reviews, they have a better feel for how to respond to each customer and can better personalize the responses to each situation.

However, if you choose to distribute the responsibility to each location manager, it is important to properly train each manager on the best practices of responding to reviews and give them guidelines on what they should and shouldn’t say.

Guidelines for responding will also help to ensure that there is a consistent message and tone that comes across for every location, meaning that customers can feel confident they will have a similar experience no matter which location they visit.

Regional Managers – The biggest upside to having review responses being delegated on a regional level is the efficiency that comes from dedicating a certain amount of time solely to responding to reviews. When businesses respond on a local level, managers will often have to stop what they are doing and take time out of their day to respond to one review here and one review there. When one person is in charge of responding to reviews for multiple locations they can create a seamless responding process and respond to multiple reviews all at the same time.

This strategy will also improve the consistency of tone on the responses which means less time and fewer people that need to be trained on the processes and best practices of responding.

Corporate Team – Developing an in-house corporate team that is dedicated to managing your online reputation and reviews for every location means that businesses can have a handful of people who can craft expert responses and continuously engage with customers online. This is an efficient way to ensure that every review that needs a response receives one.

Things to be cautious of when building a team is to take care to craft each message, otherwise, it won’t have the same “feel” or personalization that a response from a local manager would. Additionally, be careful not to use too many pre-written or generic responses. Customers know the difference between a generic and a real response and it will greatly influence their perception of your business. They want to engage with humans, not robots.

Outsource – Some companies may consider handing off the task of responding to reviews to an outside agency rather than spending the time and resources that accompany hiring or training in-house team/staff. Companies looking to outsource their review management do so for reasons such as:

  • Outside reputation management firms have implemented social media and reputation management tactics into other businesses and therefore know what works and what doesn’t
  • Gets the task of reputation management off of your plate so you can say it’s being taken care of without having to deal with it directly

However, outsourcing to an agency has some issues that you should consider:

  • It’s difficult and time-consuming to train an agency on your strategy, process, and execution of the plan
  • Outsourcing will slow down the response time as you will be prioritized among other agency clients
  • It is very difficult for the 3rd party to consistently follow the same guidelines for all reviews
  • Experiences are unique and will require decision making on how to react and what should actually be said online in response. These are sensitive issues and if handled wrong, can make the situation worse

2. Responding to Positive Reviews

Thank the customer –  A positive comment is the same as if that person were to have complimented someone in real life. Therefore, it is polite to say thank you and acknowledge their review.  Show them gratitude for their business and the time they took to write a great review that will help you earn future customers.

Get specific – Generic responses are alright but remember that customers will be able to tell the difference between a response that was copy and pasted and a response that took a little bit of time to write. Touching on something specific that they mentioned in their review adds a more personal touch that customers will appreciate.

Entice them to come back –  They obviously loved what you had to offer, now encourage them to become a repeat customer! Whether you tempt them with a new product or just lets the customer know you can’t wait to see them again. Give them a reason to come back and bring their friends!

Example: “Hi [Insert Name], thank you for your awesome review! We’re glad you enjoyed your stay and had a great time out by our pool! Next time, you should try one of our pina coladas – we’ll bring it right to your chair as you relax in the sun!”

3. Responding to Negative Reviewsresponding to negative reviews

Apologize and thank them for their feedback – Negative reviews aren’t all bad. In fact, they help businesses make changes to improve current business practices and improve the customer experience. Apologize for the unsatisfactory experience and thank them for giving honest feedback.

Respond appropriately – Remember that the conversation is public and never blame the customer or attempt to argue with them.

Invite the conversation offline –  Don’t go back and forth with an unhappy customer on a public review site. Instead, ask them for more details to ensure it doesn’t happen again and provide them with contact information so they can get in touch with customer service.

Short and Sweet – No need to drag the response on. Don’t say more than absolutely needed. The idea is to handle the review as quickly and politely as possible and show customers that you are willing to take responsibility and work towards making improvements!

Example: “Thank you for your feedback Lisa, we’re sorry your experience wasn’t up to your standards. We would like to hear more about your experience and what we could do to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Please contact us at, [555-555-5555] or email [] and we’ll try to resolve your issue as soon as possible.”

Companies receiving hundreds of reviews a week may find that monitoring and compiling all their reviews into meaningful and useful information to be problematic. Moreover, responding to these reviews-while necessary-can be extremely time-consuming. One of the ways to successfully implement and manage your reputation across multiple locations is through a software platform. A platform that enables your current team to easily and effectively handle the task of review management. A software platform will provide:

  • Quick aggregation of data into actionable information
  • The ability to stay on top of your company’s reviews as it is the only way of ensuring you’ll receive the business you deserve, whether at a particular location or across many of them
  • The opportunity to keep up and engage with customers in ways that help your business grow

Schedule your free demo with Chatmeter to see how our platform can help you quickly and easily respond to all of your reviews from one location!