Episode 2 | May 23, 2023

Why Are Reviews & Online Reputation Important? Part 1

A2O Digital takes a high level dive at how reviews and reputation can affect lead generation and marketing for a business. We share with our listeners the ranking factors in Google Local Service Ads, Google Business Profile, and our strategy with Organic.

Tim (00:20):

Hello. Welcome. Today, we are going to be talking about the importance of reviews. We will get into tactics soon with a special guest that has been very successful with getting reviews, but let's just start with the importance of reviews. My name is Tim Coleman. I'm the managing partner at A Second Opinion. I have Justin and Ashley with me today. Justin, could you start by telling us a little bit about you?

Justin (00:52):

Sure. Thanks, Tim. Yes, Justin Bencsko. Been with A Second Opinion for at least 10 years. Time flies by, so I don't know the exact length, but I've been with A Second Opinion doing digital marketing for that whole time. Currently, the director of the agency, so I have my hands in all aspects of what's going on in home service businesses.

Tim (01:23):


Ashley (01:23):

Yep. So Ashley Benscko. Been with A Second Opinion for almost 15 years now, which is crazy. Have held many different roles here and been heavily involved with some things that really closely overlap with reviews, but right now, just a project manager at A Second Opinion.

Tim (01:40):

All right. So we're going to get started. We know the importance of reviews as a topic that... It has both been beaten... Feel like you're beating a dead horse, but also at the same time, it's hard to really fully state the importance of them. I think what we want to do here is just get a little bit into the importance of reviews in different places and to look at the importance of that a little bit more holistically. I think a lot of times you hear the importance of reviews that's specifically around GBP, Google Business Profile or Maps, but with a home service business, especially ones that do repair, there are other places where reviews are just as important and some of the specific things around them. Do you guys want to get into place by place with the reviews or just talk about them in general a little bit?

Ashley (02:42):

I think we could start with in general. I think when we think about reviews, big picture, one of the best things you can do for your business to get an idea where your reputation is is just do a Google search for your business plus the word reviews and just see what's out there. There's a lot of sources that get discussed often, and Tim, you mentioned like GBP, Google Business Profile or Local Service Ads is a really hot topic right now for reviews, but there's a lot of places you can have reviews for your business and consumers often do search by business name plus reviews to get an idea of the business they're thinking to work with and what that looks like.


So I think it's good to just start a little zoomed out and really just get an understanding. We'll see Yelp in there, we'll see the BBB in there. You'll see Google Business Profile in there. You may see their website in there. LSA doesn't really show up in a search like that, so you actually escape the LSA reviews that way. It's still important and we'll talk about that, and then definitely vertical specific. Oh, Facebook is another one, but you may see some others pop up depending on the vertical you're in. Certain other sites might be more popular depending on the vertical that you're in. Justin, am I forgetting any other sources we see often?

Justin (03:59):

Just those vertical-specific... Angi is another one that comes to top of mind for the home services contractors industries, but yeah, no, I think you covered it, and the main thing is customers will do these searches when they're researching who they want to hire to fix their garage door or their heating system or whatever it may be, and you want to make sure you have that consistent experience across all of those platforms. If you just have a good Google rating on your GBP listing for example, but then you go and look at Yelp and Angi and other places and it's negative, that's going to seed some doubt in a customer's mind. So you want to have that consistent across the board positive review situation.

Tim (04:53):

HomeAdvisor's another one that shows up frequently. That's maybe the same as Angi nowadays, I guess.

Justin (04:59):

Yeah, I think they're combined now at this point.

Tim (05:03):


Justin (05:03):

Angi bought HomeAdvisor and there may be specific ones for a specific niche that's in there that we're not talking about now, but like Ashley said, if you search your business plus reviews, whatever comes up there, those are the ones you're going to want to make sure you have a handle on.

Ashley (05:22):

I think one of the frustrating things when you do a search that is... I'll use Yelp as an example because I've heard it many times. If Yelp shows up when you do that kind of search and maybe your rating isn't as good on Yelp, customers will say to us like, "Oh, I hate Yelp anyways and I'm not going to use Yelp, so it doesn't matter," but the reality is if reviews are out there, they're out there and a consumer is not going to go and be like, "Oh, that's Yelp, so I don't care about that either." If they care about Yelp and your rating on Yelp isn't good, unfortunately, you have to care about all those.


So even if some platforms are more frustrating than others and maybe you gravitate towards certain ones that you want to ask people to leave you reviews on more than others, that's fine, but you do have to be aware of what's out there because the reality is any consumer can search for your business and leave a review on a lot of platforms without asking for any permission or being directed to do so, so I know that's a point of frustration for owners, but unfortunately something that you have to be aware of and deal with.

Tim (06:20):

We know that that's a popular search. Name of the business plus reviews is a popular search, so we know that that's going to happen. Business owners I think in general probably don't do that search often enough, and that's, I think, really good advice to do that. In general, the next thing we're going to rely on for reviews is visibility, like the number of reviews that we get is going to play a large role in how well we're doing.

Justin (06:52):

Yeah. Compared to your competition too, you got to think of that. So maybe in your market, if you have 150 reviews on Google, let's just say, or Local Service Ads, that might be enough to put you in a really good spot because you don't have as much competition or your competition has less reviews and the lower star rating. So I think you got to look at it compared to your competition too. There's some markets where we see there's multiple competitors with thousands of reviews, say, in Google when you're comparing, so got to look at it from that aspect. (07:38):

It will, for instance, on maps or Local Service Ads, not only affect your rankings, which we'll talk about, but it can affect your click-through rate so to speak, where they're comparing. There's three results in Google Maps, Google Business Profile results. They're looking at those. What is this competition saying or what are the three listings... How many reviews do they have? What are their review ratings? They will likely lean towards picking one of those businesses based on where they stack up.

Tim (08:12):

Yeah, that's fair. You see one business has 500 reviews, one has 400 reviews and the third one has 10. Guess which one's not getting the click. So in their mind, they're already going to probably sort those three, narrow it down to two. They're going to get the lion share of those clicks and those calls. So just from a volume perspective, it's going to create visibility, it's going to create click-through rate. Let's talk a little bit more. You started to talk, Justin, about rank. Where do we see the ranking get taken into effect?

Justin (09:00):

Probably what makes sense, let's start at the top of a Google search results page and then work our way down. So if you search for something, the first thing that's going to pop up at the top for home services is going to be Local Service Ads or LSA is how we refer to it in short and depending if you're searching on mobile or desktop, they're going to show two or three results and then you can click in and you can see more businesses in there, and there's a number of ranking factors that go into Local Service Ads and how Google decides to rank those businesses, but one of... if not the most important factors is the number reviews and your rating.


So that is going to play a big part and typically what we see is the business or couple businesses that excel there the most get a lion share of those leads. Google tends to show them in those first two spots a lot more often than some of the others. The top couple get a disproportionately larger amount of leads than anyone else below them. It's very important there, obviously. I don't know if anybody has anything else to add for Local Service Ads when it comes to reviews.

Tim (10:31):

Let's just talk about where those reviews come from a little bit, Justin.

Justin (10:35):

Sure. Well, there's a couple ways where someone can submit a review, but the main places that they actually link Local Service Ads to your Google business profile or your Google Maps listing, so anything that you get to Google Maps will also show for Local Service Ads. So you get a two for one there when you get your Google reviews. It will show on Local Service Ads as well. In addition, you can get reviews directly through the Local Service Ads platform. One of the benefits to doing it directly through their platform is if they can match it up to the customer, so basically, when the customer calls, you're supposed to put their information into the Local Service Ads system and you can select a link after the job is completed to send that review request and the review request would be sent out directly through Google's system.


Now if Google can match that up, it shows as a verified review in Local Service Ads, which one, they push those reviews up to the top when you're looking at the profile, and they won't tell you this, but we've theorized, do these verified reviews hold more weight in Google's eyes and they're not telling you this, but in theory, all other things equal, if you could have a few more verified reviews, that may be something that puts you over the edge compared to competition.

Ashley (12:14):

Yeah. I think the review, all the stuff with LSA and reviews and the importance, and this has changed and evolved over time. In fact, I remember back in 2017, 2018 when they were first launching, the early businesses we were working with saying, "Why don't they show how many reviews I had? They just show stars underneath. I want it to show that I have 550 reviews. That's more than everybody else. I want it to show that my rating is 5.0 or 4.9. That's better than everybody else." They have since changed a lot of things, but they've also weighted the reviews so much more heavily than they did a few years ago, and it's encouraging poor behavior within the LSA reviews from certain businesses.


Because Google has put so much weight on the number and the rating, people are doing things to abuse the system to get more reviews at a really fast rate, and those reviews are magically all five star reviews. So they're getting sometimes thousands of reviews over the course of a few weeks. They'll go from hardly any to thousands and that rating will be a 5.0. If you do dive into the reviews and look at them a little more closely, they are interesting. They mentioned a different business name, they mentioned weather in an area that...


We had someone in southern California mentioning all the snow that they got in the middle of the summer. That doesn't make any sense. There was no snow in California last July. So there was just very interesting content within those reviews that I think is obviously indicative. There's other things we've seen too, but obviously indicative of abuse of the review system because people are seeing how heavily weighted and what the impact of those reviews can have in Local Services right now in particular.

Tim (13:59):

So review spam as we've come to term that is a problem in some industries. In Local Service Ads, it's really bad, and I think when do a category search, you're going to set your initial goal for getting reviews at the level of, I think, a legitimate competitor. That's what we're going to try and do. We're going to try and beat our largest, or at least our second-largest real competitor and then the review spam, we are hoping that Google comes in and helps us out with. That's all you can do. It's a fire hose of reviews that no legitimate business could compete with. It's how I feel about it.

Justin (14:47):

I think initially, it's good to start with a goal of whoever your highest competitor is, but don't stop. Just because you got more than your highest competitor, don't say, "Okay, we're good here. I don't need to get anymore." Like we said, there could be spam that ends up showing up that buys fake reviews and if you keep going, that makes it harder for them to catch up to you, so I think this is something that never stops. Now, maybe you change where the importance is and try and get more to a certain place over time, but you should always, always be pushing reviews.


I think that there is, and this isn't proven either, a part to the LSA ranking of the velocity of new reviews that have come in too. It's not just what you have over time. It's what have you gotten recently? Have you gotten a lot of reviews in the past month or week or whatever it is? I think that is playing a part in this too, so that's just to show you this is just that constant... You are never done. You have to keep going, keep pushing for reviews. Every customer you should be asking for those reviews and [inaudible 00:15:57]-

Tim (15:56):

All right, so this new term just came up. So let's talk about it a little. Review velocity. Ash, can you talk a little bit to that?

Ashley (16:04):

Yeah. Yeah. I was literally thinking the same thing, Tim, when he said velocity. It's such a good term to talk about and I think owners have so much on their plate that they forget about this. So velocity is essentially the rate at which your reviews are coming in and really what you want with velocity is consistency. If it's realistic for your business to get five reviews a week, that's fine. That might be the number of leads you have a week. That's what's realistic, but try and get five every week. Don't try and get 10 this week and none for three weeks. You just want to get five every week. (16:36):

If it's realistic for you to aim for 20 a week, go for 20. If you can get 100 a week, get 100. Obviously, I don't want to say more is better always, but if you can get more reviews, if you have a larger customer base, that's great, but you want to keep it consistent. You don't want to do it for six months and then for a year, not get a single review. That looks funny to a consumer. I know I think we're jaded in this industry, but when I see a ton of reviews and then nothing for months, I'm like, this was either made up, it was fake or the business only cared about reviews for a short period of time for some gain and then they stopped caring.


The reality is, as a consumer, the business should always care about you as a consumer throughout time, whether you join them in July or December or the following year. You want to feel like there's always an emphasis on the customer satisfaction, so you want to keep that going. We have worked with so many owners that have kicked butt when they've launched their business or a new location and gotten a lot of reviews really quickly, real reviews from real customers because they trained their employees to ask for them to do a great job. They've built it into all of their systems and then they get a year and a half in and they start focusing on something else and maybe they stopped talking about it so much in training or they changed the system and they didn't add in that place to ask for reviews and it just slows down dramatically to a few reviews a month where they were getting 100 reviews a month.


I understand why it happens, but I think it's so important to keep an eye on that velocity and that consistency and really push, like Justin said. You're never done, you never give up, you never say, "We're ahead of everyone, let's stop," because you never know who's coming around the corner the next day, week, month, or year. Completely separate from the competition, it's important to your consumers to see that you're consistently doing a great job for them so that new people want to work with you in the future.

Tim (18:30):

Yeah. Anything else we want to talk about with LSA reviews before we get into GBP? Justin (18:36):

No, high level, I think that's good. We could probably sit here and talk for an hour about each one of these if we really wanted to get in and talk about the nuances and all that, but this is more high level, big picture type of conversation.

Tim (18:54): All right, so Local Service Ads, we see the rating and the volume reviews being a huge ranking factor. What about Google Business Profile? Google Maps? Ashley (19:06):

Yeah, definitely another big place for review. Super commonplace for people to ask their customers for reviews. Another place where I think we see it impact rankings... Tim, you mentioned an example earlier. I think it was like 400 reviews for one business, 500 for another and someone else with 10. Until you get to a certain number of reviews, it seems like you can't quite get off the ground as a new listing in GBP. I've heard 5, I've heard 3, I've heard 10. I don't know if there's per se an actual number where you're let out of box technically speaking, but you do see that. (19:42):

Until you start to get into double-digit reviews and consistent regular reviews, it's very challenging to get your Google Business Profile listing to rank, especially in a competitive market area or a competitive vertical. If there's no one else in the world that does the business that you do, that may be different, but we rarely see that anymore in the home service space, so that's a really big deal just to getting the whole thing going.

Justin (20:07):

Yeah. I think the other thing to think about, this is the most visible platform for reviews. If you go onto Google and you search your business name, this is going to be directly at the top, the most visible place where people are going to go and look at your reviews. BrightLocal, which is a local marketing industry company, does a survey every single year and I'd have to go get the numbers and maybe we can provide it in the notes, but this is by far the place where consumers go to look. Google's number one, and then you have Yelp. There's a lot of them behind that, but this is the number one spot where people will go that want to research your business. They're going to look at your Google listing and your reviews on your Google listing, so I think that's one of the big things there. Ashley (21:00):

I think one of the pros too of the GBP reviews, it's one of the easier platforms to respond to the reviews and to make your response public and visible. So we were talking about Local Services. You actually can't currently reply to a Local Services verified job review. So if someone left you a one star review and you wanted to address their concern, you actually can't right now, but Google business profile, you can. (21:23):

They will import those responses, we've seen at least in some cases, into Local Service Ads as well, but those Google Business Profile reviews, if you get a three star review, if you get a two star review and the customer expresses a concern, you can go in and publicly post a response to that customer and what they said, and they can actually even go back in if they choose, this is up to them, and they can edit their own review if you know work to resolve a problem and they're really happy about that, they can go back and change their rating or add an additional note or something like that. So that's one of the nice things about the Google Business Profile reviews compared to some of the other platforms like LSA where you actually don't have the ability to respond as the business to what a consumer has to say.

Justin (22:06):

I did find this percentage while you were talking, Ash, and they basically asked which sites or apps will you use to evaluate your local business? They're asking consumers in the last 12 months. Google was number one at 87% of people said they looked at Google and the closest behind that was Yelp at 48%, and then behind that Facebook at 46. Now this is across all local businesses, so it's not specific, but you get the idea. It's far and away the most looked at source for when people are looking at reviews.

Tim (22:40):

Okay. So it's creating visibility, it's creating ranking. What about the impact on consumers? Ashley (22:52):

Yeah, I can't quote a study, but I know I read a study that once you fall below 4.0 star rating, it gets really difficult to get customers from GBP and if you fall below a three, it's basically like people won't even consider you. Again, I read this a while ago, so I can't quote the study, but your rating there definitely really matters. I feel like people don't even consider any more someone below a 4.5. Maybe it's because we see so much review spam that we see so many people with high review readings in the verticals we're working in, and it's not really indicative of maybe the truth, but I feel like when our customers fall below a 4.5, it's like, oh man, this isn't good because there's like 10 other people with a 4.9 or a 5.0 or a 4.8 and I don't always know how well consumers pick out real reviews versus fake reviews and things like that, so it's a really big deal.

Justin (23:47):

Different people I'm sure do different things. Some people may just broadly look quickly, "Okay. 4.8 stars and this competitor's 4.6 and they have less reviews." Some people may do that because they're trying to make a decision quick. Some people, like you're saying, Ash, will go and read the negative reviews. Okay. What are the negative things people are saying about this business? How did that business respond to them to understand. I know I've done that before. I want to go hire this business, I want to see their dirt.


I want to go see what the people are saying when they had a bad experience and how you respond to those plays a big part in that. So I think different consumers will do different things. You have people that want to just make quick decisions and people that are going to go and research for half an hour on each competitor before they make a decision, but all that is affecting how many leads you end up getting, so you want to be able to make sure you're doing all of those things.

Ashley (24:47):

Yeah, and Justin, you said a lot of people will go in and read... Yourself included, myself included, we'll read the ones star reviews, the two star reviews. We have so many businesses we work with that if they do get a negative review, get panicked like, "I don't want to post this. This isn't really accurate about what happened. I don't know if this is a real consumer," whatever it is. The reality is every real business is going to get some number of negative reviews along the way. There's no way to avoid it. I think it's so much more about how you address it, how you respond to it.


Telling that person that they stink and they should go away, you may feel that way sometimes as a business owner and I certainly can appreciate that, but that's not how you want to post your response to that review and go to market addressing that. Sometimes you got to suck it up and work really hard to make some difficult customers happy, but I think it should be less about being scared of it and more about thinking about how to deal with it and address it in the best way possible, and then also just continue to focus moving forward on making customers as happy as possible.


So that's the rare occasion that you're getting an unhappy person or a negative review and people can see how overwhelmingly happy people are. I know as a consumer, I don't expect to never see anything negative. So I think if you're going into things realistically, you expect to see it, but if they do a good job handling it or it's a small concern versus a big concern that results in a negative review. If someone's like, "They stole $50 million from me," I'm going to be like, what's going on here? First, I was unhappy with how they handled this and $50 million being stolen is a little extreme, but you want to see what people are complaining about and then how it's being addressed.

Tim (26:37):

Of course, while we're on the topic of negative reviews, we always hear the advice respond to reviews, and of course, we do have to respond to reviews, but is that the first step if you're a home service business, do you think?

Ashley (26:51): I think the first step is don't do anything. Read it, digest it. Don't reach out to them, don't write a response, think about it, because negative reviews tend to get us excited- Justin (27:05):


Ashley (27:05):

... frustrated, emotional, whatever. Yeah, whatever. You feel angry, everyone's a little bit different. Yeah, definitely emotional. That's a good word. So I think first thing is always read it, understand it, give some thought to it, let yourself work through some feelings. Justin, I'll let you [inaudible 00:27:24]-

Justin (27:24):

I was going to say after that, before you respond or anything, it's trying to reach out to that customer and talk to them and try and figure out a resolution with the customer first, so that can be part of your response when you eventually do respond, is, "Hey, I talked to Mr. Smith," or whatever their name is, "and we talked about this and I apologized." You can include that in your conversation, but personally, I think definitely reaching out to the customer before doing any response and doing that as quickly as possible. Don't wait a week after they leave a negative review. As quickly as you can, reach out, fix the issue, and then you can go on and say, "Okay, how am I going to respond to this review in a tactful, smart way where it shows that we care and listen. We do mess up." Like you said, Ash, we're not perfect. Sometimes we mess up, but we're going to fix it.

Ashley (28:27):


Tim (28:28):

Yeah. So I think that's good advice. Reaching out to the customer. I think if you're a restaurant and you don't have the person's telephone number and all their information, but in home service, you've been to their home. They're unhappy with you. Reach back out and have a conversation, then respond to the review online. I think that's the right order. What are some other spots folks might want to consider putting reviews? Getting reviews?

Ashley (28:54): [inaudible 00:28:56]. Justin (28:57):

Well, the way our philosophy... Goes to the next section of a Google search results page, which is organic. We have a strategy where we use reviews to rank organically in Google, and that's content in each local town in that customer's service area to be able to rank. So we have a whole strategy around that where we use reviews and those go on the website. So it not only ranks you organically on search engines, but it's a conversion factor. When someone comes to your site, they can go and start to read these reviews on the site and see what customers have to say, and they're real and they're in that person's town. So it's like a twofold strategy using it on the website where conversion factor plus ranking in the organic portion of search results.

Ashley (29:52):

Yeah, I think other places, too, that you want to push people just really depends on what matters in your industry. Yelp comes up a lot. Yelp has special rules though about are you allowed to ask for a review? You're not really technically supposed to ask for a review, so the way you solicit reviews... They're stricter guidelines. Do people break those rules? Yes, I think all the time, but BBB we see come up sometimes. I don't hear a lot of people necessarily ask for reviews there, but I think people get reviews there because consumers will look at the BBB to understand someone's rating and then if they are... Usually it's either super happy or super unhappy may come back to leave a review, so you just more want to be aware of that. I don't know that you need to push people there.


Perhaps if you had someone come that was unhappy and you wanted to work to improve the ranking there, you may proactively push someone to a listing like that to say, "Hey, you were really happy with our service, would you mind leaving us a review on the BBB?" Or something like that, but I think the other sites, honestly, outside of the few that we... Facebook is another one people will push to, too. Sorry, I missed that one. That's another one that comes up across almost every vertical we work with, but outside of that, sometimes it's region specific. Certain parts of the country may lean towards using a certain site versus another, and certain industries may lean towards using certain sites versus others, I think is what we find.

Tim (31:17):

Yeah. All right. Any final thoughts on the importance of reviews?

Justin (31:25):

I think we covered it. Obviously, they're very important. They help you rank to show up when someone's searching for a business and then they help from a consumer research standpoint. They're going to go and look at these reviews to see what other people's experience are to decide if they're actually even going to pick you to call you and have you come out to their home. So the same BrightLocal study that was done here in this past year, it was a consumer study. They said 98% of people that filled it out read and write local reviews for local businesses, so that shows you virtually everybody is looking at reviews and out of that, 76% of people say they always or regularly read online reviews. So three quarters of the people are always going to be looking at this for your business, so that shows you how important it is.

Tim (32:28):

I have no idea what the other 25% are doing. I feel like they're throwing darts or something. I don't know.

Justin (32:33):

Yeah, I don't know.

Ashley (32:34):

If you think about it, a word of mouth recommendation is a... I don't want to say invisible review because I guess sometimes you hear about it, but it's also a review. It's just being done verbally instead of written, so I'm sure some people fall into that category where they ask neighbor, friend, family member, who'd you use? That is essentially a review of your business, just they didn't take the time to write it down or something like that. I think the only other thing I want to add is think about reputation. It's not separate from marketing. We do a lot of marketing for home service businesses and business owners tend to think of marketing more siloed than I think it actually is. (33:14):

"Oh, the marketing's not working. The marketing's broken," but the reality is so many things layer on top of marketing that can make it more or less successful. So just as an example, you could do the same campaign in Google Ads for a business with a 4.9 star rating, versus a business with a 2.9 star rating. It's very likely that the business that has a 4.9 star rating across all the sites, people may search for to understand what that business is about and what they stand for and how good a job they do for their consumers, they're going to beat out that 2.9 star rating business in all likelihood because the marketing's not separate from your reputation. It's part of your reputation, and I think it can elevate it or it can crush it.

Tim (33:57):


Ashley (33:58):

So if you're thinking about them separately or saying to your marketing company like, "I don't want to talk about reputation, it's irrelevant," I think you're making a really crucial mistake. It's not irrelevant. It's super relevant to your marketing. Your marketing is putting your brand out there and then you don't care about the reputation of your brand, you can't possibly be as successful as you ultimately want to be. So I think that's just really important to think about and make sure you don't think about your reputation completely siloed from marketing, among other things too. It's related to a lot of other things too, but yeah, I think that's something that owners sometimes forget about or they get really narrowly focused on one thing and don't think about how it impacts [inaudible 00:34:40]

Tim (34:40):

That's good advice. Okay, so first thing you need to do is go and Google the name of your business plus reviews and write down all of the sites that you have there, and those are the sites that we want to focus on consistency. Next thing you want to do is do a category search for your business. Find out who your top two or three competitors are for your initial goal, and then you're going to have to put in an infrastructure into your business to get the velocity of reviews that you can get that's the right amount for your business each week. That's really what our next podcast is about. Those tactics from a business owner who has a process that's been super successful will give you some... Or he'll give insight into how he got a large number of reviews with a very high rating consistently. Those tactics should help you get started in this process. So thanks for joining us today. We appreciate you carving out sometime for us and hopefully we'll see you soon.

Justin (35:48):


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