Over the past couple of years, many of our articles for Illuminate have focused on the importance of developing an effective marketing strategy.
During 2020, we want to bring you more practical hints and tips, which you can implement immediately and will have a direct impact on your marketing.
We’re going to start by looking at Google reviews.
What are Google reviews?
Simply put, they are the reviews that someone leaves for your business on your Google My Business profile.
For the uninitiated, that’s the information which appears on the top right of the results page when someone searches for your business (otherwise known as a ‘brand’ search).
Here’s an example of a search for ‘The Yardstick Agency’. On the top right-hand corner of the search results, you can see our Google My Business listing. You can also clearly see our 44 five-star reviews.
The reviews also appear in Google Places; the listings which are shown when someone searches for a product or service near to them. For example, 'financial adviser Birmingham' or 'financial planner near me'.
Why are Google reviews important?
Google sits between someone becoming aware of your brand (perhaps because they have been referred to you or have seen your name elsewhere) and them taking action.
To put it another way, before getting in touch with you, many people will Google your business to find out more about you.
Some may want to better understand whether you're the right financial planner to help deal with their ‘trigger’; the problem they need to solve or aspiration they want to achieve.
Others will be carrying out deeper due diligence, for example, they might want to understand what you charge or whether you are independent.
Finally, some will simply want practical information such as your contact information, address or details about how to find you.
Whatever their reason for googling you or your business, what people see online in the search results and your website will influence what they do next:
- Impress them and they are more likely to get in touch
- Disappoint them and they will continue their search elsewhere
It’s important to remember two things about the online world:
1) Your potential clients meet you online before you meet them
2) This is where competition is at its hottest. A potential client might have been passed a couple of planners' details and are deciding who to get in touch with. What they see online will influence their next steps.
That means for brand searches you need to do two things:
1) Dominate the search results
Google reviews help achieve both these aims.
Other reasons why Google reviews are important
In addition to impressing prospects online, there are several other reasons why Google reviews are important:
1) Improving your search engine optimisation (SEO)
Google reviews are a factor in where your website ranks for certain search terms.
Research from SEO specialist Moz shows that approximately 9 per cent of Google’s search algorithm is dictated by Google reviews. That’s hardly surprising, as Google wants the search results to be as relevant and useful as possible.
What better way to understand the quality of a business than its online reviews?
2) Improving your click-through rate
Your most valuable website traffic comes from Google.
That’s because these are people who have been referred to you, have found your brand elsewhere or have searched for a financial planner. Either way, they have an immediate need, and that makes them hugely valuable.
When someone searches for a financial planner, appearing in the search results is only half the job.
You need people to click through to your website, and businesses with higher numbers of Google reviews will experience a higher click-through rate.
Very few of your peers and competitors take Google reviews seriously. If you do, you’ll stand out when people search for a financial planner.
3) Puts you ahead of the game
Either because your usually high standards have temporarily slipped, or it’s fake, you might get the very occasional poor review.
If it’s the first reason, having built up a bank of positive reviews shows that this was an isolated incident and your service levels are usually far higher.
If it’s a fake review, again your existing reviews will demonstrate that your service levels are high until you manage to get it removed.
Five simple next steps
We’ve been talking about the importance of Google reviews for a while now.
However, there are still relatively few financial planning firms taking them seriously. We have several clients who have 20 or 30 reviews, but such firms are remarkably rare.
Run a search for financial planners in your town or city and you'll see what we mean.
That means it’s a great opportunity for those who embrace Google reviews. If you’re motivated to build more reviews, here are five simple steps you can take immediately.
1) Claim your listing
If you’ve not already done so you need to claim your Google My Business listing, which you can do by clicking here.
2) Complete the new listing, or update your existing listing
Your profile needs carefully completing with basic information, descriptive text and images. Keep an eye on your profile too; the information Google asks you to provide changes on a fairly regular basis.
It’s also worth adding your blogs to your Google My Business listing. It’ll show both Google and potential clients that you keep the listing up to date, and might drive some additional traffic to your website.
3) Build a process for requesting reviews
The power of your listing is only truly unleashed when reviews are added. Experience tells us if you don’t have a process in place it just won’t happen.
So, we recommend that planners ask each client after their periodic review meeting if they would be happy to leave an online review.
Assuming the answer is positive, this verbal request should be followed up by email, ideally sent from someone in the planner’s support team. If you’re a sole planner business with no one else available, then send it yourself.
Sending the request by email reminds the client what they have verbally agreed to do. It also means the request must be actioned or deleted; not something your client is likely to want to do.
This email request should be built into your standard post-review follow-up process. The only thing the email should be about is the review, adding a request at the end of a lengthy email about something else just won’t work.
Remember too, it isn’t just clients who can leave you a review. Anyone who has had an interaction with your business can leave a review. That might include professional introducers, suppliers or representatives from product providers.
4) Respond to reviews
Every time a review is received you should respond to it.
If it’s a positive review, thank the reviewer. It’s also the perfect time to mention referrals and that if they are happy, you welcome being passed on to their friends, family and work colleagues.
If it’s a negative review, you should respond to that too. But that takes a little more careful thought. We’ll address this in next month’s article.
5) Share and learn
All positive reviews should be shared with your team and other clients.
Your team, because they will undoubtedly have played a part in delivering the great service which led to the positive review.
Your clients, because you want them to know other people are as happy as they are with your service and it demonstrates you are someone they can safely refer others to.
Overall, Google reviews are free, build trust, impress potential clients and will improve your SEO.
Plus, they can be collected easily by putting a simple, repeatable process in place.
What’s not to love?
To make your life easier we’ve created a free template which explains the different platforms you can use to collect online reviews and explains the steps you need to take to build a process.
You can find it by clicking here.