Let’s face it - unless you’re really passionate about a product, service, or restaurant, we’re all more likely to leave a review after a bad experience, in the heat of the moment when you want to “stick it” to the business.
While we’re talking about negative reviews: a business being closed during the COVID-19 outbreak in order to keep their employees safe is not justification to try to leave them a 1 star review. This is one of the reasons the big players in local SEO, namely Google My Business and Yelp, have updated how they publish reviews for the immediate future. In fact, while Google My Business will slowly start rolling out reviews and businesses can respond to reviews again, it’s not immediately clear what will happen to any reviews that were left during the downtime.
There are plenty of posts on social media going around encouraging us to support our local shops, restaurants, and other businesses once they’re all able to reopen - and you should! But have you ever thought about using your powers to leave reviews online for good? We have the opportunity to do something that will help improve your favorite business’ rankings on search - leave them a positive review on Google, Yelp, and/or Facebook, to name a few good sites. Give your go-to local coffee shop, your favorite Thai takeout spot, and the cobbler who fixed your favorite pair of boots the kudos they deserve!
Why are online reviews important to local businesses? Review count and average review rating are two of the many factors that influence how a business might rank in local search results, like “coffee shops near me.” The more 4 and 5 star reviews a business has, the more likely they might get an extra boost in those local three pack or Google Maps results. However, many small business owners are busy running their businesses, and with Google and Yelp’s terms of service making it more challenging to try to ask for reviews, it’s up to consumers to initiate that review. Plus, it’s completely free to do, so anyone who might find themselves in hard times coming out of this pandemic and unable to financially support a local business can at least do this.
Remember to share some love the next time you’re scrolling through Facebook or searching for your favorite restaurant’s menu to place a carryout order, but be sure to keep two rules in mind. First, leave reviews only for businesses where you have actually been a customer. Second, do not leave a review if you’re an employee of a business. Both cases are against the terms of service for many review sites, so it’s better to avoid leaving a review that might end up harming the business by getting caught by Google or Yelp.