Google Reviews – Business Owners May Now Respond Directly

Reviews have long been a sore spot between SMBs and Google. But Google Places has added a new feature that will go part of the way in providing SMBS salve for some of their “review wounds”. Google is now allowing business owners to respond directly to reviews.

Starting today, if you’re a verified Google Places business owner, you can publicly respond to reviews written by Google Maps users on the Place Page for your business. Engaging with the people who have shared their thoughts about your business is a great way to get to know your customers and find out more. Both positive and negative feedback can be good for your business and help it grow (even though it’s sometimes hard to hear). By responding, you can build stronger relationships with existing and prospective customers. For example, a thoughtful response acknowledging a problem and offering a solution can often turn a customer who had an initially negative experience into a raving supporter. A simple thank you or a personal message can further reinforce a positive experience. Ultimately, business owner responses give you the opportunity to learn what you do well, what you can do better, and show your customers that you’re listening.

Before writing your first response, we recommend reading our handy tips on how to respond to reviewers. Then take a stab at responding by following these instructions. If you have not yet verified ownership for your business on Google, please visit Google Places to claim your listing.

If the business listing is claimed and you are logged in as the same user that claimed the listing you are now presented with an option to respond directly to users reviews.

(click to view larger)

Hopefully this is a first step towards providing business owners both more understanding of how reviews work as well as tool for dealing with them in a positive way. It is a feature that will be widely accepted by business owners and moves Google’s Places one step closer to the ideal of a SMB reputation management environment.

Responding to reviews is a double edge sword and can, if not thoroughly thought out, cause many more problems than it solves. A well planned approach to responding to reviews is absolutely critical.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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22 thoughts on “Google Reviews – Business Owners May Now Respond Directly”

  1. I’m excited to see this guys and think its a great tool. I’ve seen this on other local listing/map websites before and believe its a great way to respond to reviews.

  2. Mike: For every dashboard acct I review the percentage of visitors who go to the places page is minimal compared to clicks to the website and clicks for driving directions. Very minimal.

    OTOH; I do see a slight pick up on traffic to sites from the places page and from mobile places page….but it is still minimal. IMHO reviews on Yelp and a variety of other places are dramatically more visible…at least for the current time period.

    Still the opportunity to respond to a review is a plus. Of interest in the past on al least one account we wrote a response and it came through a different account than that which we claimed the listing. It shows.

    Go figure. :D

  3. Thanks for the heads up Mike. I like this addition. Other sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp utilize this functionality and I think it helps a business reach out to its guests/customers, showing a more human side.

    Although, business owners do need to be careful they don’t “hurt” themselves by responding to a negative comment in an inappropriate way.

  4. @Reza

    It is a very nice feature and cleanly implemented. I too like it.

    @Dave
    Your are right that visitation to actually read the reviews is quite low for most businesses. It is probably higher in some businesses than others though and those are the ones that would benefit most from review responses. That being said it does make the SMB feel better that he/she can at least do something…

    @John
    It could become the main social media for many businesses. Certainly Google’s move will raise the visibility of reviews and businesses will need to learn some new skills to succeed.

  5. A bit disappointed the responses can’t be made to reviews pulled from third party sites. Many other sites (CitySearch, Yelp, Yahoo Local) permit owner responses, but those aren’t displayed on Place Pages so issues will appear unaddressed.

    Still, very good news.

    I echo the advice to use caution when responding to negative comments.

  6. I think this is just one more feature that Google is using to try to get biz owners to claim and verify their listings. However, business owners will now expect Google to enforce their own review guidelines and I’m not sure Google has thought about the support staff needed to manage a lot of the problems that will inevitably pop up.

  7. This is good news and seems to be another small sign that Google is acknowledging some of the needs of SMBs. I agree with the comment that Yelp, Citysearch etc get more reviews than Place Pages, but I actually think Google’s recent elevation of the Place Page name and link will make them more widely used – and the reviews more prominent. So this new reviews-response feature is timely.

    Thanks for the update, Mike!

  8. @Cathy

    I agree that it would be nice to able to have responses to ALL reviews in one place but Google doesn’t really control the existence of the third party review and I am sure that the review sites would look askance at a the practice.

    @Mary
    I agree that it is an attempt by Google to increase participation. And you are right that it might just cause additional anger about how they handle reviews (or rather don’t handle them)…it will be interesting to see if they come up with a more proactive approach.

    @Cindy

    My sense is that it will, because of the visibility of the 7-pack, take on a huge significance to the business that pays attention and will take on a certain life of its own due to its visibility.

  9. Great feature!
    The only thing left now is a Google e-mail alert for having a new review in the listing…

  10. AHHHHHH!!!!

    AHHHHH!!!!!

    Sorry for screaming on your blog, Mike, but this is seriously amazing news! Wait, I feel another scream coming on:

    AHHHHH!!!!

    Only 39 tweets on this post? There should be thousands, from the thousands of business owners who have just been handed the keys and can now drive the car that is their online reputation in the Google universe. Woo hoo! This is just fantastic. I have written and written about this issue, urging Google to adopt this friendlier stance towards business owners and I am just tickled to see this finally happen.

    YAHHHH!

  11. @Abby

    That feature would be nice but you can get pretty close with either the Google alerts or you could set up Google reader to scan your reviews page.

    @Brian

    I am sure that this new process will not be painless that’s for sure. And while this is a positive step in the right direction there still a number of features that Google could/should implement to make the review situation better (come back tomorrow).

    @Miriam
    Local and I are like Rodney Dangerfield….we don’t get any respect :).

    What are you talking about? I am pretty happy with 39 :)

    It will be a brave new world that’s for sure. Now we are going to have to start collecting bizarre and incredible SMB responses. :)

  12. Google seems to limit the number of characters in a Response to a Review but does not keep track of the character numbers visibily. You seem to get a ‘server error, try again later’ instead of being cued that the response is too long. This leads to a lot of trial and error and wasted time…..thanks Google…..you can do a lot better than that.

  13. @Allen

    Subtle interface design is not Google Places/Maps strong point particularly when you get deep into the product. I determined that the message occurs if you enter one more character than 4094…

  14. Ok what happened to my google review owner response?

    This customer came in and had a bad experience and I did what i thought was a level headed description of the incidents. It was written very professional.

    My response was only up for 6 weeks then it vanished. As a business owner one has to be on top of these google opinions thus there is no real reflection of actual customers on these anyway.

    But to have the rebuttal removed is just rude of them. What am i to do? Where do they go? Why would there ever even be an option for this.

  15. @Samspence
    An owner response is likely to disappear IF there are more than one email that has claimed the listing. The other accoount gains prominence in Google’s eyes and the lesser account’s response then disappears.

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