In my quest to support small businesses, I like to spread the word about the great experiences I have had along the way.

Whether it’s a restaurant or a veterinarian, or maybe even a shoe repair shop, they can all benefit from Google reviews.

I recently discussed this with a group of small business owners and learned that there are some misconceptions about Google reviews (no, you don’t have to have a website); and confusion as to how to get them (just ask!); or, What happens if I get a bad review? (address it publicly in Google, then deal with it offline). So, I’ve gathered lots of great information to share with you so you can take advantage of Google reviews for your small business.

First, here are some basics:

  • You’ll need to have a Google My Business account. Don’t have one yet? Click here for instructions to set one up. It’s free and easy.
  • Also, your customers will have to have a Google account of some kind to leave a review – a Gmail account for a consumer is all that’s needed. For another business, they probably have their own Google accounts already. Easy peasy.
  • Check out this Google link showing how easy it is to create a link you can send to your customers and make it easy for them to give you a review. The link you get will likely contain a bazillion meaningless characters. Consider using a free service such as Bitly to create a custom link with your company name in it. This will allow you to track it too.

The best part? Reviews are a FREE marketing tool.

Here are 7 Ways Google Reviews Can Benefit Your Small Business:

  1. Acts as a website if you need it to. Not every small business even needs a full-blown website. A local shoe repair shop can get by very nicely with a well-managed Google My Business account and great reviews.
  2. For brand new businesses, in particular, they help to establish credibility.
  3. Positive reviews drive consumers to action. In a recent study, Google found that 72% of consumers depended on reviews to decide whether or not to trust a business.
  4. Reviews are a content tool that continues to feed your website’s SEO.
  5. Interacting with your customers publicly shows you’re on top of your stuff. Because Google notifies you each time a review is published, you can quickly log in and say Thank you for a great review. If you get a negative review, address it with an acknowledgment or (apology if needed), then say you’ll contact them offline to discuss a way to make good.
  6. Good reviews can substantially increase your website traffic.
  7. There’s more than just Google. If appropriate for your business you can also use general review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Yahoo Local. There’s an industry-specific review site for just about every business (Doctors.com, Zillow.com, etc.) so pick a few and use them too.

Don’t be shy! Ask for reviews…you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effective it is.

Google reviews are a powerful tool to have in your small business marketing arsenal.