Call me a hopeless romantic, but I delight in extending the enjoyment of travel by writing reviews of the places I’ve been after returning home. It’s almost like typing a mini travelog, remembering the new experiences, for good or not-so-good, I had along the road.
I know that when I write a positive review of a local business or public amenity, it will give a lift to online reputation, rankings, and revenue. If I write a judicious critique of something that wasn’t so great, it can help business owners make improvements that should build up their metrics and success over time. And while pursuit of the great outdoors is often the search for silence, quiet is the one thing no local business owner should ever hope for in their online review profiles.
If you and your town depend on tourism for part of your economic health, today’s column is for you. I’ve got an original poll, stats, and tips to help your local business earn more reviews from travelers.
How many reviews do travelers write?
“Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
For a long time, I’ve wanted to know if Jane Austen and I were alone in loving to write about our travels through Derbyshire and, you know, Peanut, California. Does anyone else re-live the inns and parks and restaurants and shops and public places visited like we do, by jotting it all down, I wondered. So, I did what any lady of wit and intelligence would do and took a Twitter poll to ask how many local business reviews other people write as the result of a trip. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond so that we can all see the data:
It’s good to know that 37.5% of people write at least 1-3 reviews as a result of travel, and that 13.8% find even more pleasure in writing as many as 4-6 reviews, and those who find themselves equal to penning 7-10 reviews are praiseworthy local business supporters, indeed. All told, 52.6% of wayfarers write at least some reviews. All good news!
But on the other hand, the fact that nearly half (47.5%) of vacationers and travelers write zero reviews about their experiences on the road or abroad is ill news, because of the lost opportunity this represents for local brands. In fact, it’s not just ill news…it’s familiar ill news. As we shall see.
Why don’t travelers write reviews? Stats tell the story.
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Doctor Seuss
From a previous large-scale Moz survey, we know that only 14% of US adults never write reviews and that is quite a different figure than the 47.5% of travelers who never write reviews:
We also know that over half of US adults will either always or usually leave a review if asked to do so by the local business:
But, unfortunately, 39% of respondents simply haven’t been asked by anyone to review a local business in the past five years. That number deserves its own graphic:
So not asking customers, including travelers, to write reviews could be a significant reason why your business isn’t getting the maximum benefits it could be enjoying from earning more reviews. But do you know what the #1 reason is that visitors to your town aren’t reviewing you on the road or when they get back home again? Forgetfulness.
The dominant 38% of respondents simply don’t remember to write you a review when they have free time. You can easily imagine this scenario. The vacationer has returned from touring Derbyshire (or Peanut) and they are sunburned, and their offspring and dogs are covered in sand, and they have to unpack the traveling coach, and they discover the power was shut off in their absence and now their refrigerator smells otherworldly. It’s probably the last thing on their mind right now, or even this week, to sit down and review the B&Bs, shops, state parks, and carriage rental service they enjoyed on the trip.
In order to win reviews from passers-by, your best bet will be to capture their text number or email address at the time of service and remind them.
But when should you do that?
Thank you Near Media (and university researchers) for answering my question
It’s been a standard best practice recommendation for many years to send local business review requests shortly after the time of service. Common wisdom has asserted that you should collect a customer’s email address or text line when they make a purchase from you and then follow up with them quickly with an email or text mentioning how much you would appreciate their review. This seems logical, but recent research from the University of Nevada and Arizona State calls this whole timeline into question. As highlighted in a must-read article from Greg Sterling and Mike Blumenthal at Near Media, this survey found that:
In the first 5 days following a transaction, customers leave more reviews if you don’t ask for them!
However, once 9 days have elapsed since the transaction, customers start leaving fewer reviews unless your business asks for them.
The window of time that results in the most reviews earned via solicitation appears to be between 9-14 days post-transaction.
The university researchers speculated that review requests that appear too quickly can feel pushy or annoying, whereas those which are received later feel like friendly reminders.
These findings are both novel and surprising, and this new suggested review request timeline strikes me as ideally adapted for businesses that depend, in part, on tourism. Travel, however much it may be enjoyed, is generally a bit of an ordeal. There are well-known memes about needing time to rest from the rest you were supposed to have on vacation.
A 9-14 day window gives visitors a recovery period, by which point they will also have strayed into the forgetfulness territory identified in Moz’s own survey. Your request in this slot could be just what is needed to remind the customer and warmly invite them to relive the good memories they made on their trip by writing them down in review format.
Near Media urges you to experiment, of course, with the behaviors and preferences of your own customers. Their activity may or may not match the findings of the university research, but to get an accurate reading on this, please look again at this statistic:
The #2 contributor to lack of reviews (coming in right behind forgetfulness amid busy-ness) is that the process of leaving a review is confusing and difficult. In our survey, we found that the younger your customers are, the more help they may need in leaving a review. Be sure your email or text includes instructions and a link to your Google review profile. You can get that link by looking up your business in Google (while logged into your account that governs your Google Business Profile) and then clicking on the “Ask for reviews” tab in the New Merchant Experience interface, as shown here:
You’ll see this popup generating the link to review your business:
You can copy that link and paste it into your texts and emails. By making it easier for customers to review you, you’ll get a more accurate picture of what the ideal time window is for requests in the community you serve.
A station wagon load of other tips for earning vacationers’ reviews
In addition to experimenting with your request timeframes, give these tips a try to maximize the number of reviews your business is receiving:
Pour everything you’ve got into great customer service. 63% of review writers take the time to provide reviews to show appreciation for businesses that take good care of them.
Respond to all your reviews. The #3 reason people don’t write reviews (as shown above) is that they don’t believe the business will care enough to read their sentiment. Indicate that you care a ton by responding authentically to what other customers have written.
Use space in your physical premises to clearly message that you want reviews. Windows, interior and exterior walls, front desks, tables, night stands, shelves, fences, business vehicles and other surfaces can all be places where you can put up a large or small sign letting patrons know how much their review will be appreciated.
Use print to further your messaging. Menus, receipts, mailers, bags, and packaging can all include review requests.
Train staff to request reviews at their discretion. I don’t recommend making employees repeat the same message to every customer that comes through a checkout. It sounds robotic and inauthentic as the line moves along. But when valued staff are encouraged to see review opportunities in more personalized interactions, a direct request from a helpful team member to a happy customer could add to your review count over time.
Avoid negative reviews by ongoing management of your local business listings across the local search ecosystem. A vacation can really go sour when inaccurate information about locations, hours, and phone numbers is live on your profiles. Manually update all of your listings any time there is a change, or use a helpful service like Moz Local to update your listings across the major platforms in a few clicks.
Use social media for storytelling about the role reviews are playing in the success of your local business. Most reviewers are unlikely to realize on their own how profoundly aspects of reviews impact the rankings of small brands that serve local communities. By talking on social profiles about how earning new reviews might enable your business to afford some beautiful new chairs for the dining patio or switch to an electric vehicle for delivery, it makes customers’ actions a powerful part of your story. Just be careful that you are not incentivizing reviews. Don’t offer gifts, perks, or money in exchange for reviews.
Speaking of things not to do, never engage in any form of review spamming. 40% of customers have received requests to spam the web with ineligible reviews that violate platform guidelines and are illegal in many countries. Don’t lose customers’ precious trust and respect by engaging in review spam of any kind.
Don’t forget that Google is not the only review game in town. Diversify your review requests to ask customers to review you on their favorite platforms. Our survey showed that while 66% of US adults spend the most time writing reviews on Google, others spend lots of time on Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Nextdoor and a variety of additional platforms. Google has a habit of losing reviews periodically, and by having your customers’ sentiment visible in multiple online places, you’ll be sure that visitors can read about you around the web, even when your Google Business Profile is experiencing a bug.
Finally, if this article is motivating you, take some time this week to think about visitors to your town. Hospitality business owners spend part of every day strategizing around making guests welcome, and this kind of care can apply to almost any kind of business located in a town or city that hosts lots of travelers. What kind of special welcome are you offering newcomers to your community? What are you doing to make them love their time with you, want to come back to you if they are ever in your area again, tell their traveling friends and family about you, and take the time to review your business?
Maybe you offer a vacationer’s special. Maybe you have a pretty sign in your window warmly welcoming tourists and asking them to stop in to ask your staff about fun things happening in the community. Maybe it’s your shop with the bench outside for footsore walkers around your downtown, or your porch that has the dog watering station for people vacationing with their pets.
In a popular place near me, a community has signs posted asking visitors to tune their car radios to a particular station for information about the area. That’s an idea your town could take and run with, and I know listening to that station makes me have a special feeling of being considered and included in local life. Little things mean a lot.
One of the nicest aspects of local business reviews is that they are a lengthy novel rather than a short story. Whether you are operating in Derbyshire or Peanut, what you seek is a modest and ever-running stream of fresh reviews across time. Time to experiment, to try new things, to adjust your strategy on the basis of new data like we’ve seen today. 96% of US adults read reviews and 86% write them. It’s a form of content people can really enjoy under the right circumstances. With a little well-timed encouragement, more of your traveling customers will put their creative writing skills to work for your business, gifting you with better local search rankings, a persuasive reputation, and a lucrative upward trend in transactions.
Eager for more local business review tips? It is a truth universally acknowledged that Moz’s review survey is worth reading!