How to automate google reviews – the free and easy setup guide

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Introduction to automating Google Reviews

If you’re here, you know that Google Reviews are essential for growing your business. This is often called “improving your online reputation / social proofing”. You will also know that asking for reviews is time-consuming and can detract from running your business. So instead of chasing reviews, what can you do? The answer is automation – let’s get started.

Before we jump into “how”, I’m going to walk you through the background of Google review automation – If you’re short of time, click here to jump to Software designed for Google review automation

What is an automated google review request system?

An automated Google review request system is typically online software.

The system requests customers to leave a review on your Google Business listing. The software sends the requests by email or text and includes a direct link to the business’s Google review page. The goal is to improve your online reputation, search ranking, and sales!

Most systems can also “chase” your customers if they miss the first request.

Why do you need to automate your Google review collection?

In short – it’s about saving time and simplifying business processes.

When running a business, the list of jobs to do is never-ending. So sending out customer review requests can fall into the “yeah, I should be doing that” category. If you could automate the process of asking for reviews, it would save you time. We all know that good reviews boost your online reputation and social proofing.

Automated review collection allows business owners to analyze customer feedback over time. Improving your business by reviewing historical feedback allows you to make informed decisions. E.g. If you run a promotion, you can see how that affects your customer’s perception of your business.

What are the negatives of automating your Google review collection?

There are several potential negatives to automating the collection of Google reviews:

  1. An increase in reviews may result in more work. Suppose a customer vents online and gives you a bad review. In that case, you will need to plan a response – which I assure you will take time to ensure your answer is not emotional.  We have a great article on responding to negative reviews to get a positive outcome.
  2. Following Google’s policies is a must. Failure to follow the guidelines can result in removing some or all reviews. In severe cases, they can suspend your business listing.
  3. Dependence on technology. Review automation is excellent until it stops working. You’ll stop getting reviews if something breaks and you don’t notice. You will see that you are receiving fewer Google alerts about new reviews.
  4. Decreased customer engagement. Customers like to feel valued. You’ll lose that human touch by automating the review collection process. We have found that personalised review requests have a higher conversion rate. If your business values customer engagement, canned requests may not suit you. For example, “Hi Bob, great seeing you today. Please let me know if there are any issues with the grass mower 2000. It would be awesome if you could leave a review – here is the Google review link “<link here>”. This is more engaging, personal, and likely to gain a positive review.

Software designed for Google review automation

Software designed for review automation

5 of the best google review automation software packages

Many software products on the market aim to save time requesting reviews. Almost all the systems have a charge. Let’s have a review of the top 5

1. Podium

Podium is a good, if expensive, solution. At $249 per month (at the time of writing), Podium can be out of the reach of many smaller businesses. Podiums speciality is text messaging, so your customers can leave you reviews in 20 seconds with two clicks.

Features include:

  • Automation of review invites
  • The ability to respond to reviews
  • Track trends

and more, all from one easy-to-use platform.

2. Birddeye

Birdeye is more than a review automation solution – it is a Customer Experience Platform. Customer web chat, messaging, mass text, appointments, payments, surveys, referrals, etc. Unfortunately, they have an annoying thing on their website where you can not see the price. You must surrender your email address to get the price!

3. NiceJob

Nice job is a smaller package than the others listed above, but it does its job well. Their messaging on the website talks about getting 4x more reviews for your business. The lowest price you can pay – including automation- is $75 per month (this is one of the cheapest of the range we looked at). Remember that the default settings can make customers feel “pestered,”. Contact their customer success team, who help get the system as you need it.

4. starts at $110 per month, so more than an excellent job. It does support multiple languages and highlights what it calls a “review funnel”— a landing page designed to remove friction from writing reviews about your client’s business. Their portal to respond to reviews is well-designed. They support over 100 significant and industry-specific review sites (e.g. Salon review sites, etc.)

5. Leave.Review

Leave.Review has fewer features than the other Google review automation packages. But, what it lacks in features, it makes up for in performance. It has one ultimate core aim – getting your business more reviews – in the simplest way possible. You’ll find that you will get started much faster with Leave.Review than other software (in our tests). Leave.Review has a free plan – try it here

High-level steps that are required to set up review automation software

Whichever software package you put in place, the setup process follows the same flow. Some software providers may support you as part of their onboarding approach.

  1. Choose a review management software based on your long-term marketing goals. Changing systems in the future can take more effort than you might think. To see a more comprehensive list of software, head over to Capterra.
  2. Connect the tool to your Google Business account (or paste in your review link). Most tools will connect to your Google Business account, automating this process. Other systems rely on you pasting the review link.
  3. Set up review request triggers. Many review automation tools allow you to set up triggers or schedules. Reviews are sent after an event, such as making a sale or getting added to a mailing list.
  4. Customise the review request email. Most review automation tools allow you to customise the email sent to customers. For example, you can change the subject line, message body, and sender email address. Consistent branding/messaging is essential in all marketing. ie making the email they receive the same as your company’s branding. Lack of consistency could result in your email being ignored (or, worse, marked as spam). Run an e-commerce store? Some tools allow you to include details about the product purchased—for example, product images in the email body and product name(s) in the subject line.
  5. Test and track the results: Once you’ve set up your review request automation, testing and watching the results is essential. You will see how many customers respond to your requests, and you can make any necessary adjustments to improve the success rate. The simplest way to do this is by asking, “Am I getting more reviews on the Google Business platform?”. The default setting on Google is to send the business owner an email when a review is received. (The email notification also gives you a quick link for you to respond)
  6. Respond to reviews: I know we touched on it above, but some Google review automation tools also allow you to respond. Maintaining a positive reputation and relationship with your customers is essential. However, we would not recommend automating the response. It lacks sincerity, and it is hard to make a canned reaction look like it came from a natural person.

It’s important to remember that automation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You need to test and monitor the results and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Your business review websites
Example automated review solution
Google reviews logo

Googles own solution – Collect reviews via Google Customer Reviews

Did you know that Google has a solution designed for E-commerce sites? It’s available from the Google Merchant Center. This section will explain in more detail how to get set up. Let’s start with what the result looks like. You can read more about the Google Customer Reviews experience here

Turning on Google customer reviews. This will allow you to boost your Google Seller rating. Also available is a badge with real-time scoring. You add this badge to your website. Advertising your google seller rating is another form of social proofing.

An example of the seller rating graphic is on the left.

What do Google’s automated customer reviews look like to your customers?

The screenshot below was taken from an actual review request sent to me a couple of days after I purchased a new coffee machine.

Google Customer Reviews example email
Google automated review email request

When you click on one of the stars, your customers will be redirected to a webpage (hosted by Google). Here they can write about their experience (with the star you selected pre-filled on the page)

Google Customer Reviews example landing page
Google review landing page

When your customer has completed the review submission, the thank you page looks like this:

Google Customer Reviews Thank you page
Google Customer Reviews Thank you page

How do you turn on Google E-Commerce Automated review collection?

Unfortunately, you will need a developer to install the automated E-commerce script provided by Google. A non-technical person CAN get the code to send to a developer, though – watch this video to get your Google Merchant review collection code:

Get the Google Reviews code for your e-commerce store

So this is all great, but what if you don’t own an e-commerce store, e.g. a Gym or Cafe? Fear not; there are different solutions – but they will need an email address or phone number.

Automating Google review requests via E-mail.

For all automation, you will need some software, and one of the cheapest ways is to use email marketing software to automate google review requests via email.

The video below demonstrates implementing a review request via Mailchimps automation. It works by sending an email AFTER an email address is added to an audience list. Mailchimp has many ways to add email addresses to the audience list, such as:

  • Spreadsheet uploads
  • manual typing
  • web forms

We recommend getting an iPad or similar and setting it up in kiosk mode. This is where a customer can add their contact details into a form on the iPad at your location. Mailchimp provides sign-up forms as standard, so set-up is easy.

1. Log in to MailChimp and look at the left menu for Automation / Overview

Google review automation - Mailchimp setup

2. Then click started to choose the audience. Every time a new email address is added to this list, the automation is triggered

Google review automation - Set your audience / recipient list

3. Click on the Create an email workflow item – this will open the email configuration page

Google review automation - Create your first email

4. When you click on “Create an email” the configuration block appears for you to customise the review request email

Google review automation - Subject line

5. When you click save, you will be presented with how to design the email. Choose the new builder option:

Google review automation - Customise email content

6. Add your text and images to reflect your branding. It’s a great idea to try and make the experience as continuous as their previous engagement with your business. There will always be a call to action in the email. You need to get your Google review link – use this tool to find it.

Google review automation - Set your Google review link

7. Change the automation delay setting from 1 week

Google review automation - Default delay

8. The shortest option available is 1 hour

Google review automation - Recommended delay before sending

9. Finally, test the email to ensure it looks good and, most importantly, that the Google review request link works

Google review automation - Send test email

The following video demonstrates the whole process in 2 minutes 38 seconds!

Set up Mailchimp to automate sending reviews to your customers

It’s a pity that Mailchimp does not provide a free, basic plan to allow you to automate review requests. Their cheapest plan, the “Essential plan”, costs $13 per month (at the time of writing). This is cheaper than most of the dedicated automation tools.

Note: Be sure to follow the laws and regulations related to email marketing in your region. You don’t want your emails to hit the spam folder or, even worse, get legal action!

Automating request reviews by text message

Sending review requests by phone or text (SMS) has a higher response rate than emails. Set up is a lot thicker, though. The best solution we found was to use Zapier and Twilio. On the zapier website, there are dozens of integrations with market-leading products. The most straightforward approach was using Google Sheets integration.

This solution is clunky, though. You hook up Google Sheets to the Zapier integration. A trigger to send an SMS review request happens on each new row in the spreadsheet.

Our recommendation is not to use zapier but to use a dedicated review collection service. It’s a lot simpler, easier to customise and will have an audit on the success.

Automating responses to Google reviews – the pros and cons

Let’s face it nobody appreciates a canned thank-you response. Typically they lack sincerity. But let’s dive into this topic more closely and see if we can find any nuggets of gold or if it is just a set of robot-powered lip service.

The benefits of automating responses to google reviews

Fast and 100% response rate. Google combines dozens of factors in defining your search engine position. The speed at which you respond to questions and reviews is essential. If you have a 100% response rate to all reviews, you add another reason for Google to rank you higher.

We have a good article on how google defines relevancy in search results. If you had a solution that could ping a response back to a review immediately for ALL reviews within minutes, you might have a competitive edge. It’ll also save you heaps of your precious time. We mentioned earlier that responding to reviews takes much longer than you’d think.

The final benefit of automating google responses is scalability. It’s a set-and-forget operation that will support your business no matter how large it grows.

The negatives of automating responses to Google reviews

Lack of personalisation. Using the exact same/canned response to all Google reviews lacks warmth. I.e. if you look down at a set of reviews and the responses are all 100% the same, it does not look impressive.

Loss of the ability to impress. It’s common for reviews to mention the staff who helped. So including the individual in the response shows that you’re paying attention.

Correcting actions: Sometimes, a review may knock off 1 star, and they’ll tell you why you didn’t get five stars. Your response can deal with the issue. It highlights to review readers that you care about feedback and are happy to act on it.

It’s a sales opportunity. People reading your reviews is when you have their full attention. They’re unlikely to have visited your website before reading your reviews. Your detailed responses is your opportunity to educate and sell!

In Summary

So it is all possible.

  • If you have a developer and an eCommerce store, then the Google Merchant Approach is the best way. It’s designed for this task and does it well.
  • Use a 3rd party software like Broadly, Get More Reviews or Some may incur a cost, but they’re dedicated to the problem you’re trying to resolve. Using software for review automation will save you time and boost your reviews.
  • Build your solution with Mailchimp or Zapier.

Appendix / More review collection tips

Ways to Increase Your Google Reviews

Show your customers that you value their opinions.

When requesting a Google review, express gratitude for their patronage and tell them you appreciate their input. Pharasing your request carefully could encourage them to take action.

Ask at the appropriate time.

The phrase striking while the irons are hot has never been more apt when asking for reviews. In short, you’re more likely to get a review if you ask immediately after product or service delivery.

The longer the gap between the delivery of the product or service and the review request, the less chance you’ll get a review.

Most reviewers are motivated to write reviews soon after their experience. So doing an end-of-month run of bulk review requests will work, but it will not be as successful as asking for a review within hours.

Cut barriers and technical issues.

The best advice here is to give customers the link that takes them straight to the review writing page. In addition, it’s sometimes a good idea to watch customers as they try to submit reviews to ensure that the process is seamless.

Ask, then ask again.

Don’t give up if customers do not respond to your initial request. Instead, follow up with them and make requests via various channels such as email, social media, in-person or SMS.

Automate your requests.

Due to a lack of processes, don’t miss out on valuable Google reviews. Instead, use a service (or follow this guide) to find ways that will request reviews when appropriate.

Don’t be afraid of negative reviews.

Prepare to respond to unfavourable reviews, but don’t allow fear to deter you from asking for reviews. In the eyes of a prospective customer, your reaction to a negative review can be as important as a positive one.

More about Leave.Review

Additional features:

An upsell / promotion opportunity for your customers after they have left a review.- Allowing you to make more sales; Ability to generate a leave-a-review flyer (for free)

As one of the few systems to offer a free plan that delivers real, measurable business value, it’s a no-brainer to give it a go. To start, follow this link for Within minutes you’ll have claimed your free custom URL.

Automate Google reviews with Leave.Review

To learn how Google Review automation works with Leave.Review, please watch the following video.