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Local Business Reviews: How to Get the Ones That Matter

Local reviews are essential for building customer trust and improving local SEO. 87% of customers read reviews for local businesses and trust them as much as a personal recommendation from a family or friend. If you’re not present on local business listings and actively collecting reviews, you’re missing out on a chance to:

  • Convert prospects who are close to making a purchase decision.
  • Improve your local SEO and visibility, especially on Google.
  • Improve your online reputation, making leads more likely to choose you over a competitor.

This article will teach you how to get more reviews for your local business, share the best platforms to collect them, and explain how these reviews appear in local search results. But first…

How NOT to Get Local Business Reviews

I feel it’s important to stress a few strategies you should never use if you want to protect your online reputation. As an underlying principle, make sure you always read each platform’s guidelines.

  1. Fake reviews. You might be tempted to buy some quick reviews, especially when you’re just starting out and competing against businesses with 1,000+ reviews. Don’t. All local review platforms have very strict rules regarding fake engagement. Reviews should represent a genuine experience with your business.
  2. Review gating refers to gauging a customer’s satisfaction with a service before requesting a review before sharing a link. Don’t condition reviews based on the likelihood of receiving a positive one.
  3. Incentivizing reviews. Offering gifts, money, discounts, or a chance to win prizes in exchange for a positive review is prohibited by all local review platforms. It can lead to the complete removal of your business from local listings.
  4. Review solicitation refers to the act of asking customers to leave a review. Platforms like Yelp do not allow review solicitation of any kind. Rules vary by platform. For example, Google encourages businesses to request reviews, as long as it is not incentivized or mass review solicitation.
  5. Using review kiosks. Some businesses set up tablets or kiosks for review collection. Too many reviews coming from the same device can create complications. Also, to leave Google reviews, customers must log in to their Gmail account, creating privacy concerns. Customers should do it from their own devices.

What Are The Top Places Where Consumers Read Reviews?

Unsurprisingly, Google is the most popular platform for consumers to evaluate local businesses online. Its popularity has increased significantly, from 63% in 2020 to 81% in 2024.

Yelp and Facebook come in second with 45% and 44% usage, respectively. While this may seem like a far cry from Google’s usage stats, both platforms see incredible traffic.

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Tripadvisor is another popular review site, but it’s focused on travel. Together with Google, Yelp, and Facebook, these four platforms make up 88% of all online reviews.

Two other local review platforms worth mentioning, mostly due to their credibility or syndication capabilities, are Better Business Bureau (BBB) with 20% usage and Trustpilot with 10% usage.

Best Review Sites For Local Businesses

With the numbers out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the six most popular review sites for local businesses. I’ll also share my thoughts on them along with screenshots of how real businesses look on them. This list is a great starting point, but it’s up to you to decide which sites are best suited for your specific industry or location.

1. Google Business Profile (GBP)

  • Impact: Very high (crucial for local SEO as reviews here directly affect your local Google search ranking)
  • Difficulty: Medium

Since most searches start on Google, and businesses with great local reviews are displayed front and center everywhere within the Google ecosystem, I strongly advise you to optimize your profile on this platform.

As you can see from the screenshot below, Google’s local pack will display the three best businesses for every location-based search.

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Your reviews will be easily accessible in the Google Maps app whenever users browse your business. The most common phrases from your online reviews are also highlighted within your profile:

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Another great thing about Google is the fact that it provides easy tools to get more reviews and manage your online presence. You can update your hours or services, add contact information, link your website, add services, and more.

Visibility on Google local searches is determined with the help of advanced algorithms (see the graph below) and GBP ranking factors. I’ll organize them into three major categories for simplicity:

  • Relevance: how relevant your Google Business Profile matches the searcher’s query.
  • Prominence: how important Google perceives your business to be for the searcher.
  • Distance: how close your business is to the searcher’s location.

To build up your prominence, you need relevant reviews. Review signals are also the third most powerful ranking factor in the local pack/finder.

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2. Facebook

  • Impact: Low (reviews on Facebook are visible to friends, increasing the reach and impact of word-of-mouth)
  • Difficulty: Low

Facebook works differently from Google in that users are not asked to rate a business on a scale from 1 to 5 but rather to “recommend” it. The page’s aggregated “5-star” rating is calculated based on these recommendations.

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In 2016, I would have probably recommended Facebook for organic review collection. But in recent years, the recommendations section of the platform has become a cesspool for shady investors and crypto bros spamming their promo messages. Organic visibility for businesses has also plummeted, and it feels that recommendations just don’t hold as much weight as they used to.

That doesn’t mean you should completely disregard Facebook. There are still great ways to build consumer trust through Meta’s ecosystem. You can collaborate with micro-influencers or push syndicated reviews through paid ads on Facebook. It’s also worth noting that Google and Bing occasionally display Facebook recommendations in local search results.

3. Yelp

  • Impact: Very high (Yelp focuses on real, long-form reviews and has been around since 2004)
  • Difficulty: High
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Yelp is a great platform for small businesses in the home, local services, hospitality, and shopping industries. It’s considered so trustworthy that Yahoo and Bing have integrated their reviews into their local organic search results.

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The most important thing business owners need to know about Yelp is that it strictly prohibits businesses from requesting reviews. Yelp believes reviews should represent customers’ genuine and unbiased opinions.

So, how exactly are you supposed to cement your presence on this platform? Here are a few Yelp-specific strategies to help you safely get reviews:

  • Fill your business page with as much information as possible.
  • Run Yelp ads and share updates from your business.
  • Place a Yelp badge on your site or in your store to let people know they can find you there.
  • Take advantage of the Yelp check-in offers.
  • Respond to EVERY review.

4. Trustpilot

  • Impact: High (especially when its review-sharing capabilities are fully utilized)
  • Difficulty: Medium

Trustpilot is a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, it’s easy for consumers to leave reviews through it. Because of this, our company has had much more success with Trustpilot than with G2 or Capterra. The platform also allows business owners to share nice-looking review ratings on other channels, is compatible with schema markup, and since it’s a Google partner, its star ratings appear in Google SERPs, Shopping, Ads, and the Partners Network.

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On the downside, you can only share website review widgets if you are on a paid plan. Collecting reviews is also more difficult on the free plan since it must be done manually. Lastly, the fact that leaving reviews is so easy can also work against you because it makes your business susceptible to review bombing.

5. Foursquare

  • Impact: Medium (powerful location-based targeting for the retail and hospitality sector)
  • Difficulty: Medium

Foursquare used to be a check-in and location-sharing platform. In recent years, it has shifted its focus to location-based campaign targeting and recommendations. I believe Foursquare is suitable for businesses that operate in the retail and hospitality industry.

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By leveraging Foursquare, your business can target potential customers based on their preferences and physical location. You can also claim your business profile to populate it and gain access to detailed analytics into consumer behavior.

6. Better Business Bureau (BBB)

  • Impact: Medium (excellent business vetting tool)
  • Difficulty: High

BBB is an NGO that allows users to rate businesses on an A+ through F letter-grade scale. It has been a symbol of business trust and integrity for decades. Compared to other platforms, it has a unique feature that allows consumers to filter searches to show only accredited businesses. The BBB also handles consumer complaints about their marketplace experiences.

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While not as popular as other platforms, the BBB can still be a powerful vetting tool and review diversification source. To get started with it, you will need to join their Accreditation program. Once you are screened and approved, you can build up your profile, showcase products, and track your performance.

Understanding the Local Search Ecosystem

I shared some details about six out of HUNDREDS of review aggregators, platforms, and directories. So, this feels like the right time to make a note of how the local search ecosystem (LSE) and review syndication work.

The LSE refers to various websites, directories, and apps that share information and reviews about local businesses. In this complex system, primary data aggregators (e.g., Foursquare) share information with online directories (e.g., Yellow Pages) or search engines (e.g., Bing) to increase the chances of businesses being discovered by the public. Although a bit dated, this interactive illustration by Whitespark shows how the LSE works.

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Okay great, but what does this mean for your business?

Well, it’s good news. It means you don’t have to collect reviews on a hundred platforms. Instead, you can focus on the platforms that are most likely to syndicate their reviews to relevant directories and search engines. It also means you must be extra careful to keep your business information updated and accurate to avoid confusion.

Best Practices to Get More Customer Reviews

With each platform’s guidelines in mind, here are the best practices for collecting local business reviews and growing your online presence.

1. Ask for Reviews on the Right Channels

Requesting feedback on the right channels can make a huge difference for your customers:

  • Email: Send a short, personalized follow-up email after a purchase or in-store visit and include a direct link or button to leave a review.
  • In-person, during the sale experience: Train your staff to request reviews from new customers after offering the service through a business card or a QR code.
  • Social media: Engage followers through comments, highlight positive reviews in your posts, and reply to direct messages to create opportunities for review collection.
  • Text messages: Use custom review request SMS templates right after customer interactions to maximize responses.
  • Receipt or invoice: Include a brief note or QR code on your receipts to take happy customers directly to your review site.
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2. Diversify Your Review Sources

77% of consumers read reviews on two or more platforms before using a local business. Review diversification ensures that changing platform policies, bugs, or disappearing reviews does not affect your online visibility.

An easy way to do this is by dynamically cycling through different review platform links with all your email and SMS review request templates.

3. Ask for Reviews at the Right Time

Here are the best times to request reviews from your customers:

  • Immediately after an experience when the experience is still fresh.
  • Following a successful customer support interaction.
  • After repeat purchases, since loyal customers are invested in your success.
  • To celebrate customer milestones or anniversaries.
  • During special events when customers are more engaged with your small business.

4. Collaborate With a Digital Marketing Agency

If everything I just said sounds too complicated or time-consuming, you should consider collaborating with an agency like On The Map to build up your local SEO strategy. Review collection takes a lot of time and effort to coordinate.

Contact us today to get started with your tailored local SEO strategy that will also get you more reviews.

5. Use a Review Generation Tool

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Review generation tools like BirdEye or Podium reduce the time spent manually asking for reviews. As soon as your customers’ emails and names are loaded in, you can customize your message and set up automated follow-ups to be sent out.

Most review generation tools also provide robust analytics to help you evaluate response rates and customer sentiment or provide suggestions for improving your outreach strategy.

6. Encourage Reviews Through Your Website

There are so many easy ways to create review collection opportunities through your website:

  • Add review badges: Display badges from review sites like Google, Yelp, or Trustpilot.
  • Create dedicated review landing pages and include direct links for leaving reviews.
  • Highlight customer reviews or testimonials.
  • Direct customers to a thank-you page after a purchase with a review request.
  • Time pop-ups or banners to appear after purchase or a certain time spent on the site.
  • Add calls-to-action asking for reviews at the end of website pages.
  • Request reviews through your live chat after a successful customer interaction.

7. Don’t be Terrified by Negative Reviews

Local businesses with thousands of 5-star reviews are just creepy. It’s normal to have a mix of positive and negative reviews. In fact, consumers say they are more likely to choose a business with a 4—to 4.5-star rating that looks REAL over one with a perfect online reputation.

The problem isn’t negative reviews but how you deal with them. If you can’t respond to all reviews, at least address the negative ones to ensure your customers’ potential issues are being resolved and that you are taking accountability for mistakes.

8. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

As a small business, your first benchmark should be to obtain at least 10 reviews. Remember that it’s not about the number of reviews but their quality.

As you continue building up your profile, aim for realistic goals such as 20 reviews, 25+, then 100+, etc. Recency is more important than the number of reviews, as most consumers will read three to five reviews and look at the date of new reviews when making a purchase decision.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it – almost everything you need to know about local business reviews. Remember, every review counts unless it’s from your grandma. It’s all about those genuine, unbiased opinionsHappy review collecting!

Ioana sima

Author Bio: Ioana Sima is a marketing director at Textmagic and Touchpoint, with 10+ years experience in digital marketing and a passion for UX, data, and storytelling. I like figuring out how things work.

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