6 ways to combat a negative review attack on your Google My Business profile

6 ways to combat a negative review attack on your Google My Business profile

As small business owners, we never want to see negative reviews, and it can be quite distressing when we see them come in.

But what happens when tens, or even hundreds, appear in a short space of time? Are all these real? What on earth do you do?

Not all negative reviews are created equally, and in this fickle world, legitimate negative reviews which want to offer your business feedback are overshadowed by negative review attacks which sole goal is to ruin your business.

How to handle legitimate negative reviews (which offer feedback on your business products or services) is a topic all to itself, but what should you do if your Google My Business business profile is under attack from negative reviews which are malicious and unjustified?

What do I mean by an attack?

In most of the circumstances where I’ve been required to resolve negative review attacks, the people behind the campaign are usually local competitors trying to tank your business or cyber-trolls who have a bit between their teeth about with the business director (not the business itself).

Here are the usual signs which point to whether you’re getting attacked with negative reviews

  • Your Google My Business profile has multiple 1-star negative reviews over a short space of time and completely bucks the trend of how often you usually get reviews.
  • The negative reviews have little to no text or detailed feedback; they are just low-star ratings.
  • The negative reviews are left from Google user profiles with very few reviews (e.g. 1-3 reviews).
  • All the reviews on the Google user profile are negative and spaced out across inconsistent times and geo-locations (e.g. 1 review in 1 city).
  • If the negative review does have feedback, it may be a personal attack or describe an experience which has no representation of your business and services.

The problem with negative reviews is exacerbated further as Google’s algorithm is, in my opinion, a little bit too accepting and not critical enough when reviewing their legitimacy. At the time of writing this article, I’m almost 100% sure that Google’s review algorithm doesn’t flag large scale negative review bombs and considers it suspicious. 

However, if you’re getting attacked with negative reviews, don’t go into full panic melt-down, there are a few things which you can do to take control of the situation.

Here are my 6 ways of combating a negative review attack on your Google My Business profile.

1) Manually report the reviews with multiple accounts

Unfortunately, Google isn’t going to willingly remove reviews just because you don’t want them on your profile. Google is very ‘pro’ user-generated content, and you can’t manually remove reviews, images, videos etc which have been uploaded by a Google user profile.

It’s a pain.

However, there is a little flag which can help.

Business owners and other Google users can report/flag all user-generated content on a Google My Business profile. If you don’t think something represents your business, report it. 

The good news is that this manual reporting feature is very quick and easy to do. Here’s how to manually report a negative review:

In my experience, flagging user-generated content only gets you so far, and it certainly seems to take quite some time for the reports to be actioned by Google. However, here are a few tricks I’ve found to improve the effectiveness of the reporting feature:

  1. As well as reporting the review from your GMB business dashboard, use a Google user profile with an abundance of Klout* to report the content. 
  2. Report the content with more than one Google user account (see above) at different times of the day.
  3. Don’t give up after one session of reporting. Try reporting the content again after 5-7 days.

*By Klout, I mean a Google user profile (this is mine) which has a history of leaving reviews and is teaming with user-uploaded images tied to the account. A local guide level of 6+ is particularly helpful.

2) Call Google and report the reviews

Google wants to talk to you. I would go so far as to say that they go out of their way to try and talk to you. Unlike Facebook, who wants you to use their messaging platform to report any issues, Google places a strong emphasis on telephone calls and talking to you directly over the phone.

A useful tool which you may not realise exists is the ‘talk to a specialist’ contact form which puts you in touch with a Google representative within minutes.  

The tool is excellent because the Google Specialists have a suite of tools which you simply don’t have as a Google My Business user. 

Here’s what usually happens on the call:

  1. The Specialist will confirm your details
  2. They’ll ask you what your issue is
  3. You’ll explain what the problem is
  4. The Specialist will investigate the issue
  5. The Specialist will ‘escalate’ the matter to their specialist team, who’ll review the problem and get back to you via email/phone within 24-48 hours

Reporting negative reviews to a Google Specialist can take a little bit of time, because, in my experience, the Specialist likes to look at every review which you want to flag one-by-one. If you’ve got several negative reviews which you need to report, I recommend grabbing a cup of tea and having some patients.

A great tip which I credit to SEMRush is to create a Google Sheet document which lists all the URLs of the reviews you want to support. Within the sheet, you should contain the following information in separate columns:

  1. The name of the person leaving the review
  2. The URL of the review you want to report
  3. The URL of the Google user profile
  4. A ‘comments’ tab where you can leave a few remarks as to why you feel the reviews are unjustified and suspicious.

With all that being said, there are a few common problems which I encounter when talking to a specialist:

1) There can be a language barrier. 

The majority of Google’s contact centres are based overseas, and not all specialists are as fluent in English. My advice is to be patient; however, if you’re struggling, politely stop the call and complete the contact form again.

2) The specialists have a limited set of tools and won’t be able to sort your issue immediately (they usually escalate the issue).

3) Your issue may not get resolved.

Unfortunately, just because the Google Specialist escalates your problem doesn’t mean that the review is going to get removed. It’s down to the discretion of Google as to whether they’ll manually remove a review, and their process is pretty much looking at their algorithm to see if the review is fishy.

However, don’t let this dishearten you, as persistent sometimes work.

Which leads me to…

3) Call Google again and change your story

Ok, so here is a tactic which sometimes works, but not in all situations. It involves two words ‘cyber-attack’. 

Tech companies take ‘cyber-attacks’ very seriously, and it’s incredible to hear the difference in reaction a Google Specialist has if you plead that your account is under a ‘cyber-attack’.

In all honesty, I do consider getting unwarranted negative reviews as a form of cyber-attack which should be taken very seriously. The only issue is that proving that the negative reviews are indeed a cyber-attack can be difficult. However, if your business has a large number of negative reviews which have occurred in a short space of time from Google user profiles with very few reviews on their account, then I would pull out the ‘cyber-attack’ card from your deck.

The process of calling Google is precisely the same, but when you get asked what your issue is, plead that you think that your account is under a cyber-attack and that you don’t know what to do. Be sincere and say that your business is suffering (because it is) as a result of the attack.

Also, don’t forget to collate the reviews into a Google Sheets document and send it over to them.

4) Write a response to the review which highlights why you think it’s fake (use an example)

While you’re waiting for the negative reviews to be reviewed by Google, it doesn’t mean you should sit back and ignore them. Google’s investigations can take days and multiple phone calls before anything happens, so it’s best to attack the negative reviews at numerous angles.

The following trick is something which I particularly like as it puts the power back into your hands.

Answer the negative review, but be publically critical of the legitimacy of the review. Here is a template which I’ve used for some of my client’s.

Hi [name],

Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review.

We noticed that you had left us a 1-star review, but we’re under the impression that you’ve not visited our business. It looks like (at the time of writing this response) you’ve only left a single review which seems very peculiar.

If you didn’t know, your Google profile is public, and you can see your review history here: [insert link to their google profile]

We feel your account is just being used to leave unwarranted negative reviews.

If this is a genuine review, then we would love to hear from you directly so we can improve our service. Please, get in touch with our team directly using the email address [insert your business email address here]

Kind regards,

[your business]

I use this type of response for two reasons: 1) It highlights to customers that the review is being investigated, and 2) it includes proof (in the URL link to the users Google profile) as to why you think their review is suspect.

The only thing which answering a negative review won’t accomplish is how the poor star rating will still affect the overall score on your profile. Unfortunately, this is something which can only be solved from reporting methods mentioned previously.

Regardless of the type of review (positive or negative), you should make it part of your business process to answer all of them. Reviews are there to help you connect with your customers, and if they’ve taken the time to leave a review, then you should show your appreciation by responding.

5) Write a post on social media and GMB explaining the situation

I believe firmly in maintaining communication and transparency between business and customers. The trust you build with your customers through clear and positive communication encourages them to understand and support your brand.

While some businesses may think that acknowledging an influx in negative reviews is feeding the egos of those who are carrying out the attack, I believe that simply ignoring the situation only means customers who are discovering your brand for the first time could form the wrong first impression of your business and brand; first impressions count.

If you’re the silent business type who likes having a sandy head, that’s fine. However, I would strongly recommend you make an exception on keeping silent if the rest of these methods aren’t helping your situation. 

Making a public statement across your social media channels, website, Google My Busines Profile (through a GMB post) and even a press release which highlights the issue your business is facing paints a very clear picture to anyone discovering your business that there is something unusually wrong.

If you’re considering making a public statement, here are a few areas which I think you should cover:

  • Explain the situation as clearly as possible
  • Identify why you think it’s happening
  • Let customers know that you’re in contact with Google and seeking legal advice
  • Reassure customers that your services are the same high-quality they have always been
  • Ask customers to get in touch with you if they do have legitimate feedback to improve your service

6) Focus on generating more positive reviews

I’ll paraphrase a quote I got from a conversation I had with a Google Specialist not that long ago.

Me, “What should I do in the meantime to combat these negative reviews?”

Google Specialist, “You should work on generating more positive reviews as they hold significantly more weight than negative reviews and are more likely to show on your profile.”

Fight fire with fire. 

Comprehensive and content filled positive reviews are one of the main ranking factors for Google My Business profiles. If your business doesn’t have a process in place to generate more positive reviews, then you’ve certainly got an opportunity to improve your Google My Business profile significantly.

According to our Google Specialist above, positive reviews are ‘significantly’ more likely to carry more weight on your ranking signals but also show up higher on the review tab within your profile.

The process of generating more positive reviews is something which I go into more detail in a different article, and it’s an advised tactic to combat any negative reviews which are stubbornly not being removed.

Shield’s up! We’re ready boys! Bring on the negative reviews.

Bringing it all back around

Should you be worried about negative reviews? Yes, but there are ways which you can minimise the impact they’ll have on your business.

Following the steps above may or may not remove the negative reviews on your Google My Business profile, but they’ll undoubtedly give you a little more power.

If there is one tactic to take away from this article, it’s to with-out-a-doubt implement a review process to generate more legitimate reviews. No matter how many fake negative reviews you get on your business page, high-quality positive reviews will rank higher and ultimately prevail. 

I can’t stress enough that, no matter what, try not to let negative reviews get you down. Always believe in your business, and continue to provide the best quality service to your customers.

Posted by Phil in Google My Business, Local SEO, 0 comments

Will the coronavirus affect my local business and Google My Business performance?

Will the coronavirus affect my local business and Google My Business performance?

The coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) is a hot topic right now and quite rightly so. The virus has infected more than 90,000 people worldwide and is looking to turn into a full-blown pandemic if the spread continues.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been less worried about the virus because I feel that the media has blown the severity of the situation a little out of the water. However, I’ll be the first to eat my proverbial hat should the whole of the United Kingdom go into lockdown. At the end of the day, I want everyone to be safe. I also want everyone to be able to continue to live their lives with as little disruption as possible.

With all that being said, I work with local businesses daily, and I know first hand that they’re starting to get worried with what the virus could mean to their revenue. In this article, I want to explain how I feel the virus could affect local businesses (which includes their local SEO and Google My Business performance), and what you could be doing to help reassure your customers and build trust.


How the virus could affect your local business.

The mass hysteria about the virus is spreading. While the number of recorded cases in the UK is relatively low, the media attention the coronavirus is getting is causing a lot of people to be concerned with their welfare (which is understandable).

If the number of cases grows in the UK, then every business (not just local) will be negatively hit as a result.

But how will the spread of the coronavirus affect local businesses

1) Your customers won’t want to visit your store.

The biggest hurdle your local business could face is the fact that customers simply won’t want to leave their house because of the fear of contracting the virus. 

No customers, no revenue. This is as serious as it could get.

This also means that your customers won’t be on their phones trying to find your local business on Google Maps and other search engines. So, expect to see a reduction in your Google My Business analytics and insights should the virus spread further.

2) Your employees will try to avoid coming into work.

Again, mass panic could lead to your employees just not wanting to take the risk to their health and come to work. This will be seen more for industries which are customer facing and require your employees to interact with lots of different people daily.

3) Your employees will get sick.

It’s almost inevitable that a virus outbreak will cause your employees to get sick. What this means to your business is two things 1) increased workload of the employees which are not ill and 2) the potential for your store to be shut down because it’s at risk of spreading the virus.

4) Supply chains will be affected.

If your business imports a lot of stock from overseas, then you could see a shortage in the availability of certain products. 

The coronavirus outbreak began in China, which is the worlds largest exporter of goods, and many factories have been on reduced operation/shutdown in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.


What local businesses can do to combat coronavirus.

I want to make a note before we go into this list that in no way am I trying to cause panic among local business owners. I think with the right planning and precautions, the effects the coronavirus could have on your business can be minimised.

And now, let’s get on with the list.

1) Create a series of GMB posts which detail what you’re doing to help

I think one of the main things which any local business can do is to be vocal about what they’re doing as precautions to help combat the spread of coronavirus. 

The use of social media and any other digital communication platform are powerful tools which you can utilise to make sure your customers are informed and made aware.

One communication tool you should utilise is the ‘post’ feature within Google My Business. This tool is a fantastic way of spreading your message to an audience who may be interested in visiting your store.

Google My Business posts are 1500 character messages which are showcased on your Google Maps profile page. Each post expires after one week, making them the perfect addition to any local business communication arsenal.

Here are a couple of Google My Business post ideas which you could run to help educate customers on the coronavirus:

  •  Some information on how customers can look after themselves (e.g. washing their hands, reducing the amount they touch their face etc.)
  • What precautions you’ve implemented to help combat the virus (e.g. placing hand sanitizers around the store which are free to use, not accepting cash payments, antibacterial wiping card terminals after every use etc.)
  • Or (if things get extreme) what your operating hours will be if you decide to close your store.

2) Be sensible with staff hygiene and educate them

It goes without saying that hygiene is going to be the ‘make or break’ as to whether the coronavirus turns into an all-out pandemic. 

Let’s be honest, none of us are 100% hygienic, and there is going to be something you do which isn’t clean. Here’s one which I bet many of us share, using our phone while we’re on the toilet.

While it’s unrealistic to expect people to become hygiene gods, it’s undoubtedly important that everyone increases their ‘hygiene game’. 

As a small business owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your staff are educated and have the correct facilities to remain hygienic in the workplace. If your team choose to ignore the precautions you take, then I believe you have every right to issue disciplinaries.

Here are a few things which you can do to help:

  • Have a team meeting and explain to your staff what they need to do to remain hygienic in the workplace.
  • Get a health practitioner (if you know one) to come into your store to offer training workshops on improving hygiene.
  • Buy antibacterial gels and hand wipes for your employees to carry with them.
  • Create some ‘proper hygiene’ related signage which you can place in your staff toilets, common areas and anywhere your staff may hang around.

I think the most important thing is that if you’re implementing some of these changes, then it’s incredibly important that you practice what you preach. Lead by example and be proud of the fact that you’re a bonified germ killer.

3) Create signage which informs your customers what you’re doing to reduce risk.

I mentioned signage for your employees, but you can also go the extra step and create signage to place around for your customers as well.

Signage doesn’t need to be complicated, and it certainly doesn’t need to be over-designed and look fancy. Let’s keep costs low here, a single piece of A4 paper which is laminated is enough to get any message about hygiene across to the customers who are visiting your store.

Here are some signage ideas which you could print and place around your store:

  • Customer toilet signage which emphasises (in BOLD!) the importance of washing their hands after using the loo.
  • That payment by card is preferred while the virus threat grows.
  • Where the location of antibacterial hand gel (if you decide to buy them) are located in the store.
  • Information on what you’re doing as a store to combat the disease. This can include how you’re training your staff, how you’re going the extra mile to clean equipment etc.

At the end of the day, your main goal here is to make sure your customers feel safe. Signage is there is a reminder to them of the seriousness of the virus, but you, as a business owner, is going the extra mile to make sure it doesn’t spread any further.

4) Work together with other local businesses in your area

If you’re worried about the effects the coronavirus may have on your business, then you’re not alone. As a small business owner myself, there’s a worry in the back of my mind as to whether the potential loss in revenue for my clients (due to their customers not wanting to leave their homes) may result in them not able to afford my services. 

It’s a scary thought.

It’s important for all small businesses to unite and work together to make their customers feel safe. At the end of the day, if a customer decides not to visit your store because of the risk of getting ill, then I can guarantee that they’re not thinking about visiting your business neighbour. A little collaboration can go a long way.

Here are some ways you can work together with other local businesses in your area to combat the virus:

  • If you’ve created some hygiene policies/signage, share it with other local businesses to use.
  • Team up and educate employees together.
  • If you want to hire a professional to run a hygiene workshop, ask if other local businesses would be interested in chipping in to share the experience.

The number one thing here is not to feel alone. Every local business will be going through the same thing, and it’s essential to keep your business head screwed on so you can think of solutions to any problems which arise. 

5) Don’t panic if footfall drops (because it won’t be because your business is doing something wrong)

Ok, so the drop in customer footfall from the fear of potentially catching the virus isn’t here yet, but it could be on the horizon if the virus continues to spread.

Here is what I would recommend doing to mitigate the risk to your business.

Try to reduce spending.

If you’re looking to update your systems/equipment, perhaps now is not the right time if your revenue may be at risk for a few weeks/months.

Stockpile some products which may be affected by air and sea logistics.

If you’re a business which relies on shipments and products from overseas, then I feel you’re probably the most at risk of feeling the effects of the virus than others. 

We’ve already seen the effects the virus has had on the FTSE 100, and this will cause issues with overseas production and supply chains.

If you’re worried about the virus hitting your ability to refill stocks, I would recommend stockpiling your best sellers, so you don’t get caught out. However, this is going to be a balancing act with what you can realistically afford without causing you to have financial difficulties.

Look at your financial model and understand your numbers.

As I said earlier, I’m a small business owner myself. I know that sometimes it’s hard to keep 100% on the ball with numbers if things are going well. However, it’s essential when uncertainty is in the air to make sure that you know your business numbers in-and-out and what you can risk losing to stay afloat. If you’re not 100% sure, either 1) contact your accountant, or 2) talk to a financial advisor who’ll be able to help.

If you do one thing, DO NOT put your head in the sand and ignore the situation. Realising that your business may suffer a drop in revenue is a bitter pill to swallow, but ignoring what may happen could put your businesses future at risk. 

Plan and make sure your business can survive the dip in revenue, which may happen if the virus spreads. 

6) Talk to your customers

Finally, I believe one of the most important points all local business owners should be doing is talking to their customers more

By talking to your customers, you’ll be able to understand how they’re feeling about the coronavirus outbreak and what you can do as a business to make them feel more assured.

Communication goes a long way, and the more you communicate with your customers, the more trust you’ll build, which will, in turn, make them feel safe in your business environment.

So should we be worried?

The threat of the coronavirus for local businesses is something which shouldn’t be ignored. However, there is plenty which can be done to mitigate panic for you, your staff and your customers. 

Could the virus affect your online Google My Business and local SEO performance? Yes, it could.

Could the virus cause fewer customers to visit your store and buy something? Yes, it could. 

Could the virus be cured and not cause any noticeable issues for your local business at all? Yes, it could.

What I’m trying to get at here is the whole subject around the coronavirus, and the effect it could have on our businesses is something which is going to get more evident as time goes on. 

We’ve already seen large companies being massively affected by the virus, so it’s essential to take responsibility and make a contingency plan now and safeguard your business.

Posted by Phil in Google My Business, Local SEO, 0 comments

Tips to get more reviews on Google My Business as a local business.

Tips to get more reviews on Google My Business as a local business.

I recently read this article on Search Engine Journal which offered a few tips on how to generate more reviews on Google My Business and other business listing platforms.

While all the tips in the article are genuine and are 100% applicable to any business, I wanted to share some additional thoughts on the topic  

Here are some of feelings I have about generating more reviews for a Google My Business profile.

The importance of Google My Business review

I don’t think I need to go into considerable amounts of detail as to the importance of generating more reviews for a Google My Business profile. The topic has been covered in-depth, but here are some important factors which are worth mentioning.

  1. They are one of the major ranking signals used by Google when determining where a Google My Business profile is listed in search/maps results.
  2. They allow potential customers to find out more about your business from people who have used your services before.
  3. Responding to reviews as a business helps the customers believe in the brand more and feel part of its community.

Plus, research from BrightLocal has shown to suggest that reviews increase customer click-through-rates on Google My Business profiles, and a profile with a healthy number of reviews with a high rating are considerably more likely to use that business over another.

My personal opinion on reviews (from someone who has worked in the industry for a while) is that a good review profile (by ‘review profile’, I mean the quality of the reviews on a GMB page) is critical in maximising Google My Business and making it generate a local business more revenue. 

However, while it seems easy on paper, in practice, it isn’t. Asking for reviews can be scary, and a lot of the concerns I hear from local business owners is that they are scared of hearing something which they don’t want to.

What we as local SEOs tend to forget that business owners aren’t robots who have 0 personal opinions. A review of their business could be heartbreaking and very emotional.

How to ease the emotional stress of asking for more reviews

In reality, to generate more reviews for a local business, you need to get the owner (and their staff) on board with a review building process. 

Automating a review process using software is fine if the business can afford it (I’m talking about emails, SMS and social media messaging bots), but it does take away the personal touch which helps build customer relationships and repeat custom.

In my experience, talking to the customers directly and from the heart gives much better results than letting a piece of software take over. The customer review rate is much higher, plus you get to ask customers genuinely what they think and how you can improve to make your service better.

With my local business clients, I come up with a process which will work for their business and their emotions. If they are apprehensive, I have been known to physically sit in their store a couple of times a month and talk with their customers after they’ve received service. This approach doesn’t work for all businesses, but it does work for most.

The more you show how comfortable for a business owner a process can be, the more likely they are to adopt it and make it part of their routine.

Tactics which I know work to generate more Google My Business reviews

Here are a few tips from my tactics treasure trove which I use with my clients.

The back of the business card email capture

If a customer is in a rush, ask them to leave their email address on the back of a business card (you can design a more bespoke capture card if you like), so you can get in touch with them because you value their feedback. This will not only build an email list (if you get the correct consent), but it also means that you can continue building a relationship with the customer long after they have left the store.

Does this sound like a lot of effort? Maybe. However, I consider it worth it because 1) builds your customer reviews (and we know that’s important) and 2) creates a fantastic relationship with the customers as you’re genuinely trying to find out their opinion of your business.

The leave a review instruction card

While a less personal approach than other tricks I mention, the instruction card (I think the size of a business card is big enough) is a straightforward implementation any business can do for a minimal cost.

An instruction card is literally what it sounds like. It is a small card which has a simple set of instructions which coaches a customer through how they can leave a review. The problem with an instruction card is that it’s rather impersonal, but you can improve this with the messaging you place on the card.

The instruction card doesn’t need to go into depth or be over-designed. It needs to be short and easy to follow. When I design these cards for clients, I simply place their logo in the centre of the back and a short amount of instructions on the front which details the EASIEST way for someone to leave a Google My Business review.

If you want, you can also leave an incentive on the card which says something along the lines of “show your review next time you visit, and we’ll give you 5/10/15% off your next visit”. (percentage off would be determined on a business’ margins)

The process which goes alongside the instruction card routine is to PHYSICALLY hand it to a customer at the point of sale. Don’t leave them in a little box at the front of the store (because no one will take them), PHYSICALLY take one and give it to the customer before they leave. Mention in a few words how much you value their opinion as a customer and that a review goes a long way to help your business.

The sympathetic ear approach

Some may call this cheeky, I call it telling the truth. If you run a small local business (or any business for that matter), then you know the struggles which face on the day-to-day. It is a LOT of work to get a business up and running, and most owners pour their heart and soul into making it work. I see no problem in trying to lean on the sympathy of your customers and be brutally honest with them.

You need a review because it will help the business stay open and not close down.

Being honest with a customer and spending less than 5 minutes educating them on why a review is important to your business should not be considered begging; it’s being open and honest with them. If they believe in your business and want you to stay open, then whipping out their phone and writing a quick review isn’t much to ask in the grand scheme of things.

The ‘follow-up’ message/email

As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe (in my experience) sending a message which isn’t automated is the best way of securing more reviews. If you’re new to building reviews, I would actively discourage you from going down the automated route before you’ve got a good review strategy in place.

If you’ve captured a customers email address, or you’ve been talking to them via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or SMS, you’re in the prime position to write a short (but heartfelt) message asking the customer for their opinion of your service and whether they would take the time to leave a review.

I have a set of templates which I use for my clients, but these are heavily edited before they are sent out to a customer. A template should stay as a template, and by this, I mean that it should be used as the foundation for the message you send, not the message itself; otherwise, you may as well automate the whole process with software and bots.

When writing a message to a customer, pay attention to the way you’ve already been talking to them (if you have). There is nothing more jarring for a customer one way and then pivoting to ‘big corporate speech’ when you start asking for feedback. Keep the messaging as casual (or as formal) as you’ve done so originally.

Consistency in messaging is crucial as it reduces the confusion of what your business is and trying to achieve. 

Wrapping it up

It goes without saying that reviews on Google My Business (and other business listing platforms) are essential, and there are many tips and tricks out there to help generate more of them.

When gathering reviews, I prefer to spend the extra effort and take a personal approach. However, there are plenty of other methods which also work.

What I believe all us local SEOs can agree on is the following steps should be taken to achieve a good review profile.

  1. Create a process.
  2. Make the process part of the routine and the culture of the business.
  3. Train your staff to follow the process.
  4. Answer every single review – good or bad.

If you need help with your Google My Business optimisation or Local SEO strategies, please take a look at my services and get in touch. I would love to hear about you and your business and how we can work together.

Posted by Phil in Google My Business, Local SEO, 0 comments

Step by step guide to setting up single keyword ad groups

Step by step guide to setting up single keyword ad groups

It’s an addiction of mine to look for maximising time and making processes more efficient. One such process which I’ve been trying to speed up is creating my single keyword ad group (or SKAG) campaigns. No feeling is worse than knowing that you’ve wasted time doing a task when there are easier and quicker ways of getting the same results.

It’s a bit like getting that dream beach body. If there was a quick way to get those ripped abs or peachy beach bum, we would all take it, right? Of course we would. Now let me take you through my SKAG gym routine which I believe is one of the more efficient ways of creating perfect campaigns with minimal loss of time.

Single Keyword Ad Group Keyword Research

Now, one of the main benefits of running SKAG campaigns is the reduction of endless time spent doing keyword research (hallelujah),

The SKAG Secret Weapon: SEMrush

Let’s crack out the big guns with my biggest time saver – SEMrush. I’ve been a user of SEMrush for a number of years now and I’m consistently impressed with the new tools they bring to the platform year on year. 

I’ve you’ve not tested out their ppc keyword and ad builder tools then you’re in for a treat. What’s even better is these features are included in the free version of the platform. Of course, the free version has limitations in other areas, but you can get what you need done using the free version.

Anyway, let’s begin.

First, you’ll need a SEMrush account

Feel free to sign up to your free SEMrush account – They offer a 7 day free trial, so you can try the full version before your account gets converted into a free version.

Once you’re in, you’ll be greeted by the dashboard. From here you’ll want to head over to the projects drop down menu and click “create my first project” button. Alternatively, you can fill in the details on the massive green action box in the middle of the screen – up to you!

Creating your first project

I’ll admit, this step is actually an obstacle which we have to overcome to use the juicy tools we’re hunting for. The ppc keyword and ad builder tool isn’t actually affected by the information you place into the new project. However, if you want to use the SEMrush platform beyond just abusing it for it’s fantastic tools, then creating a project with all the necessary information would be recommended.

Enter in your domain address and the project name. 

Now we’re starting to cook with gas! After you create your project you’ll be presented with the project dashboard. Don’t get yourself overwhelmed with all the options you have available, we’re interested in just the ‘ppc keyword tool’ and ‘ad builder’

PPC keyword tool

Oh baby, now we’re talking. This tool is AMAZING.


Say goodbye to your excel spreadsheets (well not quite) and get ready for some streamlined single keyword ad group creation which is golden.

The first step is to upload all the keywords we identified from our original keyword research. You can do this in a few ways, but my preferred method is to copy and paste it manually. The main reason for preferring the manual method is for two reasons 

  1. I don’t have to play around with formatting my Google Sheet document
  2. The totally awesome ‘create groups: 1kw = 1gr’ radio button.

Now, I can’t stress the importance of the ‘create groups: 1kw = 1gr’ radio button. This button is pretty much the reason why SEMrush is such an awesome tool for SKAG creation. Consider it the diamond in an engagement ring, without it, the ring would just be ‘meh’.

I’ve not experimented with the SEMrush open API, but I imagine you can do some clever coding wizardry which allows you to connect your actve Google Sheet keyword data into a project and the ‘ppc keyword tool’. If this isn’t a feature, someone tweet SEMrush the suggestion.

Once you’ve copied and pasted your keywords, you’ll need to enter your location settings. These settings are to allow SEMrush to pull keyword data for the keywords you’re uploading to the platform. This step is necessary to continue, but isn’t particularly useful if you just want to use the tool for creating your SKAGs.

The ppc keyword tool dashboard

After you’ve uploaded your keywords, you’ll be presented with the ppc keyword tool dashboard. Now, don’t let the layout confuse you, the whole tool is easy enough to get your head around once you get going.

The left hand column lists all of your ad groups. If you notice, your manual keyword upload will be placed into a new campaign called ‘default campaign’. To rename the campaign, simply click on the campaign to highlight it and then double click on the text. 

NOTE: The name of the campaign you choose here will be the name of the campaign you create in Adwords.

If you’re eagled eyed, you will have noticed that all of your keywords have been added to the campaign column as single keyword ad groups – great. Now, with the campaign selected (it should be highlighted from when you renamed it), you’ll be able to see all your keywords in the main dashboard area to the right.

With the campaign selected, head over to the main tool area and click on the top radio button to select all the keywords in the list. After doing this, you’ll have all your keywords selected even though they are located in different ad groups. 

Once again, if you’ve been eagle eyed, you’ll have noticed that the default match type (or modifier) when you upload your keywords is ‘broad match’. Adwords principles still apply here when you upload your keywords. If you’ve added the correct match type modifiers into your keyword data, SEMrush will upload your keywords as the match type you’ve specified. However, if you’re lazy like me and copy and pasted your keywords without modification, your match type will show up as ‘broad match’ 

You’ll be pleased to hear that changing the match type is very, very easy.

With all the keywords selected, click on the ‘actions’ button and go to the bottom of the menu. Click the ‘set match type’ drop down menu and change them to either ‘phrase match’, ‘exact match’ or ‘modified broad match’. In this instance, I’ve changed mine to ‘modified broad match’

Hurrah! We now have 1 correct keyword (with the match type ‘modified broad’) in each of the single keyword ad groups. Now it’s time to add the final two match types (‘phrase match’ and ‘exact match’ 

Make sure you have the campaign selected and select all your keywords again.

Click on the actions button and you’ll notice there is an option to ‘add match type’. Click the ‘add match type’ option.

You’ll now be presented with the above area which allows you to add the match type of your choosing. Our goal here is to add ‘phrase match’ and ‘exact match’ to all our keyword ad groups.

At the top of the pop-up, click the match type radio buttons you’re missing from your ad groups (in this case, we’re missing ‘phrase match’ and ‘exact match’) and click ‘apply’. After clicking apply, click the green ‘add match type’ button.

Back to the ppc keyword tool dashboard and all our ad groups have the three match types we need.

Quality of life 

There are a few really nice ‘quality of life’ features of the PPC keyword tool. For example, you can ‘clean’ your keywords and remove any duplicates you may have accidentally uploaded from your keyword list.

However, one of more useful ‘quality of life’ features is within the negative keyword manager.

Uploading negative keywords

In your PPC keywords tool dashboard above the orange action button is the negative keyword tab. Click on the negative keyword tab to be presented with the negative keyword management panel. 

On the negative keyword panel, you can see that the main keywords panel is now split into two; one panel for ‘group level’ negative keywords, and the second panel for ‘campaign level’ negative keywords.

To upload your negative keywords, click ‘+ negative’ green button and import them the same way you would import keywords which we covered previously. 

However, if you want to be proper cheeky and effectively ‘cheat’ your way to a list of negative keywords (who doesn’t want to do that?), let SEMrush do it for you!

Click on the ‘cross-group negatives’ button on the right hand side of the tool and you’ll be presented with the ‘cross-group negatives’ pop-up.

What the ‘cross-group negatives’ tool does (and does relatively well) is scans your all your keywords and suggests where negative keywords should be placed within your single keyword ad groups. 

I’ll admit there are some negatives which it misses, but it certainly captures the bulk of the negatives which would cause your SKAGS to compete against each other. As a rule of thumb, I’ll use the ‘cross-group negative tool’ and also have a scan through my keywords list for any potential negatives which need adding.

The Ad Builder Tool

Right, we’ve got our keywords organised into individual ad groups with all three match type modifiers for each keyword. The next step is to create the expanded text ads to go with our ad groups.

We all know that one of the key selling points of using single keyword ad groups is to boost relevancy score by fully tailoring your ad text to your keywords. Now this part of the process is still time consuming, but SEMrush ad builder does help make the process somewhat quicker. 

You can of course continue to create your expanded text ads using the traditional method of an excel spreadsheet (or within the adwords editor itself), but the ability to export all your keywords, negative keywords and ad creatives from SEMrush before uploading them to the Adwords editor (which we’ll talk about later), really is the breadwinner.

The Ad Builder Dashboard

Getting to the Ad Builder tool dashboard is relatively simple and it can be accessed form the main project dashboard in SEMrush. 

Upon first clicking the Ad Builder tool, you’ll be asked to list your competitor domains and the search database you wish to compare these against. Again, this isn’t necessarily the reason to use the Ad Builder tool, but it certainly is a nice-to-have. 

Why is it nice? After adding your competitor domains, SEMrush will scan your competitor domains for ads which are related to the keywords you’re targeting. This is great if you need some inspiration when writing ad copy for your expanded text ads.

NOTE: Bear in mind that some of your competitors may not have text ads, so don’t expect SEMrush to pull the competitor information all of the time. I’ve often found this the case when doing Adwords campaigns for niche industries.

Within the Ad Builder dashboard we are presented with a few options. The most important options for our purposes are the ‘text ads’ and ‘extensions’ tabs. Let’s start with the ‘text ads’ section and get our ad building underway.

Text Ads

Hey, look! All our single keyword ad groups we created in the ppc keyword tool have come over to the Ad Builder to join the SKAG party.

Great – Now it’s time to embrace our inner Don Draper and get creative. Click on the big green ‘+ new ad’ button to start creating your first text ad. You have two options here, manual or import from .csv or .xlsx. We’ll go with the manual option.

After clicking the ‘+ new ad’ button, you’ll be presented with the Ad Builder pop up. Fundamentally, this is where the magic happens and you’ll be able to build your ad. 

The text ad builder allows you to fully create your expanded text ad. Headline 1, Headline 2, Description, URL paths, it’s all there. The builder even creates a UTM code based on the campaign and ad group. 

NOTE: On the right hand side of the builder, you can select the competitor domains you detailed when first loading the builder to see what text ads they’ve been running.

Before writing your ad copy, you’ll want to make sure the correct campaign is selected as well as the correct ad group you want to write the ad for. When clicking the ad group drop down menu, you can select individual or multiple keywords to create an advert for.

My usual tactic for creating ads with different variants for A/B testing is to do the following:

  1. Write two descriptions which can be created for all the ad groups. 
  2. Use the Headline 1 and Headline 2 areas to place your ad group keywords into.
  3. Write two different headline text variants for AB testing. 

Using this tactic, you’ll end up with 4 ad variants testing 2 different descriptions and 2 different headlines.

Take a look at the table below if you’re having a hard time visualising it.

Ad 1Ad 2Ad 3Ad 4
Headline AHeadline BHeadline AHeadline B
Description ADescription ADescription BDescription B

The method above is more time consuming (because you’re creating more ads), but the rewards for being able to AB test different variants doesn’t need to be explained.

Once you start putting in some ad copy into the builder, you’ll notice the preview box giving you a live example of what the ad will look like on Google.

Posted by Phil in PPC, 0 comments