7 Key Factors That Can Boost Local Reviews Up to 900%: An Interview with the Master of Local Search

by Adam Kreitman

Last updated on March 22nd, 2018

Bob Sommers is one of the most likeable guys you’ll ever meet. He built the largest customer service training company in the country. Then, in 1996, he sold that company and moved to Maui.

It wasn’t long before he discovered the world of Internet Marketing which quickly became a passion of Bob’s. Especially Local Search.

From the beginning, there was one aspect of Local Search that appealed to Bob more than any other… reviews. Because of his customer service background he, more than most, immediately understood how important reviews are for local businesses.


Over the last 18 months, Bob (along with his son Josh) has developed the Five Star Review System, a system that makes it easy for local businesses to get reviews and referrals from their customers. Along the way, he’s learned some fascinating things about reviews and how to get them.

The most interesting one being the 7 factors that have led to local businesses getting up to 90% of their customers to respond to review requests (most businesses are lucky to get 10%).

Especially if you own a local business or work with them, this is a can’t miss interview…

Why are reviews a big deal for local businesses?

Because reviews ARE your on-line reputation. It’s not what you say about yourself on your website or blog that people believe, it’s what others say about you that matters.

Many local business owners struggle to get customers to leave reviews. What advice can you share to help them get more reviews?

It starts and ends with the business owner. The ones who FULLY understand the value of customer reviews find a way to get them. And for the ones who get it, it’s quite easy.

Some of our customers are getting up to 90% of their customers to respond to their review request. This is what they’re doing…

  1. They provide exceptional service. Nuff said!
  2. They ask their customers to write a review when they’re at the PEAK of their happiness with their service. They don’t let that perfect moment pass, because once their customer’s feeling of euphoria is over, it’s over.
  3. They make sure their customer knows that they’re doing them a big favor by writing a review and they tell them exactly how they benefit from their review. They know their customers want to do them a favor and that it’s a relatively easy favor to fulfill.
  4. They make it easy for their customers to write a review by sending them an email with links to their review sites (or they use a more advanced system like the Five Star Review System). This way, their customer is already at their computer poised to write a review when they get the request. They don’t have to hunt for the business’ review page.
  5. They ask their customers for their primary email address and let them know they will never, ever, even under penalty of death, share it with anyone… ever!
  6. They tell their customers that they’re looking forward to reading their comments and thank them in advance for offering to write a review.
  7. If their customer does not write a review within 3 days of their request, they send a reminder (some systems, like ours, will do this automatically). This alone will DOUBLE the number of reviews written.

And here’s bonus tip #8 that leads to more referrals…They always respond to their customers’ reviews and thank them for making the effort to write it.

the 5 Star Review home page

You said that top referral-getters “make sure their customer knows that they’re doing them a big favor by writing a review and they tell them exactly how they benefit from their review.” Can you expand on that a bit? How are customers doing them a big favor?

There’s a big difference in the number of reviews and referrals a business gets, and it’s based on how the business owner asks for them. The people who get the most referrals are also the people who get the most reviews.

Here are three typical examples:

Business Owner #1

Does not verbally ask a customer to write a review, but rather sends them an email request.

They think they’re going to get an easy review but they’re actually sending their customer spam … an unrequested email. They’re doing more harm than good.

This is typical of how most business owners attempt to get reviews and it never works.

Business Owner #2

Asks customers in person “Will you please write a review about our company based on your experience today?”

This is much more effective. It’s still not going to get a majority of the people you ask responding, but it’s much better than Business Owner #1.

The reason is due to a persuasion principle known as “commitment consistency” which is identified in The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Basically it works because when a customer tells you verbally that they’ll write a review (ie. they make a commitment), they are much more likely to follow through with your request.

Business Owner #3

Says “I’d like to ask you a favor Bill. Will you please take a few minutes to write a review about our company based on your experience today? When you do, the people who are looking for (our product or service) will be able to make a more informed decision about us based on what you write. Will you do that for me please?

Customer responds with “Yes.”

Thank you Bill, I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

There are five things to notice in this request:

1) The business owner is asking for a favor.

There’s a psychological principle known as the Ben Franklin Effect. It states that a person who’s done you a favor is more likely to do another favor for you than they would be if you’d done a favor for them.

When your customer understands what you’re asking is a favor that’s important to you, they’re more likely to reward you a second time with referrals as well as their review.

2) The business owner told the customer that it will only take a few minutes. The simpler the task, the more likely the task will be completed.

3) The business owner told the customer how he/she wins from their review by saying “People looking for our service will be able to make a more informed decision.” The implication, of course, being the business owner will generate more business based on their review.

4) The business owner makes sure the customer responds with “Yes, I will write a review for you.” This puts the Ben Franklin Effect into effect.

5) The business owner informs their customer that they’ll be looking for and, anticipating reading, their review. When a customer knows you’ll be looking for their review, they’re even more likely to write it for you.

The biggest referral-getters not only know how to ask for reviews (like Business Owner #3), but they do two other things their competitors don’t do.

1) They reward their customers who write reviews by contacting them immediately, thanking them and telling them how much they appreciate what they wrote and what they’ve done for them. Their appreciation is both prompt and sincere. The only way to accomplish this is to constantly monitor the review sites for reviews or have a system in place that informs you the moment a review is written.

2) They ask for referrals and make it easy for their customers to refer them to their family and friends by sending them digital coupons or flyers or other things that are easily shareable.

a sample 5 Star Review coupon

When clients (or any local business owner you speak to) starts getting a bunch of reviews, what is it they’re most excited about (ie. more leads, higher rankings)?

Certainly a lot of them are excited getting more clients and having customers tell them they’re calling because they read all the positive online reviews the business has.

But the most excited I see our customers is when they discover they’ve diverted a bad review from going on the Internet. (The Five Star Review System, being a customer service tool first and a review tool second, lets business owners immediately identify when a customer is unhappy and gives them the chance to right the wrong before a bad review hits the Internet.) There’s something about the satisfaction of making things right that really gets people excited.

You can find out more about Bob and his Five Star Review System here.



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Adam Kreitman

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on


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  1. April 29, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Thanks, Bob!

    Great piece and the timing is perfect. I work with some SMBs that will love these tips, especially the #3 approach to asking for positive reviews, and encouraging reviewers to use the sites they’re already on (we’ve seen the same issue with Yelp newbies being filtered).

    Mahalo — Hunter

  2. April 23, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Great tips! Any opinions on Yelp filtered reviews? I’ve seen some businesses thave half or more of their positive reviews filtered and not count towards their scores. One business I came across recently had 3 bad reviews shown and 59 positive reviews hidden!

    • Bob Sommers says:
      April 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

      Hi Kristi:
      Yelp is a lot like Google in that they filter reviews based on the reviewer. If the reviewer is new to Yelp, Yelp will generally filter their review … until they become a more active reviewer. The solution is to give your customers a choice as to where they want to leave their review. A person who leaves a filtered review on Yelp could have left the same review on Google or Yahoo or Citysearch or Tripadvisor etc, where it would not have been filtered. Encourage Yelpers to leave reviews on Yelp and people with gmail and yahoo email addresses to leave their reviews on Google and Yahoo etc. If you do this, you will find that many more of your reviews will bypass the filtering process where their reviews will be seen by the masses.

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