Monday, 10 December 2018

Review Rescue - a new service from HelpHound

You are reading this article because your business currently scores 4.4 or less on Google, like this...

or this...

or this...

or even this...

...and you know you need to take action. The only issue is 'what kind of action'? Please read on...

Here are two questions...

First: What is your reaction when you see businesses that score like these on Google?

Is it...

a)  'Avoid them like the plague', or...

b)  'Ignore them (the scores) and carry on', or...

c)  'Feel sorry that the image of the business may have been unfairly tarnished by a tiny minority of highly-motivated dissatisfied customers'?

Second: do you use the Google filter when searching for businesses?

a)  'Yes', or...

b)  'No', or... 

c)  'Never heard of it'*

*We use the word 'heard' here advisedly - you will have 'seen' the filter but may not have 'noticed' it or been conscious of it. Google introduced it into map search first and then, when it proved popular (Google never do anything by accident) they migrated it to mobile - where over 70% of searches now take place. This means that savvy searchers are now filtering any business that scores less then 4.5 out of their searches completely. There's more on the Google filter here.

Anyone who has answered 'b' to both these questions is probably so cynical they will be impossible to convince that reviews, Google or otherwise, matter at all. For the rest of us - and academic research suggests we are in the overwhelming majority - let's proceed to the next step. 

In the real world a business that scores under 4.5 out of 5 on Google will fall into one of two categories...

a)  Deserving of such a rating - couldn't-care-less, sloppy customer service, unreliable (in fact, all the things that are said about them in their negative reviews, or...

b)  Generally great at what they do, with effective customer relations strategies in place and staff committed to delivering a high standard of service but as yet to engage with Google reviews**

**Important note (1): there are currently many businesses that think they have a viable solution to Google reviews: they simply hand-pick customers they they have a very good reason to think will post a five star review. This is, for reasons which I am sure you will appreciate after some thought, against the law in the UK. It also runs the risk of the business being sanctioned by Google for what they call 'gating'. For more on the UK government regulations relating to this, please read this article.

At HelpHound we are - self-evidently - only interested in helping businesses that fall fairly-and-squarely into the second category. Why? Because our service only works for businesses in that category - we cannot (and would not) work to enable a shoddy business to look good.

The issue we are addressing is straightforward - by now almost every business on the planet is receiving Google reviews. But thanks to the element of human nature already alluded to often perfectly good businesses are finding their image is being unfairly tarnished. If your business is showing signs of any of the following...

  • An unfairly low Google score 
  • A low Google score by comparison with your competitors, which, again you feel to be undeserved
  • Feedback from customers*** referring to reviews that you consider to be unfair, inaccurate or misleading

***Important note (2):You won't necessarily know your business is being hurt - potential customers don't walk into your premises and say 'I'm not using you because I've read your reviews' but that is exactly what happens. You are much more likely to get the flip side of this when you have great scores and reviews: 'I chose your business first because you look great by comparison with your competitors in search.'

You will know when reviews are working for you though - business will pick up by a marked - and measurable - extent. Just look at these results...

...and read the full story here.

The solution

We call it 'HelpHound intensive'. For a period - usually not exceeding six months - we will place your business and its review management processes into an intensive care programme which, providing your business fulfils the criteria mentioned above, will achieve the following...
  1. A score in excess of 4.5 on your own website
  2. A score in excess of 4.5 on Google
  3. A minimum of fifty reviews on your own website
  4. A minimum of twenty-five reviews on Google
...but you won't need to wait six months to see the benefits - the Google My Business report for Curchods you see above was sent to them within weeks of joining (and they had started from scratch).

No smoke and mirrors

Everything we advise you to do will be in compliance with the CMA regulations. Everything we advise you to do will be 'best advice' for your business - no one-size-fits-all widgets, just pure professional advice. 

A note about reviews sites

These sites - certainly for high-value professional and transactional service businesses - have been dealt a death-blow by Google. Since Google reviews became the vehicle of choice for those wanting to 'get back' at businesses that they see - rightly or wrongly - have done them a disservice, we have noticed a very common, and harmful, syndrome that has now reached epidemic proportions: it's called 'deflection' and it means that happy customers are writing to the business's reviews site of choice and unhappy customers are writing to Google, meaning that the business looks much worse than it should on Google. If you suspect that your business has fallen - or may fall - victim to this, please read this article carefully.

And finally...

Like any other professional adviser, we stand or fall on the value of our ongoing service to you, our client - so we don't tie you into any kind of contract.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Recruitment and Google reviews

You are looking for a recruitment consultant. You may be a business looking to recruit staff or someone looking for a career move, so what process will you be going through? Personal recommendation? Industry specialists? The web? Almost certainly a combination of all three, but whatever route you adopt, one thing is for sure, at some stage in the process you will be conducting an online search.

Recruitment consultants and the web

The world of recruitment has come late to Google reviews. Here is a London-based search that is typical of any - UK-wide...

...and what do we see? We see a massive opportunity for any recruitment consultant that succeeds with Google reviews to stand out like a beacon. But before we go ahead and examine that opportunity in detail, let's first pause and consider why reviews matter for recruitment and then why recruitment has not - yet - engaged.

Why reviews matter

Reviews matter because people are influenced by them. How? Well, superficially we have all become conditioned to notice Google scores. We will prefer a business that scores 4.8 over one that scores 3.1 - but where important decisions are concerned, choosing a medical specialist, an estate agent or financial adviser or, I am sure we would all agree, a recruitment consultant, we will read the actual reviews themselves. Here are the first four reviews of one of the agencies listed above... why, assuming they do a decent job for the majority of their clients and applicants, do they allow this impression to persist in search? The answer is almost certainly twofold. First: ignorance - you might be surprised just how many businesses we meet that are unaware of their image in search, they simply didn't know they looked so bad (and nor, in the majority of cases, did they know that they could respond to their reviews). The second, and this is more common than many people think, is fear. Fear of opening their business up to (even more) criticism.

It doesn't have to be this way

Here is a recruitment consultant we met this time last year...

...and here they are now...'s the same business. The only difference is that they have engaged with Google reviews.

Managing out the fear

As you can see, from the screenshots above and from any search for 'recruitment consultant' wherever you may be - recruitment consultants that have not engaged with Google now show poorly, often very poorly indeed. In some cases this may be deserved, but in over ten years' experience as review managers we usually find that unengaged businesses look far worse in search than in reality, simply because 'not engaging' as a strategy allows disgruntled reviewers a free run at the business in question's online reputation.

All that needs to happen in the overwhelming majority of cases is a determination to address the issue by the business concerned combined with the support of a professional review manager like HelpHound.

The business...

...determines to invite its stakeholders to post reviews. It's as simple as that.


...provides moderation. Not to deflect genuine negative reviews - that would be against the CMA regulations* - but to enable the business and the reviewer to engage in a dialogue before the review is published should the review in question contain factual inaccuracies or the potential to mislead readers. And to mitigate the 'fear'.

We also provide the software to enable the business to invite the reviews to the business's own website and then get them copied across to Google by the reviewer.

*N.B. Most business's reaction - right across the spectrum - when first engaging with reviews, is to ask their 'happy' clients to post to Google. This is known as 'cherry-picking' and is in contravention of the CMA regulations. These state that if a business invites any of its customers to post a review it must allow them all, and at a time of their own choosing. That is why HelpHound's moderation is so vital, and why you will see a button like this - 'Write a review' - on all our clients' websites:

Monday, 26 November 2018

HelpHound - taking the 'fear' out of reviews for businesses

Almost every business we meet is afraid of engaging with reviews - at least they are 'afraid' of engaging with Google reviews. And this fear is well founded. In this article we will look at why businesses are right to be concerned just how they engage with Google reviews and what solutions they should be adopting.

The issues...

1.  Human nature 

If a business has 1000 customers, and let us, for this exercise's sake, assume 97 per cent of them are happy and the business then invites all* of them to write a review they should expect a satisfaction rating of 97 out of 100, right? Wrong. In a study, Harvard Business School worked out that an unhappy customer is about fifteen time more likely to write a review. The impact of that statistic on these numbers? They are skewed violently against the business. In terms of a Google score, where one could expect an overall response to an email inviting reviews of about one per cent, the figures would work out something like this... a Google score of 3.7 and failing the Google filter.

So: Fear No. 1 - the fear of having your business damaged by disproportionate negative reviews.

2.  Google's T&Cs

We are often asked 'Can we get this - unfair/inaccurate/misleading/fake/malicious - Google review taken down?' The answer is: rarely. We have numerous instances on file where the business owner has told us that such a review is severely damaging their new business, their relationship with their existing customers or their ability to recruit staff.

Fear No. 2 - the fear of unfair/inaccurate/misleading/fake/malicious reviews harming your business

3.  The CMA regulations

These state that a business that invites any of its customers to post a review must allow all of its customers to do so - and at a time of their own choosing. Think about this for a minute: if you needed to rely on reviews and chose a business based on their reviews and score, how pleased would you be if you subsequently found out that only their nailed-on happy customers were invited to write a review and others could not, however hard they tried? Or that they especially timed the invitation to coincide with when the reviewer was bound to respond positively?

Fear No. 3 - that by complying with the law you will be harming your business.

What, then, does your business need?

It needs a mechanism that...

  • complies with the CMA regulations
  • enables your business to manage unfair/inaccurate/misleading/fake/malicious before they are posted to Google (or anywhere else)
  • allows your business to counteract the inherently unbalancing effect of human nature
And the name of that mechanism? Review management.

Professional review management...
  • complies with the CMA regulations - by allowing all of your customers to write a review at a time of their own choosing
  • enables your business to manage unfair/inaccurate/misleading/fake/malicious before they are posted to Google - in fact, before they are posted to the business's own website
  • allows your business to counteract the inherently unbalancing effect of human nature - by encouraging and enabling more of its satisfied customers to post reviews, to its own website and to Google

The process...

It all begins with the button you see here - 'Write a review'...

...on your own website. The minute that appears your business complies with the CMA regulations (because you are allowing any customer to write a review at any time of their own choosing).

Next - when the reviewer submits their review - it is read by a moderator. If it contains anything that might reasonably be expected to mislead a reader - be that inaccurate, misleading, fake or malicious content - the moderator will then invite the reviewer and the business to resolve whatever issue has been raised*.

The review is then posted on the business's own site...

...and the reviewer is then asked to copy it to Google...

...which many will, especially if they are encouraged by their contact at the business.

Resulting in the business looking like this on their own website....

...and like this when they are looked up on Google...

...and, perhaps most important of all, like this when they are looked up in a competitive or local search...

And the results?

Look at what engaging with review management did for this business...

...for more on this read this article.

So: another business that was just as 'fearful' as yours when it first considered reviews and concerned about just how it could look as good as it deserved on Google without endangering its reputation has achieved all its objectives thanks to professional review management. 

*Please don't get the impression that review management will in any way allow your business to deflect genuinely held negative opinions: that's down to your own business practices. For more on how professional moderation benefits both business and consumer read this article.

Friday, 23 November 2018

When are consumers going to rumble reviews sites?

It cannot be long now. Here is Spark Energy on Trustpilot ('Great')...

...and here it is on Google...

Today the spark went out - Spark Energy went bust. Which reviews will you - and your potential customers - be trusting from now on?

Further reading...

  • 'Deflection' is what happens when dissatisfied customers write to Google rather than the business's reviews site of choice - you can see it's happened here.
  • 'Fear' - the reason so many businesses opt for a reviews site is a well-founded fear that should they invite their customers to post reviews direct to Google their image there will be dominated by the 'unhappy minority'. That's why review management - HelpHound - exists, to ensure that the absolute minimum of unfounded, unfair, inaccurate and misleading reviews are posted.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Reviews and your ranking in search - any correlation?

This is one of the $64,000 questions we are asked every day of our lives, and the answer is not straightforward - that is, unless you apply some simple logic.

To begin with, Google is hardly likely to publish its search algorithms any time soon - they are its most valuable asset, a bit like the secret formula is for Coca Cola. But if you diligently monitor the web, and read Google's blog assiduously, as we do, you begin to get a feel, along these lines...

  • Google likes reviews - a lot. Over the past five years they have dedicated huge resources - and massive space in search - to reviews 
  • Google really, really likes its own reviews - way above those of any other company - and it controls their relative prominence in search
  • Google is aware that the US Congress is looking at their monopoly position in reviews - and it has come up with a clever solution: Google Partners
Here are just two pieces of hard evidence. This (from the Google My Business help centre)...

...and (this from a Google search)...

And what can we extrapolate from this?
  • That businesses need to concentrate all their available energy on Google reviews
  • That Google partners, from the point of view of most businesses, are a red herring, at least from a search visibility point-of-view
  • That businesses should host independently verified reviews on their own websites
But, most convincing of all, let's look at some real-life examples of businesses that tick these boxes: they all have two things in common: they have great Google scores and numbers of reviews and they all have their own reviews on their own websites for Google to find (and in many cases pull through into search using the schema)...

Here's a business - with 112 Google reviews and another 137 on its own website - showing in a competitive local search...

...and another...

..given that the cost, in effort and in financial terms, is hardly prohibitive, don't you think it's time your business tried professional review management for itself?

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Using a reviews site? Keep an eye on Yelp!

Not so much the stock market perhaps?

How so? Yelp - as Yelp Inc. - is the largest quoted reviews site on the planet, and we would argue that its share price is a pretty effective barometer of the value of all review sites. And by value, we mean value to paying businesses as well as to consumers.

Here's a chart...

...showing Yelp's share price from its peak in 2014 (March 7 2014, to be exact, at a price of $97.25). That's a fall of over two thirds of Yelp's market value. Why?

Let's examine what we at HelpHound, as interested observers, think about Yelp. First of all we think Yelp is a victim of very bad business luck. The same 'bad luck' that put paid to businesses like Nokia - a bigger competitor came along, in Yelp's case that competitor was their worst nightmare: Google. Yelp management may have hoped that they would be able to dominate the reviews space, at least for some years, but that was not to be, it's Google all the way now.

What's to learn for those businesses using other review sites?

You're with Trustpilot or Feefo? Neither of those businesses is quoted on any stock market, and, with the recent performance of Yelp frightening off investors, is unlikely to be any time soon. But that doesn't prevent customers of those businesses learning lessons from Yelp's share price performance. The lessons?

  1. Focus on Google reviews
  2. Do everything you - legally* - can to score as high as possible there (partly because one of our predictions is that Google will soon begin ranking businesses by their Google score in search - why wouldn't they?)
*Legally: far too many businesses have taken 'lesson 1' on board and focussed all their efforts on getting great Google reviews, but they have broken the law in doing so (and continue to do so). They have 'cherry-picked' happy customers to write reviews.

Please read the following...

Reviews and the medical profession - did our predictions come true?

We first wrote about reviews and the medical profession way back in 2014. So were we right? First lets look at what we predicted:

  1. That reviews of medical services, be they general practice or specialist, would become popular with patients
  2. That Google would become the vehicle of choice, both for those posting the reviews and those reading them
  3. That practitioners that did not find a way of actively engaging with reviews would ultimately suffer, for two reasons: first, medicine is, by its very nature, a complex subject to review accurately and second, the motivation for a dissatisfied patient to write a review is so much greater
And all these led us to the same conclusion: that the medical (and associated health and caring professions) would do well to adopt a proactive attitude to reviews.

What has happened?

1.  Reviews becoming popular

Tick one. Reviews of medical services, of whatever kind, have multiplied over five-fold since 2014. GP practices that had one or two reviews then commonly have ten, twenty or even thirty now, often many more...

Four years ago this GP surgery had no reviews. Now, as you can see, they have over thirty

2.  It's Google all the way now

Tick two. The alternatives have faded away - simply because Google reviews dominate in search. 

Looking for a GP? 

...whether the potential patient conducts a simple search (top) or a map search (bottom) they are shown local surgeries with their Google scores prominently displayed.

Looking for a specialist?

An example of one that has begun to harness the power of Google reviews...

3. Those that have not engaged will have suffered

Tick three - in a very high proportion of cases. If your practice does not engage one of two things will happen (often both, one following the other)...
  • you will have no reviews:

...fine, but not especially helpful for potential patients looking for reassurance before choosing a GP. Much more important, it leaves the field wide open for dissatisfied patients to very quickly dominate the impression created in search. It is so easy to go from looking like the practice above, to this...

...a surgery that had no reviews until a year ago!

So what do you need to do?

In a word: engage.

We are fully alive to the fact that we are asking you to put your reputation on the line by proactively inviting reviews, but we are advising you to do exactly that.

Managing that risk

We all recognise that those who feel they have been insufficiently well treated - whether that be by the hotel or restaurant of their choice or their medical practitioner - will be much more motivated to write a review than those who are happy. So we - and you - need a mechanism to balance that equation. That mechanism is moderation.


Moderation is the process whereby a review passes through a 'safety net' (operated by HelpHound in conjunction with both the practitioner and the patient/reviewer) before the review is published - that safety net operates in the best interests of both the reviewer and the practitioner to ensure that the review is factually correct and contains nothing that might mislead the person relying on that review to make an informed choice. For those that would like to mine don into the fine detail of moderation there is a separate article here.


No matter what our clients' professions, our ultimate aim will always be to have them scoring in excess of 4.5 on both their own websites and on Google. A 'perfect 5' is attainable in some cases, but it would be unreasonable of us to lead anyone to expect that at outset.

It may well be that some processes within the individual practice need tweaking to improve the business's CRM (a one star review complaining that the phone 'is never answered' has exactly the same impact on a practitioner's Google score as a one star review of a complex medical procedure) but HelpHound will always advise on that before going ahead and implementing any review management processes.

The next steps

Implementation is always planned very thoroughly indeed. No stage is implemented - asking patients to write a Google review, for instance - until the previous stage (asking for a review to the practitioner's own website, in this case) has been thoroughly tested and proven.

At HelpHound we support all our clients every step of the way, from first review to their ultimate goal (as described above). We act in exactly the same way as all your other professional advisers - just focussing on reviews as opposed to legal or financial issues.

Last, but not least, we have no contracts with our clients (apart from our terms of engagement) so we are fully aware that we have to deliver month-in-month-out.