Monday, 18 September 2017

How HelpHound adds value to 'Do-it-yourself' review management

Any business can invite their customers to post a review to Google, and many do. Here we focus on the value HelpHound adds to that process...

1.  Independently verified reviews on your own site

Just as having reviews on Google increases click-through to your website, reviews on your own website act as a powerful call to action, turning browsers into potential customers. In this example the combination of both increased click-through by 27%.

You don't have to take our word for it; every month Google will send you a report like this, so you will be able to see the direct effect of adopting HelpHound (thank you to Curchods for allowing us to publish this copy of their Google My Business performance statistics).

With independently verified reviews you get the added bonus of stars, score and number of independently verified reviews attached to your organic listing in search and a click-through in the Google knowledge panel (see points 3 and 4 below).

2.  Minimising inaccurate, misleading and fake reviews

At HelpHound, every review goes through Resolution™ - our moderation system - and any that we think may be factually inaccurate or potentially misleading are first served to you so you can engage with the reviewer. This ensures, as far as is possible, that reviews shown are an accurate reflection of your business, benefiting you and your potential customers. 

3.  Showing your own reviews' score in search

The stars and the rating and make you stand out in search and gives consumers an instant impression of your business - proven to increase both calls and click-throughs (website visits increased by 27% for one client - read the story here).  

4.  Showing 'Reviews from the web' in your Google knowledge panel

Consumers have been trained by Google to use the knowledge panel as an instant reference for your business. Reviews are shown there in no less than three separate locations: Google reviews at the top, 'Reviews from the web' - a link to the reviews on your own website - in the middle - and 'rich snippets' - the quotes from your reviews that Google takes to create an impression for its users, at the bottom.

5.  Advice on responding to reviews

Responding to reviews is an important aspect of modern CRM. But so few businesses do so - when asked they often say 'we don't have time' or 'we don't have the confidence' and, more often than you might think, 'we don't know how'. HelpHound supports all our clients with advice, whether that be strategic or specific, right down to the wording of individual responses.

6.  Advice on appealing inaccurate or misleading reviews 

One of the most frequently received calls here at HelpHound is from businesses who have received a review - on Google or any other reviews platform - that they consider to be either:
  • fake - written maliciously, perhaps by a competitor or a disgruntled employee, or just someone with an axe to grind
  • inaccurate or misleading - it does not accord with their version of events, or makes simple factual errors that might mislead future consumers to the detriment of both those consumers and the business
At HelpHound we reckon we have more experience than any other adviser in this area. We will recommend whatever course of action we believe to be the most effective and prepare a written appeal to the review site in question - including Google.

7.  Longevity

Solutions change over time - you only have to look at the profusion of reviews sites that have positioned themselves as the solution for businesses, only to fade away months or years later. Most of your will know of Yelp - the biggest review site on the planet - they invested massively in the UK and signed up thousands of businesses and then abruptly left last year.

Your business needs a solution that your can rely on for the years to come, and that means
  • owning your own reviews, not giving them to another business
  • adopting a solution that is flexible enough to accommodate changes - changes in the marketplace, changes at Google. Infinitely adaptable to act in your best interests. That's HelpHound.

8. Compliance

The Competitions & Markets Authority (CMA) has yet to fine a business in the UK for contravening its regulations, but mark our words, it is only a matter of time. Anyone who thinks the CMA is reluctant to show its teeth would do well to read this.

And most, if not all, current reviews solutions in the UK contravene one or more of the CMA's core regulations. Read this to see if you recognise any symptoms.

What use is a reviews solution if it results in a headline accusing a business of playing fast-and-loose with government regulations? You need professional advice on reviews and review management almost as much as you need professional legal and financial advice. We are here to provide it.

In summary

There - eight reasons. And we would humbly suggest that any one of them is worth our monthly fee on its own. DIY or HelpHound? Speak to Fiona or Karen and then make an appointment where we will answer any questions about your current strategy - or discuss ways ahead if you have yet to formulate one.

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AllAgents suspend listing of Purplebricks reviews - who next?

This appeared on PurpleBricks' page on allAgents today...

What has happened? Well, first let us say that we know no more than has been published on PIE. But from that, we gather that “allAgents received correspondence from Purplebricks’s legal representatives threatening legal action if we do not remove 71 negative reviews. allAgents has decided to action their request pending further investigation.”

Things have, it appears, quickly moved on to complete suspension

We make no comment on the merits or otherwise of either party's case, but we will be following this story with interest, not least because allAgents are by no means the only site that carries reviews - negative of otherwise - of Purplebricks and every other business on the planet. If Purplebricks can get a reviews site to take down its reviews which business and which reviews site is next?

Trustpilot - which is Purplebricks' review site of choice - itself released an 'open letter' that is quoted in full on Estate Agent Today

Our take...

Reviews are meant to help consumers make decisions, but there are often marked differences between reviews sites (above), and Google and those reviews sites...

Again, we make no comment as to the accuracy or veracity of the reviews that make up these three distinctly divergent scores, except to say that we don't know quite where they must leave the average consumer.

As regular readers will know, we at HelpHound have always had issues with independent reviews websites - it is very difficult indeed for an independent site to market a service that is seen as actively encouraging dissatisfied customers to post publicly visible reviews - and many have mechanisms that are designed to address this very issue. The trouble is that some of these mechanisms can be seen to give rise to potential differences when checked against the Competition & Markets Authority's regulations.

Our solution...

There is no need for a business to use an independent reviews site. Adopting proper professional review management gives a business a much more flexible solution - and enables the business to get reviews where they will do the most good (and there's no doubting they do good!) and that is currently on the business's own site and on Google.

Update 20 September...

An article in the Times today.

As of today, Trustpilot's entry for Purplebricks US looks like this...

With all but one review looking like this...

And - a simple click through to Nick Smith's Trustpilot profile shows this:

What is anyone to make of a review site where the business has to report the review to the review site it employs? Did anyone at Trustpilot have the slightest inkling that a reviewer with a email address may possibly not have sold a property in California. More to the point, did Trustpilot - do Trustpilot - know that Purplebricks only launched in the US last Friday

Purplebricks US site looks like this (currently)...

Now, we can only say what HelpHound's policy would be in this case, and that is that we will only allow our clients to show reviews that are directly attributable to the location in question. You open a new office in Cardiff - you better start getting review from clients in Cardiff, because we are not going to allow you to show reviews from your Bristol office! If a consumer sees a HelpHound verified review on a business's website that review will be of that business in that location...

Reviews of Winkworth in Kennington - nowhere else.

In conclusion...

We are sorry if the tone of this article is verging on the intemperate, but here at HelpHound we work very hard to ensure that we, in conjunction our clients, manage their reviews in such a way as consumers are able to rely on them: if a HelpHound client looks good it must be because they are good.

We understand that reviews sites are under considerable pressure - on the one hand from some businesses that think it is 'unfair' that people can 'write what they like' about them and want the review site to bend over backwards (and bend the rules - both the CMA's rules and the rules of natural justice) to help them - and on the other from Google; the canal companies were not thrilled when railways came along, but come they did. 

Google and professional review management are now the solution businesses need - with a sideways glance at Facebook too - and if that means that the independent reviews sites fall by the wayside, then so be it (there was a massive hint that this was happening when Yelp left the UK at the end of last year).

Latest (21 September): 

Property Industry Eye "allAgents mount criticism of 'miffed' Purplebricks"

A new notice on Purplebricks' listing on allAgents

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Friday, 15 September 2017

Winkworth's new website is shortlisted for the Negotiator Awards

Congratulations to our clients at Winkworth for being shortlisted for the Negotiator Awards 2017.

We love the way Winkworth and their web designers at Homeflow have taken our API and incorporated it into their striking new website, and we wish them all the best on 31st October.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Visits up 27% thanks to HelpHound!

Yesterday Google introduced Google My Business performance statistics. Sent to each business in an email they look like this...

Curchods went live with HelpHound this summer - this, for just one of their branches, was sent to us today by their marketing director (and shared with permission). Calls up 18% and website visits up a massive 27% - and the only difference? HelpHound (and for a month - August - where they would normally expect falls)

There is a strong message from Google here - following right on from last week's surge in searches for 'best' - and that is that looking great in reviews is vitally important if you are to maximise returns from search.

Look like this...

 ...with your own reviews, gathered with HelpHound, showing the star rating, score and number (top left) and with a direct link from 'Reviews from the web' to your website in the Google Knowledge Panel; then your Google reviews and rich snippets (bottom right), all working in concert to produce the uplift in calls and visits reported by Google in the top screenshot.

 ...and we are sure that all twenty-one of Curchods branches will go on to look like this established client in the not too distant future

We think the message is now even clearer - that professional review management pays dividends - we hope, like Curchods, you will see the benefits too.

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Friday, 8 September 2017

Examples of businesses misusing reviews

Five years ago reviews in the UK were unregulated; as a result all kinds of questionable practices became commonplace. Now, we are delighted to say, reviews are regulated by the Competition and Markets Authority.

In this article we will highlight some of these practices and we strongly suggest that those yet to join HelpHound use this as a checklist (if you are a HelpHound client you will not need to concern yourself – except, perhaps, to see if a competitor is non-compliant!).


Six months ago this business had no reviews on Google, then it had two 1* reviews in succession, now it has thirteen 5* reviews - all written in the last two months. Understandable, but non-compliant with the CMA regulations which state that if you are going to invite customers to write reviews that invitation should be to all your customers

By far-and-away the most common: it’s often because the business has received a negative review and they have suddenly realized they need to engage. So what would any normal business do? It will ask its staff to ask its most reliable customers to post a glowing review. Normal? Yes. Compliant? No.

Giveaways: Few – or no - reviews over a period of years, then a negative, hotly followed by a flurry of positives.


A ‘clever’ variant of cherry-picking: the business asks all of its customers to write a review to a small independent reviews site – after that they only invite those who have posted a five star review to copy it to Google. Ouch!

Giveaways: an average score on a less well-known site and then a great score on Google, but from fewer reviews.

Mis-describing testimonials as reviews

It is simple: a 'review' must be verified by an external source. If it is not it is a testimonial, and must not be described as a review. We have seen multiple examples of such misleading misdescription - one where the testimonials in question are even being used to hoodwink Google into displaying a star rating in natural search.

Giveaways: If the 'review' is taken from an independent site and displayed on the business's site it will appear twice if pasted into Google search: once on each site; if it does not, it is not a review.

Rewarding reviewers

If you do decide to reward customers for posting a review make sure they are rewarded whatever they score or say - good or bad, five star or one star

Rewarding customers for posting a review is frowned on by most review platforms, and against the T&Cs of some. It can also backfire: we recently saw a negative review of a business mentioning the reward that had been offered – not good PR (see below). Rewards can be OK in certain circumstances, but everyone must qualify for the reward, those posting negative reviews included.

Giveaways: reviews mentioning the reward (see screenshot below)

Incentivising reviewers

Besides being against the CMA regulations, incentivising customers to post positive reviews can backfire in other ways

A sub-group of ‘rewarding’ really – how about the business that hosted a party for graduates and then asked their guests to post a review? Unfortunately multiple reviewers used their reviews as an opportunity to thank the business for its hospitality – making clear that they were not bona-fide clients of the business.

Giveaways: mentions in the review – ‘thank you for the Amazon voucher’ or ‘I look forward to receiving my reward’

Using a review site that filters reviews

These are just two of many 'reviews of review sites' on competitor sites, and they both tell the same story: that the reviewer alleges that they could not get their review posted. If this is true, and we have seen more than one example where it would appear to be, using a site like this is a) against the CMA regulations  and b) hands a big win to any business that spots that their competitor is using such a system

It’s very simple – under CMA rules, anyone must be able to post a review at any time – any system - or business using such a system - that prevents that, however well-meaning, is non-compliant. It will also drive unhappy customers to post to a site that does allow them to post as and when they want – and that site? Google, of course.

Giveaways: none – unless you read reviews on competing websites; but reviews-savvy competitors and the CMA will know

Selectively showing external reviews on the business’s own site

More common than you might think – inviting reviews to an external site and then showing only the positive ones on the business’s own site.

Giveaways: a simple cross-check shows this up

Describing testimonials as reviews

Most people will probably recognise these white/green stars by now - but, strangely, the customer comments are not taken from - or verified by - that site. In fact, the business concerned does not describe the comments shown underneath these stars as reviews or testimonials, but what might a visitor to their website reasonably assume?

Again, we see this frequently. A review is, by definition, independently verified by an outside agency, a testimonial is invited and displayed by the business alone and the business has total control over what is displayed.

Giveaways: the ‘reviews’ lack attribution


There are two messages here: the first is that whatever reviews system your business adopts it must be compliant with the CMA regulations (they have the force of law). The second is to use this article as a checklist against which to examine any system you might be tempted to use.

Alternatively you can speak to us. We have no axe to grind other than our clients' best interests - so you can be sure of receiving a reliable answer.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Search for 'best' soars on Google

This is straight from the horse's mouth...

  We read 'Think with Google' so our clients don't have to (not about reviews, at least) - here is the full text of this week's article

...and the implications are far-reaching. 

Let's look at this in more detail:
  • consumers - self-evidently - want the 'best' in any search - the 'best' restaurant or the 'best' lawyer, in fact 'the 'best' of everything
  • Google is actually pretty bad at delivering 'best' - so that uplift in the use of 'best' as a search term is not really delivering. Look at these examples...

 'Best' hotel...

Top result? A hotel rated 3.8 - it just so happens to have the word 'best' in its name, but the Seraphine at 3.9?

'Best' estate agent...

 Well, you cannot argue that they are not all 'Best', but possibly not in the way searchers want or need

'Best' lawyer...

 One at 2.8?

And our favourite... 'best' financial advisors...

 ...currently serving a 150 year sentence in a Federal jail!

But seriously...

What this illustrates is the conflict of interest that is at the core of Google's business model - and they have the key to solving that conflict, the only question is: when will they decide to use that key.

The key?

Reviews, of course. 

One day soon, hopefully for those using 'best' as a search term, Google will base the answer on review scores. It already has them - and if it does not it is up to the business concerned to remedy that situation - and it is certainly possible to deliver, from a technical point-of-view, by implementing a simple algorithm. After all, Google is already doing something very similar with its filter and 'Top rated' (more on that here).

What does your business need to do?

At the core of Google's research is the - unsurprising - finding that their users want to find great businesses, not just businesses with massive advertising budgets, but businesses who deliver great products and services - so just take some of your PPC budget and apply it to getting great reviews.


Businesses like this - this business had two Google reviews when it became a HelpHound client - already look great in search, and they can relax in the knowledge that they will rank at or near the top when Google gets round to delivering the 'best' in search

Strive to 'be the best' reviewed business in your marketplace, so when Google get around to ranking businesses yours appears at - or at least somewhere near - the top of the list. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

It has to be Google...

One of our staff has a bit of a thing for Italian sports cars. His needed a repair, so he used a company called Chipsaway. 

Before doing so he consulted every resource on the web - the marque forum and all the review sites. Chipsaway's local franchisee had no reviews on Google, but was so convincing when he visited to quote he was given the job.

Afterwards our man was invited by Chipsaway HQ to post a review to TrustPilot, but he decided to write his review to Google. Why? For three main reasons:
  1. Chipsaway already had over 1500 reviews on TrustPilot
  2. TrustPilot's system did not allow a review to be posted of the local franchisee who actually carried out the work, just Chipsaway in general (although the review could, of course, have mentioned Jas - the franchisee who carried out the work, future customers would have had a devil of a job identifying Jas amongst the 1500+ reviews)
  3. Jas, the franchisee who carried out the work, had no reviews on Google

Today - five months later - our man received an update from Google (he's a local guide). What did that reveal?


 this image, viewed 1042 times in five months, is only ever seen by someone clicking on 'see photos' in the business's knowledge panel or reading the review in question

...that his photograph - and, we must therefore assume, his review (for his review remains the sole Google review of this business in this location) has been viewed over 1000 times. To put that in context: to see that photograph someone would have had to do the following:
  • search for 'Chipsaway Chiswick'
  • view their knowledge panel:

  • and then: click on 'See photos' 
  • or the review itself... see that photograph.

Now, Google guard the metrics of their page-views very carefully, but this is pretty conclusive evidence that Google reviews are reaching a very wide audience indeed.


So what do businesses need to do to be seen in 2017? We would humbly suggest that they need reviews on Google. Way over and above any other site.

Before that, to make sure that their reviews are factually accurate and not harmfully misleading - or even posted maliciously - they need HelpHound, which will also mean they have star ratings in natural search and a link in the Google knowledge panel under 'Reviews from the web'...

     1: the business's own reviews and star rating, collected with HelpHound; 2: Google reviews invited using HelpHound; 3: the business's own reviews - again - linking direct to the business's own website; 4: Google rich snippets gleaned from the business's Google reviews

...not to mention great independently verified reviews of their own on their own website. 

Thanks Jas; you did a great job, and we sincerely hope that this review has helped - it has certainly helped us understand just a little more about the power of Google reviews.