Tuesday, 25 June 2019

5 days in California - Helphound returns with 5 crucial lessons for your business - a 'must read'

There is no substitute for contact with people who work in, around and with Google; if the flight were less than twenty-two hours return we would do it more often!

Here are the five nuggets we gleaned:

  1. Google values reviews more every day; as a stand alone resource for its users and as an SEO 'credit'
  2. Google will continue to reward businesses that host their own reviews on their own websites
  3. Businesses must start planning - now! - for the day that Google returns businesses in search based on their reviews: their scores, the absolute number of reviews they have and the flow of those reviews
  4. Google sees reviews sites reducing in significance in search in the near future (in the UK we have already seen both Trustpilot and Feefo pull back from service reviews recently)
  5. Google is determined to continue to add value through reviews - by refining ways in which it can identify fake or fraudulent reviews, for example (see our note on compliance at the end of this article) and by encouraging quality reviews, initially through its Local Guides

Other more general - but equally important - themes emerged:
  • Businesses should take reviews seriously - more seriously than most do currently
  • Businesses should make every effort to score as near as 5.0 as possible (4.0 out of 5 will simply not cut it in the new era)
  • Businesses should be looking to accrue reviews in their thousands (as opposed to the tens and hundreds as is common at present)
  • Businesses should be making significant investment in training staff, from senior management through to sales and customer support, in order that they do not fall behind or have their online reputations negatively impacted
  • That review management must be viewed as a stand-alone discipline - complementing feedback and analytics, but not secondary to them

And just one point - alluded to above - on our old friend compliance:
  • Google will be introducing more ways of its own, independent of national regulatory bodies, to establish whether or not businesses are cherry-picking or gating and it will be expanding its current range of sanctions

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Ask not what your reviews can do for you...

If you are interested, the relevant words can be found at minute 14.

Some readers will be old enough to remember John F Kennedy's inauguration speech, back in January 1961, in which he implored his 'fellow-Americans' to look into their hearts and 'ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.'

In our headline we paraphrased the first part of this famous quotation. In this article we want to go on to emphasise just how important reviews are for consumers - the 'ask what your reviews can do for your potential customers' part.

First: Understand how reviews are consumed

This is the first - and essential - step. Online reviews break down into two distinct categories:

  • product reviews: reviews of toasters and T-shirts, cameras and and cordless drills. We are not concerned with these, simply because they add so little value. People buy shirts because they like the look of them - a review that says 'this shirt only lasted three years' will be ignored by 99% of prospective purchasers (and the purchaser can always send it back if they doesn't like the colour or fit). If there is a 'thirst' for such reviews it is easily satisfied by the online reviews sites, publications such as Which? and plenty of online expert reviews.
  • service reviews: these we are concerned with. For two reasons: firstly because the overwhelming majority of consumers now trust their fellows when it comes to such reviews, secondly because such decisions (as to exactly which service to choose) have much more far reaching - and often irreversible - implications if we get them wrong. Let us examine some of the categories under this heading:
    • health: medical and all areas of wellbeing, from physiotherapy to care homes
    • finance: from mortgages and loans to wealth management and insurance 
    • education: from schools to further education, from tutors to adult courses
    • legal: from conveyancing to divorce, will writing to commercial law
    • property: estate agency and surveying, building and allied trades

We would suggest you choose just one of the five above and ask yourself, bearing in mind recent experience, how much you would have valued reviews of such a business as an aid, assuming you had urgent need and none of your friends or colleagues were able to recommend a solution, like this home-seller:

Second: understand the value of reliable reviews

Imagine just how valuable such reviews would be. We include an example for each of the above categories here, doing so somehow makes the concept so much more 'real':
  • health - gynaecology

  • finance - mortgages

  • education - independent school 

  • legal - leasehold dispute

  • property - flat sale

Taking that last example, this review by Lucie Noble is of Winkworth in Kennington. We are sure that all but the most hardened cynics will agree that it is pretty powerful on its own. But accompanied by 119 more?

On the most visible platform there is? Showing in local search like this?

As opposed to two categories of business that have not engaged? The first being those with no reviews at all...

And a common sub-category: those that have not engaged but have ended up with these less than helpful 'ratings':

The above is the result of a combination of factors: unhelpful Google 'local guides' rating the business (of which they almost certainly have no direct experience) in order to gain points and boost their individual scores combined with 'helpful' staff, giving their employer a boost. It is also a sign of a business that has not engaged with reviews. How do we know that? Because we know what a business that has engaged with reviews looks like. It looks like Winkworth (see above) and here:

And here (in map and mobile search):

These reviews are genuine, thoughtful and - on the whole - written with an eye to helping the reviewers' fellow consumers make an informed decision. But they did not happen by accident. This is what the business in question did...

  1. It researched the whole market, including the independent reviews sites and the option of 'doing it itself'.
  2. The reviews sites were discounted for two main reasons: first because it had become obvious that Google had become consumers' 'go to' resource for reviews, and second because they lacked any form of moderation pre-publication (it may be fine for someone to publish a glaring error about a pair of shoes costing £100 and for the business to then correct that error in their response, but where transactions that have the potential to be life-changing are the subject of the review it is essential for all parties concerned, not least the reviewer, that these errors are corrected pre-publication).
  3. Do-it-yourself was, likewise, discounted for two reasons: it was considered that an independent moderator would carry far more credibility (moderation is the function of reading reviews to ensure, as far as is possible, the review contains no errors of fact or statements likely to mislead a reader - read more about this vital function here) and because Google values businesses that publish their own reviews on their websites for SEO purposes (look at Winkworth's position in both the Google 3-pack and organic search above - the stars and score in organic search are drawn from their own reviews).
  4. It chose HelpHound to work along side all its stakeholders (tech, web designers, management and franchisees, not to mention staff in-branch) to deliver on all their objectives.
By delivering on 'ask what your reviews can do for your potential customers' - providing a credible and effective reviews system for all their customers - existing and potential - to use, whenever they choose...

Just one click here - to read as many of the 179 reviews as you want or write one yourself

...and wherever they are looking (on Google or on the business's own website - above).

So by asking the question - 'what your reviews can do for your potential customers' - you will be helping not only those potential customers but your own business; because businesses that adopt proper professional review management do so much better by comparison with their competitors - see this case history for a great example - it's a complete win/win: your potential customers win and the business wins.

Further reading...
  • There are nearly 1,000 articles here, all of which cover a subject that is relevant to the world of reviews and review management. You can interrogate the blog (there's a box on the right) but here is an index of the handful of articles that will put you in the picture before you contact us to see what we - and you - can do for your business and your customers.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

A business wins an award - and loses

As regular readers will know, we are not great fans of the 'chunks of perspex in the window' school of marketing. Why? Because it causes businesses to take their eye off the prize. That prize? A great Google score and looking unrivalled in search. Yesterday just such an email found its way into our inbox. Let's take a look:

A winner!

But are they? Suppose we check on Google. First a search on the business itself:

Here are two out of three of their Google rich snippets:

A look at the reviews Google judge to be the 'most relevant'

How about a search on 'estate agents hull':

When - and if - a potential client makes it past these Google searches (bear in mind that they are bound to do at last one of them, if only to find the business's phone number) they will see this:

And our take on that? Read this article from exactly a year ago.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Reviews - a basic guide

We recently updated this memo; it has proved popular - and helpful - so we have reproduced it here for the benefit of all.

And here is a link to an index of some of the most popular articles on this blog. For more information simply call or email us.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

When are we going to see Google ratings referenced in advertising?

Question: which ratings and reviews are:

  1. Most frequently viewed?
  2. Most trusted?
  3. Free (for the business)?
The answer - we would humbly suggest (please feel free to comment) - is 'Google's'.

Most Frequently viewed

Every time a search is made, of whatever kind of business, Google displays reviews - it's own reviews. They are prominently displayed in every kind of search: specific (on the business's name) and comparative (local or competitive).

Most trusted

Ask any consumer. Reinforcing this trust is the knowledge amongst even the least sophisticated consumer - these days - that they are able to post a Google review whenever they wish. It is conceivable that consumers have heard of Feefo and/or Trustpilot, but Google?


Google doesn't charge.

So why are businesses not referencing their Google reviews (and scores) in their advertising?

Left: the business scoring five stars on its chosen reviews site. Right: the same business on Google

We think the answer is a combination of the following:
  • if a business has been 'sold' a reviews solution it is inclined to use that solution in its advertising, simply to justify the spend
  • research consistently shows that businesses that employ reviews sites score better on those reviews sites than on Google; this is partly due to a syndrome we call 'deflection' where happy customers are content to respond to the business's invitation to post a review on the site of the business's own choice but less pleased customers are more likely to vent on Google
  • the herd instinct: competitors do it, so why shouldn't we?

There is a fourth reason: the reviews sites invariably offer 'advantages' to attract businesses, and these can often result in a higher score; some sites are 'closed' (unlike Google) and only allow customers to post a review by invitation and others have some form of 'quarantine' for reviews that allows the business to challenge reviews it disagrees with. Both of these may seem reasonable on the face of it, but they place control in the hands of the business that tilts the board in the business's favour and, as a direct result, raise compliance issues as far as the CMA regulations are concerned (these categorically state that businesses, if they invite reviews, must allow all customers to write a review at a time of their own choosing - read this article for more on this important issue).

Our advice 

Build your advertising and marketing around this (score and content)!

Focus all your efforts on Google*. This advice is categoric, for the reasons mentioned above. Google is here to stay, and it controls the online gateway to your business. Get Google reviews and then reference these and your score in all your advertising and promotional activity. 

*In our experience there is only one thing stopping most businesses going down this route, and that is the fear that their customers may post inaccurate or misleading reviews. That is why HelpHound exists, to advise clients on how to go about protecting their reputations at the same time as shining in all forms of Google search. We say we 'manage out the fear' - to understand more about this read on.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Wealth managers - there's a world of opportunity out there

Last weekend the Financial Times ran one of its regular surveys of wealth managers; so far so ordinary. It also ran articles in the same supplement addressing two important issues:
  • 'Generation gap that managers struggle to fill' - referring to the poor take-up of wealth management by the young(er) generation. On top of that apparently, sixty-six percent fire their parent's wealth manager as soon as they inherit and (according to a 2016 survey) only fifteen percent of current clients currently expect their family's relationship with their wealth manager to survive their death.
  • 'Managers adapt to appeal to female clients' quoted a report entitled 'The Financial Power of Women' published by Fidelity International* saying 'women's default position is cautious' and 'women often do not feel confident making decisions about saving [and] investing'.
*Fidelity International (London) currently has no reviews showing in a Google search.

Now comes another killer statistic: this week a survey by EY found that a third of all wealth management clients switched providers within the last three years. Alice Ross of the FT goes on to say 'Wealth managers are painfully aware of all these statistics.'

Now let us throw in another number: at least eighty-four percent of consumers now trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends

That's not our headline, it is from an article in Inc.com quoting a survey by Bright Local. And there's more (Bright Local again):

So here - below - we publish a table of our own, this time focussing on Google consumer reviews relative to each manager's published number of clients/investors. This is what the firm at the top returns in search:

With few exceptions, this is par for the course. Some have none:

This table raises some obvious questions. Let us see...

Do wealth managers see the value of Google reviews, or of any reviews at all? Some do see the value of less visible forms of review - Nutmeg, for instance, is paying Trustpilot (Google reviews are free):

AJ Bell subscribes to another fee-paying service:

Do wealth managers' potential clients see Google reviews? This bears some scrutiny; wealth managers gain new clients in a myriad of ways - personal recommendation, professional recommendation, through their advertising and marketing and through Google. How do we know the latter? Because many wealth managers are using Google PPC - here are two businesses that have bought Google Ads for the search term 'Sarasin asset management':

And here are two more, this time for the generic search 'wealth managers':

Interesting that these two firms - paying Google for the advertisements that you see above - would seem oblivious to their potential client's next (and obvious) step - to refer to their reviews (highlighted right bang slap in the middle of their advertisement)?

So the first part of the answer is 'yes - because they are buying Google ads'; the so far less well understood answer is 'yes, because every time a potential client looks them up - even if they are not consciously looking for reviews - they are being served reviews by Google, if they have any.'

But if they don't? Here's AJ Bell again:

So here we have a conundrum: wealth managers do subscribe to reviews sites but they don't ask their clients to write reviews to Google. Why do we suppose that might be? It is almost certainly a combination of the following factors:

  • Fear: they know that Google reviews can be a Pandora's Box, that a review once written there can seldom be taken down.
  • Google reviews are not being 'sold', whereas Trustpilot and Feefo have sales forces targeting businesses of all kinds.
Let's look at a business that has found a way to address the issue of overcoming the understandable 'fear' of engaging with Google reviews: Winkworth, the well-known estate agents. Here they are in Blackheath:

The differences are immediately obvious: 
  • Their own reviews show in organic search (saving them having to pay Google or a reviews site) - top left.
  • Their own reviews - and a link to them - appear in 'Reviews from the web' - bottom right - boosting their website's SEO as well as providing a welcome resource for potential clients to reference on their website.
  • They have a great Google score - 4.9 - top right.
  • They have great Google reviews a click away:

  • They look impressive in a generic search:

So what?

The impact this has on a professional service business is profound. It should expect:
  • volumes of inbound calls and clicks through to its website to rise significantly leading to...
  • ...significant savings in all other areas of advertising, marketing, public relations and all other promotional activities

So how did the business above 'manage out the fear factor'? They adopted review management - HelpHound's review management to be precise - and a big part of our function is to moderate every review that flows through the business's website and then on to Google. Not to deflect negative reviews, but to ensure that reviews are factually accurate and don't mislead potential clients or anyone else who reads them. 

The opportunity

If we look at the list above again we can see just what an opportunity the first mover in the area of wealth management has if they have the initiative to grasp it. The wealth managers listed have, between them, 2,217,730 clients, fewer than 0.00004 % of whom have written a review. That's a massive untapped resource in review management terms.

Over to you, wealth managers.

Further reading...

Thursday, 23 May 2019

HelpHound - index of essential reading

This index is primarily intended for those new to the world of reviews and review management, but it is just as useful for our clients to act as a resource for refreshing knowledge. It will be updated as and when we publish a fresh article that meets our criteria for inclusion...
  1. Essential reading - legal and compliance, for instance 
  2. Case histories - we all learn from each other's experiences
  3. Success stories - like case histories, but all about how to maximise financial returns
Note for those thinking they have reviews and review management 'under control': please read the first article under each heading; we have yet to meet a business where we could not add value to their existing review management processes.

Legal and compliance

Nearly every business we meet - certainly those that are already proactively inviting reviews - is in breach of one or more of the UK government relating to reviews. It doesn't matter how great you look, if you got there by breaching CMA regulations you will need to take action.

Case histories

There is something for everyone to learn from each of these experiences.

  • Deflection explained: since Google entered - and began to dominate - the reviews sphere there has been an unintended side-effect for businesses committing to sites such as Trustpilot or Feefo: looking demonstrably worse on Google, something we christened 'deflection' because negative reviews are being 'deflected' to Google.
  • We published 'No better proof' quoting five clients over two years ago now; all five are still clients and all five look even better in competitive searches now than they did back in March 2017.

Success stories 

By far and away the best way to learn: from the hard-won experience of others. If, once you have read one or more of these, you feel you would benefit from speaking to the client concerned, just speak to us and we will arrange it.

  • Not long to wait: nearly twenty percent more calls and nearly thirty percent more visits to this clients website the month after full implementation.