Monday 2 March 2015

You Must Score 4

Far too many businesses are running a massive risk with their reputations by ignoring Google. Here we look into the issues raised by Google scores and our suggested solutions.

We should say straight away that we are fully aware why businesses are adopting this 'denial': it is because they are rightly fearful of unwittingly inviting harmful negative reviews. With Dialogue that 'fear' is taken away, so we can now relax and look at the implications of scoring less than 4.0 on Google. 

But before we do that, look at your business's G+ page and see how many people would have seen your reviews - assuming, of course, that you have any:

The number circled shows how many times the information contained in the business's G+ ('Google My Business') listing has been seen in search. Look at yours and then ask yourself 'Wouldn't it have been great if all those people had seen great reviews of our business?' and, if you already have a negative review, do you want that number of people seeing it?

Scoring 4 (strictly: Scoring 4.0 or higher)

For a multitude of reasons your business must score 4.0 or more on Google. Anything less means that your business will look unattractive to potential customers (would you do business with a business that was scored 3.9 out of 5 or less by its own customers?). Even a score averaging 4.0 will almost certainly contain some off-putting reviews (if you have 20 reviews averaging 4.0 it is unlikely that they all score 4, and before you say 'the odd negative adds credibility' - read this).

What happens if:
  • You do nothing
First and foremost: your business will look less and less engaged as your competitors garner more and more reviews. You run a significant risk of dropping out of Google's local seven results. Look at the big screenshot below: what does the business without reviews look like to you? A business without customers?
  • You get a one star review
It will not make that much difference initially (bear in mind that Google only gives - and shows - a star rating and average score when five reviews have been written), but it will mean that your maximum score when you are eligible for a star rating will be 4.0 (one 1* and four 5*s). Anything less and you will immediately be looking at a score starting with a 3 (at best). On top of that a negative review validates other negative opinions: someone just thinking about writing a negative review can be given the confidence to do so by seeing another negative has already been posted.
  • You get more than one one/two star reviews
This means a real uphill struggle (best score with two 1*s is 3.4 - two 1*s and three 5*s). To put this in perspective, to climb back to just 4.0 from there will take three more 5 star reviews but no number of 4* reviews will ever get you there.

Let's take a reasonable supposition: you embark on positive review management and twenty customers write reviews, two thirds 4* and a third 5* - what is you score now? Just 4.1.

In this example the business needs to take immediate and sustained remedial action. They have seven 1* and two 2* reviews. It will take nearly thirty 5* reviews to take their score over the critical 4.0.

Put simply: bad reviews hurt your score, and bad scores can really hurt your business (after all, the reason Google puts them there in the first place is to help its users choose the right business). And once you have a number of 1 and 2* reviews you don't just have to stop getting those, you have to start getting 5* reviews in serious volume.

Here's a good example of varying Google results (we have used the search [hotel] in [Penzance]):

From the top:
  • Hotel Penzance: thirty-seven reviews, mostly 5*, written at the rate of eight a year over the last four years. With twenty-four rooms we suspect this is simply a trickle of unprompted reviews. How much more secure would they be if they had a planned approach - just one review a fortnight and they would have been looking at over a hundred - and a pretty unassailable position at the top of the table in Penzance.
  • The Abbey Hotel: All but one of their eight reviews written in April 2013. We suspect that someone decided to have a blitz, but with no mechanism to regularise review management the Abbey's guests have reverted to their previous online silence - fine while few other hotels in Penzance make the effort.
  • Lugger Inn Hotel: Two reviews: One 5* and one 3*, both written in the last twelve months. Why, when they saw their first great review did someone in management not realise the potential?
  • Beachfield Hotel: No reviews. With eighteen rooms, surely they could find at least one happy guest a week/a month/ever?
  • The Longboat Inn: Reviews written in the last two years, one very damaging. Needs to be countered with many more great reviews which will bring their current score of 3.8 up over the crucial 4.0.
  • Armeria House: One lovely 5* review. They just need four more to look great and with five rooms that's upwards of a thousand people a year who might just write them with a little encouragement.
  • Blue Seas Hotel: A 4* hotel with three 5* reviews - so near and yet so far. But with those three reviews being a minimum of a year old, why has the Blue Seas done nothing to get a great star rating? Two more 5* reviews and they would be the best rated hotel in Penzance.
We suspect that part of the answer to this is that they have been blinded by TripAdvisor. But with Google reviews being shown first in every search, don't they warrant that minimal effort?

We strongly advise all our clients to respond to every review, positive or negative - but use the mechanism Google provides - in a timely fashion - rather than giving their own business a 5* review to rebalance its score!

To summarise:
  • Use Dialogue to get great reviews to your own website
  • Then use Dialogue to get those reviews to Google
  • Get a great Google score that will be seen by everyone - every time they search for your business, for whatever reason
  • Maintain and improve that score over time with proper professional ongoing review management

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