Google, so dominant in search - 68% worldwide - is introducing changes at such a rate that the contrast between search on 1 January this year and now is as marked as any full year previously.
So - how does this affect our world, the world of professional review management?
The Big One...
Is the demise of review websites. They're not quite dead yet, but they are dying. Don't look at their metrics, look at their share prices: Yelp down from $85 to $25, TripAdvisor down from $95 to $70, Angie's List down from $9 to $5. And the only reason TripAdvisor and Angie's List have not quite taken the hit that Yelp has is their fractionally smaller reliance on Google (for now).
This is so simple: because Google has ramped up its own review offering. Search for any kind of business and who do you see? Trustpilot reviews? No - Google reviews. Yelp reviews? No - Google reviews.
You own a business and you'd like your Yelp reviews to show in your Google ads? They did last year (with a nice star rating). This year? Google reviews.
Reviews may be small beer for Google, but with the number of Google users and their positioning in search it will be Googlers, not Yelpers, who dictate inward business flows for you from now on.
The impact for your business
If you have committed resources (effort and/or funds) to getting reviews to any specialist review site you should be examining strategies for redirecting that energy. For the forseeable future the there are only two places you are going to need reviews:
- On your own website
- On Google
While we're on that topic (reviews on your own website)...
Retailers were quick to recognise the value of reviews on their own sites; they understood, early on, that consumers would buy with more confidence if they were given credible (independently verified) reviews.
Retailers like John Lewis have been quick to recognise the power of reviews, service providers and the professions less so. This is, in part, due to the understandable 'fear factor': the realisation the power one single negative review may have to deflect business. For more about how HelpHound reduces this 'fear factor' read on here.
But service providers and the professions have been much slower to climb aboard: the old fashioned 'testimonial' still pervades. It is important for businesses to understand that independently verified reviews, hosted on the business's own website, are just as important in driving new business for estate agents, solicitors and financial advisers as they are for electricals and white goods retailers.
With the current dearth of businesses like these hosting independently verified reviews, the opportunity for those in these sectors to steal a march on their competitors is still massive.
Lose the fear: and stop treating reviews as an add-on and integrate them into your core marketing plan. Get a professional review manager like HelpHound to work alongside you (you will need them for the crucial independence, if for nothing else).
Make sure that they can cover both bases for you: reviews on your own website and reviews to Google.
Then sit back and watch the results roll in - guaranteed!