Friday, 29 January 2016

More good news - this time for Winkworth in Barnet

With no reviews on Google as of 1st December last year, they now have 10 and a score of 4.6 out of 5. Well done Paul and his team! But most important of all, how was this achieved?

Fiona Christie, here at HelpHound, must take some of the credit. She noticed that they were getting some great reviews to their own website, but those reviews were not making it to Google. Once Paul and his team had spoken to Fiona the results began to flow.

It's as simple as one, two, three:
  1. Email your client inviting the review
  2. Phone the client to stress how important both reviews are to you
  3. Phone again if they have not copied the review to Google
Do exactly what Paul and his team are doing, and there's no reason that you won't look just as good - on your own site and on Google.

And, for those of you worrying about how clients respond to being asked to write a review, we don't think we can better the words of another Winkworth owner, this time from West London: "Don't worry about asking your clients to write the reviews - they positively welcome the invitation!"

Friday, 22 January 2016

2016 'Must Reads' - Estate Agents

Here is our periodic round up of articles taken from this blog over the last 12 months you need to read to stay abreast with developments in the world of reviews...

    Read the 5 articles below and there will be nothing stopping you looking like Greene & Co in 12 months time

Google have been at it again - and by improving their user experience they have moved the goalposts massively in favour of businesses who are staying on top of review management. 

Reading these key articles will bring you right up to speed...
  1. Google introduce their review filter. We explain how important it will be for estate agents to be ready when their reviews begin to be filtered.
  2. Google delete the 'Magic 7' and introduce the '3-pack'. The four agencies with the worst SEO get demoted. How to get into the 3-pack and avoid having to pay for CPC.
  3. Google move the goal posts again. This time it's in favour of their own reviews and to the detriment of independent review sites. Now it's certain, if you want your reviews to show, they must be posted to Google.
  4. Success stories. We can all learn from these - here are two: one for a client of over two years and one for a recent adopter.
  5. Inviting reviews direct to Google means running a significant (and unnecessary) risk. Nearly 6% of all the reviews we process on behalf of all our estate agent clients contain something that could potentially harm the business. Less than 4% of these - that's 4% of 6%, or three per thousand, ever end up being posted live.
And finally: An overview of what we have learned by working with our clients. From incorporating reviews into leaflet drops to posting your reviews to your Portal microsite.

Tripadvisor's Top 25 UK hotels - and how you can compete

As we all know, you need a great product to make the TripAdvisor Top 25. And making the Top 25 means you can adjust your rates accordingly.


 See the full article - and all the Top 25 - here

Less well known is that this works all the way down the rankings - if you are ranked at 100 (in London) and can improve to 80, if you are ranked at 5 (in Aberystwyth) and can improve to 3, you can adjust your rates upwards.

There's not a hotel in the top 25 that has not adopted a full-time review management strategy. Encouraging great reviews and managing less than completely satisfied guest comments before they make it onto TripAdvisor (or Google...). And that's what HelpHound is all about: if you look good we'll help you look great, if you look great we'll help you look even better - guaranteed.

Friday, 15 January 2016

A Flying Start for an estate agent client - a case history

Litchfields - the North London estate agents - joined at the beginning of November 2015. What happened next is a shining example to anyone wondering if Dialogue™ will work for their agency.

First: they followed our advice to the letter, and began inviting reviews to their own website. Today, almost two months to the day since they received their first (glowing) review to their Crouch End branch, their website looks like this...

They now have nineteen - glowing - reviews.

Then, again following our guidance (which included following up our joint email - within minutes), they began asking those clients who had posted to their own website to copy their reviews to Google. The result?

Thirteen - yes, thirteen, or well over half - of those clients have copied their review, word-for-word, to Google. To show in every search, specifically for Litchfields and for estate agents in their local area.

   The more eagle-eyed will recognise another HelpHound client at the top of this screenshot

They are looking great where it matters most - on their own website and on Google; and perhaps just as importantly, they will be right in the frame when Google introduce filtering for estate agency search. Well done Litchfields!

To everyone else:

Come on in, the water is lovely! All you need to know is here.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Are you going to be FILTERED in Google search?

Google introduce their review filter - and businesses disappear from search - instantly.

NB: While we are illustrating this with examples from the hospitality industry, all our clients should take notice - Google will certainly apply the filter to any search where, in their opinion, it stands to enhance the user experience - who would not want to filter out plumbers or estate agents with scores lower than 4.0?

At the top right of selected Google searches in mobile* you will see an innocent word displayed in block capitals: 'FILTER':

This is a half-way move towards ranking by Google. 'Let's allow our users to filter out all but the best businesses.'

Can you imagine anyone choosing any but the highest (currently 4.0) filter? Nor can we.

Here's the same search, but with the filter applied:

Do you think One O One Restaurant is happy? Not only does it on longer appear in the top three in local search, it does not appear in infinite search - it has effectively been edited out of local search altogether.

And here's the more refined filter that Google is offering users searching for hotels:


A search on 'Hotel Kensington' saw 51 out of 97 hotels eliminated from mobile search when the 4.0 filter was applied. That's eliminated, not pushed down or parked somewhere else - eliminated.

It does not take a genius to see where Google is headed here: they will roll out the filter to all businesses (why would they not want to offer their users this facility when they are searching for mortgage brokers or financial advisers?).

Businesses affected:

Firstly - the obvious - any business scoring less than 4.0 

Secondly - and perhaps less obvious - businesses without a Google score (businesses with less than five reviews).

Never has it been so important to get (and maintain) a great Google score.

Action needed:
  • Businesses with no reviews (or less than five reviews): adopt a proactive review management strategy urgently - get five reviews with a score averaging 4.5+
  • Businesses with more than five reviews scoring 3.9 or less: adopt a proactive review management strategy urgently - aim for a score of as near to 4.5 as possible
  • Businesses with more than five reviews scoring 4.4 or less: adopt a proactive review management strategy - aim for a score of as near to 4.5 as possible
  • Businesses with more than five reviews scoring 4.5 or more: well done, but don't rest on your laurels - the Google score is purely mathematical, so a clutch of 1* reviews still has the potential to drive your score down - keep the great reviews coming

And finally:

Are you ready - for when Google apply the filter to your sector?

There are six businesses returned in this search; one looks great, one looks OK, the rest have no reviews - when Google enable filtering they will all disappear. You probably already know that Winkworth are clients of ours.

  • Businesses in sectors where the filter has yet to be applied: Google have put you on notice - make the best of this advance warning: adopt professional review management and make sure you look great before the filter is applied to your sector.

*Here's the desktop version:

Monday, 4 January 2016

An introduction to reviews - 2016 style - for hospitality

The reviews landscape is ever-changing. This article is written to bring everyone up-to-date with our strategy for those in hospitality.

One of the major problems we encounter when meeting clients in hospitality is a sense of over-familiarity with reviews. TripAdvisor and (and the rest...) have been a part of your lives for so long now it is difficult to remember a time before online reviews.

Here we will show you why you should examine your review management strategy afresh. If you have encountered HelpHound before, you will notice that our own strategy on behalf of our clients has evolved, so bear with us!


Actual out-turn for a client. And these results are remarkably uniform across locations and types of property, with positive reviews up around 25% and negatives falling - from outset - by three-quarters!

The great thing about review management for ranked businesses (like hotels with TripAdvisor) is that we can positively quantify results. HelpHound will...
  • Increase positive reviews by a quarter
  • reduce negative reviews by three-quarters's as simple as that - from day one. And you can imagine the impact that will have on your ranking.

While that alone is probably more than enough to justify partnering with HelpHound, there are many more benefits:

  • We can operate 'blind' (no reviews feed on your website) or you can host reviews for all your potential guests to see - to drive direct booking
  • Our moderators will advise on all aspects of response - from thanking guests for great reviews to minimising the impact of any negative comments (see 'Resolution' below)
  • Resolution™: is our patent mechanism for enabling you to manage negative comment before it's published - on your website or anywhere else (Google, TripAdvisor, and so on). It is not just incredibly effective at diffusing negative reviews, it is a huge aid to guest retention (for more on Resolution see here)


Most restaurateurs understand just how important looking great in search is by now. But few have yet to adopt professional review management. By automating review management you know you will look great in search, with a constant volume of reviews keeping you right at the top for your location and speciality.

Most of you will be familiar with the Times' recent negative publicity for one major national chain - all based on their Google review scores. Proactively inviting comments through Dialogue will dramatically reposition any restaurant will a similar problem - from day one - providing really useful feedback for management at the same time - and no paper forms needed!

Google v. the specialist sites

Google reviews have been slow burners, but they increasingly dominate in search; if your focus has been on specialist hospitality sites, perhaps you should be considering the impact (both positive and negative) that Google reviews will have going forwards. 

                                This is a desktop (as opposed to mobile) search - see further down for mobile (more than 60% of search now).

This screenshot shows just how dominant Google reviews have become in search - the only natural listings above the fold are contained in the Google 3-pack. We predict that Google will refine this to list the 'Top 3' in any given local search.

And hotels need to bear in mind that it is not simply their headline score showing:


At 4.4 this hotel's headline score is OK (just 'OK' - to be 'Great' it needs to be at 4.5 or over) but the score (and review summary) for their rooms must be hurting (both their headline score and bookings). 

How much of a difference would it make if you appeared in the Google 3-pack? And by-the-way, for those wondering what the 'FILTER' button does - it enables the user to filter out any restaurant that score less than 4.0!

The Proof is in the pudding

We are so confident that Dialogue will produce great results for you that we don't ask new clients to sign a contract for six months; so just contact Karen Hutchings to start trialing Dialogue for your hotel, restaurant or spa right away.


An introduction to reviews - 2016 style - for estate agents

We have been operating in the world of reviews for so long now (it's been nearly ten years) we sometimes have to remind ourselves that there remain businesses for which reviews (and certainly review management) are a relatively new concept.

This article is for those of you whose business...
  • Has never been reviewed, or
  • Has been reviewed, but has yet to formulate a strategy for managing what comes next
We are passing on the distillation of a huge amount of experience here: not just our own, but also that of your peers and competitors, many of whom are our clients.

We hear some say...

"We've got along without engaging with reviews so far..."

We're not saying that engaging with reviews (or review management) will revolutionise your business overnight, but we are saying that ignoring the power that reviews have to influence your potential clients will hurt your business in the long term.


There are two types of review: positive - that have the power to drive business towards you, and negative - that will drive business away. Luckily (for us as well as you) you will feel the effects of positive reviews straight away - new clients will tell you that they were influenced by them; with negative reviews it's highly unlikely that a potential fee-earner will contact you to tell you that they won't be doing business as a result of reading off-putting reviews - but would you be in a hurry to pick up the phone to this (real) business...

Failing to invite happy clients to write review leaves you vulnerable to the vocal minority of dissatisfied clients who understand the disproportionate power they wield on the web

The next - very important - point to note is that Google will inevitably convert their current 3-pack which you see in local search...

This is the local search for 'estate agent Maida Vale' - which agent gets the first call? And how long before Google ranks these in order of their review score?

...into something far more helpful for consumers: the 'three most positively reviewed businesses in your area'. How much closer to the Holy Grail of search - delivering the best businesses - will that take Google? It's coming for sure - and it's only a matter of 'when?' Will you be ready?

Here is the expanded local search for 'estate agent Maida Vale' - we don't suppose anyone would seriously suggest that 131 reviews averaging a score of 4.9 out of 5 is unimpressive.

"I don't write reviews, so why should I expect my clients to?"

You don't write reviews mainly because you have never dealt with a business that has invited you to do so in the correct way. Consumers now understand that reviews are important for businesses in the internet age, so when they are approached to do so in a professional manner, they will write them (see the screenshot above).

"But you're recommending that we ask them for two?"

Strictly speaking we're suggesting you ask your client for one review and then ask them to copy it to Google (we supply the original review and a direct link to make it as easy as possible). You are right in assuming there will be a drop-off rate, and in our experience the 'Rule of 50%' is not far from the mark ('Rule of 50%'? Say you do business with twenty clients over a period - the 'Rule of 50%' means that if you ask all twenty for a review you will get ten written to your HelpHound module on your own site and then five of those will go on to copy their review to Google).

If you don't adopt this (tried and tested) method you will run the risk of...
  • missing out on having great reviews on your own website (consumers are weary - and wary - of testimonials)
  • misconceptions about your business being posted publicly on Google (consumers have been proved to be up to 15 times more likely to write a review after a negative experience - a survey of over 300 agents showed that, of the ones with only one Google review, over 60% of those were negative)

"Don't clients resent being asked to do it?"

Not if the concept has been introduced professionally. Mention the fact that you will be asking them for a review as a USP in your pitch (and at intervals along the way) and they'll be disappointed if you don't ask for a review! Adopting this strategy also gives them an extra reason to do business with your (how professional and confident does telling a prospective client that you will be asking them to write a review make you sound?).

How about the independent review sites?

Up until late 2014, when Google made fundamental changes to search, independent review sites showed up in search. Today Google's own reviews dominate to such an extent that the independent sites are not returned on page one. 

Our current policy, on behalf of our clients, is to focus on the two places where reviews are seen:
  • on your own website
  • on Google
If the situation changes (although, for the foreseeable future, we see Google's influence increasing) we will advise our clients accordingly.

In Summary

At end of the day, for your business to thrive, you will have to find a way of giving your potential clients (and Google) what they want - independently verified reviews...

You run a far greater risk if you don't adopt review management and your competitors do:
  • You will look small by comparison (a company with 3 reviews looks smaller than one with 53, which in turn looks less significant than one with 153)
  • You will look as if you don't welcome feedback (when they see that your competition do)
  • You will fall out of search - before or after Google begin to rank businesses by their review scores
  • Business will flow towards competitors who look great on their own websites and on Google


Adopt full-time professional review management - and get:
  • great reviews displayed on your own website (no more linking away) - credibility at a glance for your potential clients

  •  great content for social media - feed those reviews through to Facebook and Twitter

  Does your agency look like this on Facebook?
  • a significant proportion of those reviews copied across to Google - to show in every search - both specific ('Jones & Co estate agents') and generic ('estate agent in Reading')

  • a great chance to make the Google 3-pack - now and when Google introduce ranking 

  • fantastic rich snippets - the quotes Google extracts from your reviews and shows in search - pushing down links to your competitors
  •  great content for your print media:

  • great content for your portal microsites:
You know that potential landlords and vendors are checking the portals to help them decide on their choice of agent - make sure you look your best there - with complete credibility...

  • added value and credibility for your advertising and all your print marketing:

  • and for your window display:

  • and finally: the reassurance that someone is providing full-time research and back-up on every aspect of review management (when, for instance, did you first become aware of the Google 3-pack? All our clients were alerted over six months ago - the  Filter? Clients were notified the day it was introduced).

At the end of the day:

Reviews are here to stay. In five years time those who have engaged will have many hundreds and those that have not will only have a handful. Reviews will be considered a 'given' by consumers and those businesses that remain in denial will be viewed as unhelpful at best and disengaged at worst.

Dialogue™ is tried, tested and proven. It won't work for a badly managed business, but that's one of our greatest USPs! If you want to be part of what a client of ours recently called 'the Gold Standard for Estate Agency' just call Karen Hutchings today.