Monday, 4 January 2016

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.

How?

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

So...



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.


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