Monday, 22 August 2016

Google reviews - 3 years on

Looking through our archives we found this screenshot (from 2013):




Google do not give prominence to anything in search by accident. Just look at how much page real-estate in a 2016 Google search is devoted to reviews and review scores:


    
Reviews scores - fed from HelpHound - in natural search. Google reviews dominate the Box - the score, the number of reviews, the 'Write a review' button and the rich snippets (the three comments that Google extract from the reviews).

The third anniversary of Google reviews is fast approaching. And Google weren't wrong: having great reviews on Google does drive business.

So what have businesses done in the intervening time? One of three things: 

1. Nothing: 'Google denial'

   A sorry state of affairs for a national firm of estate agents. Does their marketing department seriously think this is helping their management and staff in-branch attract new business?

Advantages: Some businesses still think that there is something slightly 'tacky' about asking for reviews and they feel that they will somehow create a better impression if they have none at all. We met a Notting Hill estate agency who initially felt that their clients would resist is they were asked for a review; we called this syndrome 'Too posh to push [for reviews].' The business in question eventually - after much reassurance from us - took the plunge. Their feedback? Their clients positively welcomed the invitation to publish their opinions!

Disadvantages: many and various: looking disengaged in search - both freestanding and against competitors, losing a great business driver, falling behind competitors in every area where reviews have now been proven to drive business: on their own websites and in search. Stop Press: and, from 21 August, businesses with fewer than five reviews - or with scores of less than 4.0 - can be filtered out of search altogether.

2. Something: or 'DIY' as we call it.
  
    Great - on the surface. Until their competitors point out that they only ask their happy clients to post reviews. Cynical consumers may also assume that some of these reviews are written by 'friends & family' - difficult to argue once three figures of reviews are published (see below).

Advantages: Any business can get reviews to Google - by cherry-picking its happy customers.

Disadvantages: We have yet to come across a business that has adopted this approach without cherry-picking. Competitors soon get wise to this strategy, and then lose no time in alerting potential customers. The consumer journey is incomplete: from Google through the business's own website - where there are no independently verified reviews (testimonials are no substitute).

3. Adopted professional review management:

 
   The score and the number are both impressive, I'm sure you will agree. But much more impressive - in the eyes of their potential clients - are these two buttons on their website...

 ...that are saying 'We invite all our clients to write reviews, and you can read them here.'
   
 Showing reviews on your website reinforces trust and drives enquiries
 
Advantages: As with any other professional advice - accountancy, management consultancy, legal - knowing that your business is constantly at the top of its game. Having credible reviews embedded in your own website; having a mechanism to enable the business to manage potentially incorrect or misleading comments pre-publication; ensuring a consistent flow of reviews to the external sites that matter - Google and Facebook ('the 'deniers' still see Facebook as a site where the 'young' 'chatter' - it is set to become a massive resource for business recommendations). Perhaps most of all, the ability to look potential customers in the eye and say 'ALL of our customers are able to write a review - at any time - and all of those are then automatically invited to copy their review to Google - so you can believe what you see - on our website and on Google.'
 
Disadvantages: requires time and effort, not a lot, but some - but potential customers sense this, so even that turns to the business's benefit!

A footnote:

We hear some people saying 'What about the independent review sites?'. For over two years now we have been pointing our own clients away from the independent sites and towards Google, simply because Google are, and will be for the foreseeable future, the first reviews anyone sees when searching for any business - even if they are not actively looking for reviews. For more on this subject read this. For the results we have produced for clients read this and this.

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