Over the last two years Google has introduced changes that have fundamentally changed the way we, and all our customers, find businesses on the web. It is important that businesses adapt their online marketing strategies to address this. Here we explain what has happened and what strategy your business needs to adopt going forwards.
If you wanted a hotel (or a restaurant)...
If you wanted a pizza...
...you looked on Yelp.
If you wanted a plumber...
You went to Checkatrade.
If you wanted an estate agent...
You looked them up on Rateragent (or allAgents)
If you were a business and wanted to look great on your own website - and in your own advertising (online and offline) and promotional material - you might use an independent review site like Feefo or TrustPilot:
By now you're probably getting our drift: there is a website out there for just about everything - from accountants to zoos - selling the opinions of your customers back to you as leads - we call them 'Hostage Sites'. And often taking a hefty commission for doing so.
But Google knew this - after all, all the searches went through them. So they decided they wanted in on this massive market. What did they do?
- they boosted reviews out of Google Places and Google Maps to the knowledge panel in the right hand column in search. This replaced some very lucrative ad space, so you can understand the value Google imputed to this move
- they introduced reviews - and review scores - into mobile search
- they introduced the Google filter - adding value for users by eliminating businesses with no reviews or poor scores
...it's now all about your own website and Google...
On your own website you need your own verified reviews - not your customers' reviews that another website is selling back to you. Preferably verified by an agency (such as HelpHound) that can get your score - the one from your reviews - into natural search:
On Google you need to look as good as you possibly can, and this is where Google wins hands down...
- Google reviews are by far the most visible on the web - always
- Good businesses look good on Google, great businesses look great and bad businesses look just as they are: bad
Here are just two examples of these, first on an independent site (left), then on Google (right). Credible? We'll let you decide:
There is zero point in engaging with reviews, or any kind of review management, if by doing so the result calls your own business's reputation into question.
There is a better way...
What you see above is a business's own reviews - verified by HelpHound - displayed on their own website, many of which have also been posted to Google, by the reviewers themselves.
Bearing in mind that:
- any customer of the business can write any review at any time - to the business's own website
- everyone who does post a review there is automatically invited to post that review to Google
- complete credibility
- total visibility