So what has happened?
The Google filter
Early days, but we predict that the only filter users will ever choose will be the 4 star
Two screenshots of the same mobile search; the one on the left is unfiltered, the one on the right has the filter applied. The impact is clear for anyone to see - every single business except Franco Manca is filtered out - and Portobello is only a handful of 1, 2 or 3 star reviews away from being filtered as well (for falling below the 4.0 threshold). They are replaced with businesses - albeit farther from the searcher's location - with scores of 4.0 or greater
The filter, which was introduced for hospitality businesses over the New Year's break (and blogged about by us on Jan 5) is, as predicted, being progressively rolled out across other types of business - all other types of business.
Who wouldn't use the 'Top Rated' filter?
Introduced at the end of August, this enables Google users to get search results based on Google ratings - with Google returning only the businesses with the best Google scores in search.
Ratings in natural search
Do you want to look great in natural search? How about this...
having a star rating in natural search helps your business stand out from the crowd
The impact of these changes*
- no reviews - your business is filtered out of search
- less than 5 reviews - your business is filtered out of search
- a score less then 4.0 out of 5 - your business is filtered out of search
- a score of more than 4.0, but less than your competitors - your business is filtered out of search
And in addition to this: less than 50 Google reviews - the more sophisticated - some might say cynical - consumers might assume that you are either 'brand new at what you do', 'have only harnessed reviews from friends and family' or simply just don't get that consumers today 'rely on reviews to support their choices', even when prompted by personal recommendation.
*Google is rolling out these changes in a fairly ad-hoc way. Just because there's no filter in your local search - or not for your specific kind of business today - does not mean its not on its way. It is, and Google will consider they have given you fair warning.
And what should you do?
Get Google reviews? Whoa there! If you ask customers to post their reviews direct to Google, two things will happen:
- a proportion of them will post negative reviews (see note 1, below)
- you'll miss out on hosting verified reviews on your own site (note 2)
No - what you need to do is take a long hard look at your business's engagement with reviews - and the speed at which search is changing (and will continue to change) - and decide if professional review management is something you can continue to do without.
Note 1: in hospitality consumers have learned to accept the odd negative review. In most services though even a single well-drafted negative review can do untold harm. You owe it to your business to have some mechanism in place to enable it to manage inaccurate or misleading review pre-publication. It's one of the reasons why we always advise our new clients to invite reviews to their own websites before going on to invite them to Google
Note 2: The consumer journey on the web is now well established: they first Google the business, service or product they want, once they have narrowed the field on Google they then visit the business's own website. Professional review management will always involve advice on the best ways to maximise the impact of independently verified reviews on your own website
All HelpHound clients should aim to look like this - within eighteen months for a low-footfall business like estate agency, within six months for a high-footfall business like a restaurant, hotel or hairdresser - with at least double the number of reviews on the business's own website
Our clients have all the tools you need - and the reassurance that HelpHound will provide professional advice as and when you need it. They can also relax in the knowledge that HelpHound is keeping abreast of all the changes in the world of reviews on your behalf. If you are new to HelpHound and have yet to hit the magic '50' mark for your business on Google (that's per location) Karen and her team are here to help and support you.