Unfiltered: a random selection by geographical location with a dose of SEO thrown in for good measure
Filtered: only businesses scoring 4.0 or more showing (spot the HelpHound clients!)
With an estimated 80% of businesses in the UK falling victim to the Google review filter, it's understandable that there are some pretty heated discussions going on around boardroom tables at the moment - and considerable pressure being brought to bear on marketing departments to 'find a solution - and fast!'
So here's our considered advice...
First - the Don'ts
- Don't go into denial: Reviews drive business - towards you if they are positive, away from you if they are negative. Doing nothing is no longer a viable option for any business in the 21st century. Develop a strategy for managing reviews. If you don't, human nature (the tendency to only write reviews unbidden if we've had a negative experience) combined with the Google filter will harm your business
- Don't invite customers who have written positive reviews on another site to copy them to Google. It's called 'cherry-picking' - and it's easy to spot by simply copying the glowing reviews in question into Google. It hands another PR win to your competitors
- Don't invite clients to write reviews direct to Google: you are wasting a great opportunity to host reviews on your own website and you run the risk that inaccurate and misleading reviews will be posted to Google. All you need is one disgruntled customer to work out that they were not asked to write a review and post a review saying that and you are back being accused of cherry-picking again
- Don't import your Google reviews into your own website: it looks like a great idea when you have nothing but positive reviews on Google, but see how you feel when the first negative appears there. You won't want to publish that on your own website - we guarantee it - and credibility will be threatened again
- This will be stating the obvious for many, but we still see it too often - resist the temptation to ask staff to write reviews. It is so easy to cross-reference social media these days - and we have an ever expanding file of Google reviews where the reviewer is easily found on Linkedin or Facebook, often, but not always identified by name. We know of at least one company where each branch's reviews are written by the staff of the neighbouring branch
- The same goes for 'friends and family': there is a well known instance of the spouse of member of staff of a reputable home counties estate agent who sold their house through their employer, wrote a glowing review and then the review was quoted in an advertisement in the local paper. It did not take long for their competitors to spot it - and a PR coup was rapidly turned into a PR disaster
- Don't call your testimonials 'reviews'. Both have widely accepted definitions now, and you risk rupturing any trust when a customer works out that your 'reviews' are actually hand-picked testimonials. See the Wikipedia definitions: testimonials - reviews
*HelpHound clients can happily give convincing - and absolute - answers to these questions: "All our reviews are independently verified." and "All our customers can write a review, of any kind, whenever they want." and, on top of that "...and they are all invited to copy it to Google."
Now the Do's
- Do switch your strategy from independent sites to Google: if you are currently asking customers to write reviews on an independent site, no matter where, your should be looking towards Google until you achieve critical mass there. Critical mass? The numbers will be different depending on the business you are in, but don't make the mistake so many are currently making by patting themselves on the back for getting fifteen Google reviews. Ask yourself 'How many reviews would I need to see to find the number convincing?' and I'm betting the answer is somewhere around three figures. Aim for that and you may be able to relax, for a while at least
- Do get reviews to your own website: understand the customer journey. It's: Google → your own site → contact. Reviews on your own website drive business. And by inviting reviews to your own site you will have a great opportunity to address errors of fact and misleading reviews before they are published
- Do respond to reviews - wherever they appear. The benefits of doing so are threefold: firstly it impresses the reader, secondly, it gives you a great opportunity to amplify any positive comments made in the review and thirdly it warns anyone thinking of posting a negative comment that it won't go un-responded to.
- Do employ professional review management: It's the only way to get credible and verified reviews on your own site (anything else is a testimonial). Pound for pound, you will get such good value for such a small monthly outlay that you will wonder why you ever hesitated.
The Google Filter - more here - has made professional review management, once seen by many as 'nice to have' into an essential tool for all properly managed businesses.