Saturday 28 January 2017

Important - the Google Filter rolls out

We have been writing about the Google Filter and 'Top Rated' for over a year now - Google have been intermittently testing on both sides of the Atlantic (as you can see in the article behind the link). In December Google rolled out the Filter across multiple business types and locations in the USA, this weekend they began expanding its use in the UK.

Here's the up-to-the-minute search for 'estate agent Kennington':

At top left just below the map you will see the word 'Rating' with a drop-down arrow. click on that and this happens:

Select '4 stars and up' (who would not? and why would anyone select 3 or 2?) and Google presents the Maps listing:

...and you will notice that Barnard Marcus, and any other business scoring less than 4.0 that would have previously been returned, has vanished.

It's the same for mobile and tablet:

...except Google are calling it 'Top Rated' there, which is not strictly true if you define top rated as 'the highest score'; Google are simply listing businesses that pass the Filter - for now.

Is this happening for all kinds of business, for all locations?

No, not yet. Here's a similar search for Blackheath:

...where the filter, as yet, only applies to opening hours.

Here's another - intentionally more obscure - search:

...but the filter has even been applied for 'patisserie'! And two out of three of these fail:

...with two of those - both Paul - that currently pass being within one or two negative reviews of failing too.

The logical extension - and the issues Google faces

Consumers want search to return the best businesses, but there are issues here for Google:
  • many businesses have no reviews at all - especially high value businesses such as financial and legal services. But Google reviews are accelerating fast (see this article)
  • human nature - the motivation to write a negative review is massively more than that to write a positive one - and that is one of the main reasons that low-footfall businesses like the ones mentioned above have steered clear of Google reviews: fear of unfair reputational damage
  • consumers need some kind of Google account before they can write a review: although the fact that this can be a G+ account, a Gmail or Googlemail account or an account with a Google subsidiary (YouTube, for example) means that approaching 20 million UK consumers can now write a Google review in an instant
  • Google need to define 'Top Rated'. Let us pose an obvious question: would a business with 300 reviews and a score of 4.9 rank above or below a business with 6 reviews and a score of 5.0?

Action needed:

For everyone who is not currently a client of ours: do not take action without reading what follows next very carefully.

It is tempting to simply get staff to ask happy customers to post a review direct to Google: don't. Why not? For the following reasons:
  1. The government body appointed to regulate reviews - the Competition and Markets Authority - insists that customers are not 'selected' to write reviews. It will want to see evidence that your business treats all its customers equally, and it has statutory powers to do so
  2. If you simply invite all your customers to post a review direct to Google human nature will dictate that those who have had a negative experience will be far more likely to (recent research shows that they are more likely to do so by a factor of 15 times). Just think of your own recent experiences and imagine how much more likely, if invited by the business, you would be to respond if your own experience had been negative; your own customers will be the same
  3. Customers often make inaccurate or misleading statements in reviews; you need an mechanism to ensure that the minimum of these appear on Google for all your potential customers to see (Google do allow the business to respond, but the damage will have been done - through the score allocated to your business if nowhere else)
  4. You will have missed a great opportunity to get great reviews for your own website. Almost everyone using a business checks the business's own website after finding them on Google, if they don't go straight there in the first place
Obeying these four points will mean that your review management will be beyond criticism, by your potential customers, the regulators and your competitors (if you select customers to post to Google direct your most aware competitors will soon notice - and the last thing you want is a review from a customer who was not invited).

Professional review management, of the kind we do for our clients here at HelpHound, is designed to positively add value, both in terms of credibility and in terms of your business's bottom line - that's why we don't lose clients.

And finally...

And what don't you see in any of these searches? The independent review sites. We won't stop banging that particular drum: focus on your own site and Google, then on Facebook. We have no intrinsic bias against the independent sites - it's just that they don't show in search and our loyalty is to our clients, not any individual solution.

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