Tuesday 15 August 2017

Five ways to get great reviews - and a great score - on Google...

...but only one of these will ensure that your business looks as good as it possibly can everywhere that matters, with no downside at all.

The five:
  1. Do-it-yourself - straight to Google
  2. Do-it-yourself - via an independent reviews site
  3. Do-it-yourself - via your own website
  4. Do it in conjunction with your web designer
  5. Do it with HelpHound

1. Straight to Google

Many businesses try this at first; after all, they run a great business and no-one will have anything negative to say about it, will they?

All customers are invited to post a review to Google (All - thus complying with the CMA rules) making sure they understand that they can post whenever the wish (also compliant).

To make absolutely sure the business is complying -  an invitation to post a review to Google is added to its website and at the bottom of all its email communications.

Pros: as compliant as any business can be without outside - independent - help

Cons: no independently verified reviews on the business's own website - and the slightly nerve-wracking feeling that even those that do rate the business 5* may include inaccurate or misleading statements in their review.

2. Use an independent reviews site

There are certainly plenty to choose from - many hundreds at the last count. There are all-encompassing sites like Yelp and specialist - industry specific - sites like TripAdvisor. The core principle of most of these sites is that the business invites their customer to post a review and then the site adds value to the reviews of that business by - in some ways - adding credibility and visibility.

This is where the issues arise...

Pros: it's better than doing nothing - possibly.

Cons: let's look at those twin advantages. First - credibility: to be credible the solution must, at the very least, comply with the CMA rules (they are analysed in full here, but, at their simplest they state that a customer must be able to write a review of the business in question at a time of their own choosing). Somewhat surprisingly we still see non-compliant solutions being marketed to business daily.

Secondly: visibility. Independent reviews sites used to show up well in search, but over the last three years their visibility has decreased - usually at the expense of Google reviews. Google has been very clever: they still display a link to 'Reviews from the web' in the knowledge panel and the independent site will show somewhere in search, just not quite as often as it once did and not quite as prominently. As a business this shouldn't worry you - it's far more a disadvantage for the review sites than it is for businesses, who can always find a solution that plays to Google's strengths. 

There's a 2.b we see more often as time passes - and it plays fast and loose with the independent sites and Google. The business simply asks its customers to post to a less-than-prominent independent site and then asks those customers that have posted a five star review to copy their review to Google. We first noticed this in 2016 when a large estate agency went from scoring 2.1 on Google with less than a dozen reviews to scoring over 4.0 from over fifty reviews within the space of a month. If a business's score on Google is at odds to its score on a site it pays - we look harder (and if we look harder, you can bet that business's more savvy competitors will do so as well - eventually).

More reading: Our current position on independent review sites 

3. Via your own website

This is where terminology is confusing (and confused, sometimes less than innocently). There are two words commonly used - 'review' and 'testimonial' - and they have increasingly well-defined meanings.

A 'review'...

...is independently verified, by an outside agency.

A 'testimonial'...

...is chosen by the business and displayed by that business.

These two definitions are increasingly enshrined in law and regulation; in the UK by the aforementioned CMA.

There are no 'pros' and 'cons' here, just 'legitimate use' and otherwise. If you control the content of what your customers are saying about you on your own website you cannot describe those comments as 'reviews', they are testimonials and should be described as such.

4. In conjunction with your web designer

We sometimes see web designers promoting their own 'reviews systems'. There are at least two variants: the first allows the business to invite 'reviews' to its own website and display them as such; the second allows the business to display chosen reviews from either Google or an independent reviews site. In both instances the fact that the business effectively controls the reviews that are displayed invalidates the mechanism - and we have yet to encounter such a system that would satisfy the CMA regulations

5. HelpHound

Here we are again! HelpHound - being review managers, not a reviews website, always has its clients' best interests at heart - and if that means...
  • having independently verified reviews displayed on your own website (which it almost always does)
  • having reviews on Google (which it generally does)
  • having reviews on Facebook (which it does, more and more)
  • having reviews on important review sites (TripAdvisor is an obvious example for our clients in hospitality)
  • ensuring you are compliant with CMA regulations (essential)
  • acting in the way you would expect any of your other professional advisors - your accountant or your lawyer - to act, being proactive with advice to keep your review management strategy current and effective
...then that is what we will do for your business.

Five key questions to ask anyone proposing a reviews solution for your business

Here's a list of questions for anyone proposing a reviews solution:
  • Show me an example of what a client of your looks like in a Google search for their business - this is what they should look like: first on a desktop...

  A great Google score - 4.8 - from a significant number of reviews, leading to three great rich snippets, then their own reviews: a great rating - 4.7 this time - shown, with stars (top left) and under 'Reviews from the web' (centre right, in the knowledge panel)
...and on mobile...

 Much the same (just a different layout - with their own reviews top left). Note the rich snippet from a Google Local Guide - identified by the star on their avatar.
  • Show me what a client of yours looks like in a general search - [business] + [location] (e.g. [estate agent] + [Kennington]):

  Note the Rating - in natural search for the desktop (bottom left) and mobile (bottom right) - both derived from the business's own reviews, reinforcing the impression already created by the Google rating and reviews

  • Show me what a client of yours looks like on their own website:

 Everything a potential customer needs to reassure themselves that the reviews are genuine: the 'write a review' button, a significant amount of reviews and an explanation of HelpHound's role - all just a click away

  • Show me where a customer of a client of yours is able to write their review (see the button in the screenshot above)
  • Show me where your clients promises to publish every legitimate review they receive:

 This 'promise to publish' under our logo is what gives the business's reviews credibility - and is vital for compliance with the CMA regulations

There's a supplementary you might also ask "Who owns the reviews - you or us?" After all, they are your customers - you should own the reviews.

And finally...

Speak to one of us and then get professional review management working for your business, getting it looking just like the one in the example above.

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