Tuesday 31 October 2017

New from Google - your own Dashboard

Today your business received an email* like this from Google...

 *to the registered user on your Google My Business account. 

...and one click away is this...

...which contains all your Google housekeeping in one place. Need to change your office hours? Click top left. Need to create a new Google Post? Bottom left. But most important of all, from our point-of-view: responding to reviews at top right.

After all, this looks good...

...but this says so much more... 

We always advise clients to respond to every review they receive. It not only impresses potential customers in myriad ways (you care, you look professional, you look as if you understand modern marketing) it also gives you a great opportunity to highlight aspects of your products or services as well as giving fair warning to anyone tempted to unfairly criticise (that they will be challenged).

Friday 27 October 2017

Local Heroes? Maybe there is a better solution?

Many of your will have come across Local Heroes (they have a big campaign on TV at the moment). The business model is simple - the tradesmen sign up to local heroes and Local Heroes give them leads, for which they deduct 20% from the invoice they send on the tradespeople's behalf.

An alternative?

Take just a fraction of that 20% and get your business looking like this on its own website...

Like this on Google...

Note the search term used here is not their business name, but the kind of search anyone living in Sussex might be reasonably expected to use - and it returns our client's Knowledge Panel!

...with reviews like these...

And this on Facebook...

...with reviews like these...

Our conclusion?

We think that tradespeople would be well advised to take a leaf out of Sussex Oven Cleaning's book and get professional review management working for them before contemplating giving away twenty per cent of their earnings.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Coming soon - Small Thanks with Google

Already released in the US, Small Thanks will undoubtedly be released for UK businesses imminently.

'Small Thanks' is a way of formatting and printing reviews for display, like this...

with many options...

...but don't feel the need to wait for Google - there's nothing stopping you using reviews in your POS displays, advertising and print media now!

A plea to Google...

Please use the reviewer's name in full, it carries so much more weight then an abbreviated 'Mrs P.'

How your customers see your reviews scores

  And you can be sure they will be influenced by your score

But first - how businesses see their reviews scores...

  • 5.0 - too good to be true
  • 4 - 4.9 - great
  • 3 - 3.9 - OK
  • 2 - 2.9 - best not look anymore
  • 1 - 1.9 - reviews? What reviews?

Now - how consumers see review scores...

  • 5.0 - brilliant - just what I need, I must use them!
  • 4.8 - 4.9 - good enough that I won't need to check on their negative reviews before at least contacting them (but I will check them before parting with any cash)
  • 4.5 - 4.7 - good, but I had better check what the negative reviews say about them, just in case
  • 4.0 - 4.4 - I'll consider using them if there is no alternative and I have a pressing need for the product/service they provide
  • 3.9 or less - really? There are businesses out there with scores of less than 4.0 that are still trading? Who is using them?

But seriously... 

  Yes, that's 74% of your potential customers reading between two and ten reviews before making contact - and if you have a negative review, or a score that's less than impressive, you can be sure they will be reading any negative reviews

Yes, seriously, this is how consumers use reviews scores - as a filter. And if they want to, in mobile search Google will automatically filter any business that scores less than 4.0 at the click of a button.

If you disagree with this assertion we strongly recommend that you get a handful of colleagues and/or friends together and ask them - and read this article (it has a great infographic, and, considering its nearly two years old, and the rate of growth in Google reviews since then has been exponential, you can probably revise all the figures upwards by at least 10%).

Thursday 19 October 2017

The only reason any business would choose a reviews site?

Because they had not heard of HelpHound!

No - seriously - that's what we hear from so many businesses when we first meet. Why?

Because HelpHound's solution to reviews - review management - wins hands down over committing your business to a single reviews site.


We are guessing that you are considering a reviews solution for your business for one or more of the following reasons...
  1. you would like your reviews visible in search - desktop and mobile
  2. you would like independently verified reviews to show on your own website
  3. you would like a star rating alongside your listing in organic search
  4. you would like the score from your reviews to show in organic search
  5. you would like a link to your reviews under 'Reviews from the web' in your Google knowledge panel
  6. you would like great Google reviews
...all in order to drive more business.

So let's look at these six - an independent site will deliver on 1, 2, 3 (sometimes), 4 (sometimes), 5 (sometimes), but not 6. How important is 6 to your business?

We would suggest that 6 is the most important of all. Not showing in Google reviews is to miss the biggest opportunity of them all - and, not only that, it is to beg the question 'Why not Google?'

You want to look like this...

 Score and star rating in natural search (top left), 'Reviews from the web' in your Google knowledge panel (centre right), Google reviews and score (top right), Google rich snippets (bottom right)

And this...

prominent (some might say 'dominant') in local search - both in the google 3-pack and in organic search (first below the 3-pack)

And with the following considerations in mind...
  • you want to comply with the CMA regulations
  • you want a solution that will last for the foreseeable future 
  • you want someone who will cover the whole market and advise you on exactly what changes in strategy you should be implementing in the future

Let's take these one-by-one...

A compliant solution

The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) regulations have the force of law in the UK. Most businesses are unaware of these when we first meet - and are surprised when we tell them that most independent reviews solutions are non-compliant. They are even more surprised when we tell them that the onus is on the business to comply with the regulations - and that these regulations specifically stipulate that whatever solution the business chooses it must allow anyone to post a review at any time. 

A solution that leaves the invitation and the time of sending that invitation in the hands of the business is non-compliant, similarly a system that in any way denies a reviewer the right to have their review posted is non-compliant (evidence of purchase, for instance, should not be required).

A lasting solution

We have lost count of the times the flavour-of-the-month review site has changed. In estate agency alone we have seen the likes of ReviewCentre, allAgents, RaterAgent, Feefo, Trustpilot and now GetAgent. It's the same story from hotels to accountants. Just imagine how frustrated UK clients of Yelp must have been when they pulled out of the UK market last year? They all had to start all over again.

The one solution we know will last (barring some seismic event that none of us can foresee) is Google, so why commit to any other? If that seismic even does happen - then HelpHound will be here to advise!

A comprehensive solution

HelpHound are review managers - and part of that means understanding (and staying up-to-date with) all the various solutions out there in the marketplace, including developments at Google (who was first to tell the world about the introduction of the Google filter? ).

On top of that, and importantly, with HelpHound you, the business, retain ownership of your customers' reviews. So you can deploy them wherever they will be most effective, now, and in the future.

Further reading:

Saturday 14 October 2017

Not yet engaged with Google reviews? Here's what will happen...

Still - in 2017 - we meet businesses that have not engaged with Google reviews. Why?

For a variety of reasons, but three main ones which we will explore here, along with their consequences...

1.  Denial - 'We don't see the need to'

It took years for Google reviews to gain traction - and during that time some businesses were lulled into thinking they did not/would not matter. But now they do - and how.  

  • unhappy consumers write reviews - in rapidly growing numbers. Just look at these three businesses that had just six Google reviews between them two years ago...
  • competitors that do find a way to engage will succeed, at the expense of those businesses that do not...

  Three clients of ours that had less than a dozen Google reviews between them when they joined

Answer: Engage with reviews, on Google and on your own website - with HelpHound's advice and support

2.  Fear - 'We are afraid to ask our customers to write reviews'*

HelpHound - and professional review management - will help you overcome the fear - we promise!

Completely understandable. What business would willingly risk its reputation? How can a business know, or at least be as confident as possible, that its customers will not write inaccurate or misleading reviews?

*there is a subset here: businesses that genuinely don't provide a good service or value for money - the kind we see every week on BBC's Watchdog - and thank goodness for Google reviews in their case. Three years ago they would have got away with it, now there's a good likelihood that a significant number of their customers will find their way to Google and write a review there. The rule for consumers in the second decade of the 21st century? Don't use a business that has no reviews on Google - and be wary of businesses that promote their reputations on independent reviews sites instead.

  • unhappy customers will write reviews - in rapidly growing numbers. See the examples under 'We don't need to' above.
  • competitors that do engage will succeed, by having significant numbers of great reviews, in absolute terms and relative to their competitors - reviews win business
  • your business will stand out - but not in a good way (especially when Google begins to rank business by review score in search)

Answer: overcome the fear - engage, with HelpHound

3.  Reviews sites - 'We reckon we have it covered already' 

 The web has evolved so fast - look at all these review sites (and they are only the tip of the iceberg) - all supplanted in recent years by Google

Businesses that have committed to independent reviews sites over the last few years suddenly realise they have the wrong solution - Google is all.

  • consumers won't see your reviews, relatively speaking - just compare the visibility of Google reviews and reviews from any independent site, from the world's biggest like Yelp and TripAdvisor to the relative minnows like TrustPilot and Feefo - and credibility? - there's no contest
  • consumers will question why you have reviews on an independent site (if they see them) - why wouldn't you have them on Google?
Answer: get on board with a solution that is credible and future-proof: HelpHound - oh, and if an independent reviews site pitches for your business ask them the following questions...
  • will my reviews show under my listing in organic search?
  • will my reviews show in 'Reviews from the web'
  • do you have a CMA compliant* system that minimises the chances that an inaccurate or misleading review will be posted?
  • do I own my own reviews?
  • can a customer post a review of my business at a time of their choosing?
  • why should I choose to get my customers' reviews to your site and not Google?
 *it continues to amaze us that there remain reviews sites out there in the marketplace whose systems fly in the face of the Competition & Markets Authority's rules. If are unfamiliar with these we recommend you spend ten minutes reading this article - compliance is the individual business's responsibility and has the force of law.

Further reading:


Wednesday 11 October 2017

Doctors - what happens if you ignore Google reviews?

This happens...

...maybe not straight away, but over time.


It is simple really, and its all down to a combination of human motivation and how we interact with the web. People are just more motivated to write negative reviews, often in the heat of the moment, and often putting the blame on the wrong agency.

The two reactions to this behaviour.... 

1.  Logical: these are just 17 opinions out of many thousands, of course some people are going to be unhappy/disappointed but this should not colour a prospective - or existing  - patient's view of the surgery (remember that most existing patients will see your reviews simply by the accident of them being in their eye-line when they look up your phone number/address/website).

 Reviews like this do get read - and do influence people - witness the eight 'thumbs up'. The fact that the review has not received a response from the surgery serves to further endorse the patients' opinion

2.  Emotional: "How can I possibly entrust my health and welfare to a surgery that scores so low (and/or has so many negative reviews)?"

The reality

Everyone reads reviews nowadays, and their reaction is likely to be a combination of both. 

No-one has to actively search for Google reviews, they are displayed in every search. In addition, many more reviews are being written - fourteen of the seventeen reviews of the surgery above have been written in the last twelve months. That pattern is not going to reverse itself any time soon.

The solution

Surgeries must engage - with Google. That does not mean abandoning any current patient feedback mechanisms, far from it, but it does mean incorporating modern professional review management into their interaction with patients.

Otherwise: dissatisfied patients will continue to post to Google, just in increasing numbers (as more and more people find they are able to write a Google review).

Preventing inaccurate or misleading reviews 

By sending an email or text to the patient asking them for a review to be independently verified and moderated by HelpHound potentially misleading or inaccurate reviews will be sent to the surgery so they can engage with the patient pre-publication, reviews will then be displayed on the surgery's own website and the reviewer then invited to copy their review to Google.


We are here to provide you with professional advice, and to design a review management strategy that dovetails with the way you operate your particular surgery, not shoehorn you into some 'off the peg' reviews solution.

Please feel free to comment on this article - link below - and subscribe - centre right - so you can be sure to receive every article as it is published. If you would like more information just email fiona.christie@helphound.com

Monday 9 October 2017

The 'fear factor'

When a massive business like this has so few reviews on Google we reckon we are right suspect there is only one thing preventing them engaging: fear (why else would they sacrifice results like these?)

It is the reason we are most given when we meet businesses that have yet to engage with reviews - "we are afraid". Sometimes it is voiced exactly like that - and with very good reason. Before we show you the solution let us look a little deeper in that 'fear'.

Reviews today

Once a review is written - on Google or on Facebook (and on any other platform including the compliant* independent sites) it is, to all intents and purposes, there for life, unless it contravenes their T&Cs, which reviews seldom do.

*surprisingly, there are non-compliant solutions being marketed to businesses in the UK at the moment

Two very distinct types of review

These two screenshots tell a very important story: they are of review totals for the same business - the only difference is that the reviews on the left - all 12,000-odd of them (in the last year alone) - are for their online retailer - on an independent site - and the ones on the right are of their London store - on Google (over the last four years). What do they tell us? They say that the business is keen to invite reviews of its products but that it is extremely wary of inviting reviews of its face-to-face service (in fact, we doubt it does at all)

There are product reviews and service reviews - and the difference is fundamental, so let's deal with them individually.
  • Product reviews - clothing, household goods, technology and so on tend to be of the 'I loved it' (5 stars) or 'I hated it' (1 star) with most people falling into the first category (after all, if you buy a pair of shoes there's a good chance you will be thrilled when you take them out of the box)

  • Service reviews - the professions (accountancy, law, medical, financial services, education, estate agency) where there is a significant degree of human interaction, often over a protracted period of time. The reviews is being written of a relationship - and often a complex one.
It is this second category that provokes the most fear. And rightly so: a review that says "I did not like the shoes" does little harm. A review that says "they completely messed up my tax return and then ignored all my emails and phone calls" has the capacity - and, in some cases, rightly so - to do lasting harm to a business.

So it is service businesses that fear reviews - and that is the reason, above all others, that service businesses have avoided engaging with reviews.

Managing the 'fear factor' - the solution...

The first thing to say is that there is no legally compliant solution that allows businesses to deflect legitimate negative reviews. There are solutions being sold to businesses that have that effect, but we are guessing that if you have read this far you are not in the market for one of those.

But there is a solution that allows businesses and consumers to identify and correct misleading and/or inaccurate reviews before they are publicly published, and that is where HelpHound comes in.

HelpHound Resolution™ 

There is a full description here, but in a nutshell our Resolution system works in four simple steps as follows:
  1.  All reviews are moderated - read - by a human moderator (no software yet devised, as Google and Facebook are learning to their cost, has yet replaced human intervention)
  2. Those that contain no issues are published to the business's own website and the reviewer is asked to copy their review to Google
  3. Those that appear to be inaccurate or potentially misleading are forwarded to the business for comment (in private)
  4. All the while the reviewer is aware that they have a right to publish a review - either their original or a modified version
So - in plain English - if the reviewer has got the wrong end of the stick they are given the opportunity to correct their review before it is published. If, on the other hand, your business has genuinely made a mess of things, then the reviewer is allowed - at any time during the process - to publish their review. And the business is allowed to respond, publicly.

Let us look at an obvious example, first for a business that is not a HelpHound client and then for one that is: 

  • a tenant has an issue with the agent's viewing procedure, they write a 1* review of the estate agent on Google. The agent responds - again, on Google - explaining that the issue was about staff security. The agent's score on Google is impacted by the 1* review - Google do not invite the reviewer to post a fresh review or modify the score they have allocated the business
  • a tenant has an issue with the agent's viewing procedure, they write a 1* review of the estate agent through HelpHound. Our moderator forwards the review to the estate agent (the reviewer is informed simultaneously) and the estate agent responds - privately - explaining the situation to the tenant. No erroneous 1* review on Google, no erroneous 1* review on the business's site. Job done.
Here is the actual review and the agent's - private - response:

From this you will gather that HelpHound is neither on the side of the business nor the consumer - we are on the side of accuracy. Inaccurate reviews - and scores (increasingly used as an 'at a glance' benchmark for consumers) benefit no-one. Lack of reviews because the business is afraid to engage benefit no-one either.

Two years ago this business had two reviews on Google...

 And none on its own website...

So it was missing out on the power of reviews to drive business - not any more.

If you run a service business, you should seriously consider using HelpHound. You will be able to actively engage with reviews without fear.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

The Red Carnation story - and what every business can learn from it

Back in the day when reviews first came about most businesses treated them as a nuisance, but not Red Carnation Hotels. So what did they do differently and what has been the outcome of their strategy?

The first thing: they faced facts. Having acknowledged that there was no way they could take on the giants of the hospitality industry budget for budget in conventional marketing they saw an opportunity with reviews that few others grasped. And then they determined, right from the word 'go', that they would shine.

A great leveller

They realised that any good business, given the will, could thrive with reviews without massive expenditure, indeed without any direct expenditure at all. They had stumbled upon a marketing tool that did not put them at a disadvantage to the big groups and turned it into a positive advantage in their battle for the hotel dollar.

What did they do?

They set out to be the best reviewed hotel group on the web. Not just 'good' - not just great - the best. They made reviews their ally - not something to dread.

In practical terms...

Most hotels are luck (or unlucky!) if one in a thousand of their guests write a review. Red Carnation realised that in the remaining nine hundred and ninety-nine there was a vast resource waiting to be tapped. And so they set about tapping it. 

They motivated all their staff to focus on getting reviews to TripAdvisor* - from the front desk to housekeeping. They made sure staff made every effort to manage issues that might lead to a negative review before the guest departed the hotel. They maximised the potential for getting great reviews to TripAdvisor by refining every aspect of the process that would lead to getting that crucial review.

*and they moved with the times, when Google reviews became important they were ready

Numbers and scores

  The top three hotels in London? The Ritz, Claridges and the Connaught? Not according to TripAdvisor!

If you look at any Red Carnation property online, three things will rapidly become apparent...
  1.  They will rank amongst the very top hotels in their location
  2.  They will have more reviews than any of their competitors relative to the number of rooms in each of their properties
  3.  They will be charging top dollar for those rooms (occupancy is not an issue for Red Carnation - we're betting they could fill each room twice over in most of their locations for most of the year)

Be the best you can be

There may be better hotels for some people - hotels are a matter of taste after all - but no-one can gain-say that Red Carnation properties look amazing online.

The lesson for every business

Given that you do a good job for your customers - and that must be a given - the next step is to 'do a Red Carnation' with reviews. Make review management part of your core marketing strategy and embed it into every part of your business. 

And finally...

Three things we're betting you don't hear from Red Carnation staff...
  •  "I'm too busy to focus on reviews"
  •  "We don't have the resources to focus on reviews"
  •  "Reviews don't impact on our bottom line"