Monday, 12 November 2018

Is your business's marketing and review management joined up?

Let's see what we mean by joined up. Here are two advertisements run in the Times this weekend. One is a single page (rate card £27,000) and the other a double page spread (rate card £42,000)...

Now, suppose you were attracted by one of these advertisements, what do we suppose might be your next action*. Perhaps one of these...

  • call the business? 
  • email the business? 
  • visit the business's website?

* as readers will know, there are two kinds of advertising: 'above the line' (often known as 'brand' advertising) designed to enhance the reader's 'feel' for the brand in question and 'below the line' designed specifically to generate a hard - quantifiable - response (leads). Both of the above advertisements might reasonably be considered to fulfil both functions, but as they both include 'calls to action' in the form of web-links we feel justified in judging them on a below-the-line basis.

So - in order to either call, email or visit the business's website their potential customers have two options...

  1. follow the url in the advertisement
  2. google the business
For the purpose of this article we will assume it's about half-and-half. So let's see what happens when we google these two businesses (on our phone, because that's what most people have to hand when they are reading a paper). First Irwin Mitchell...

...with 'Reviews' front-and-centre, one click away...

And now Invesco...

We are not going to comment at this stage. We will now simply show you a HelpHound client's brand advertising...

...and in print...

...and then show you what happens if a potential customer googles their local branch...

...and - as an added bonus - if the potential customer were to go direct to their website...

...or even search for them on desktop...

So: Our message...

Get your review management sorted and the response to all your other advertising and marketing must rise*, it's as simple as that.

Note re: Irwin Mitchell and reviews sites

The more eagle-eyed of you may notice that Irwin Mitchell have employed both Feefo and Trustpilot. Their experience with these sites is one of the most pronounced cases of deflection that we have ever seen ('deflection': the negative impact on a business's Google score of inviting customers to write reviews to reviews sites - more here).

*Must rise? 

Here are some numbers - from Google My Business - for a single location for one of our clients...

...for more read this.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

A single negative review - just how much harm can it do?

We hear this kind of comment often - admittedly less often than we used to - but still often enough to get onto our soapbox and trumpet...

Negative reviews hurt business(es)

Just look at this...

...emailed by Google to the reviewer. The review is exactly three months old. In that time it has been seen by over 500 people. 

Do we think all five hundred have been put off the business in question? Probably not - but it's a nailed-on certainty that some have. So what has the business in question done? Nothing at all. 

What should they have done? Responded to the reviewer, that's what - addressing the issues raised, whatever they are, and however 'unfair' the business thinks the review may be.

What else can a business do?

Invite reviews from all its customers would be a good start. Next: how about responding to all customers who take the trouble to write a review - it takes minutes a week and is sure to impress potential customers, it can also gently correct factual inaccuracies or misconceptions, so readers don't automatically assume the reviewer is correct. The business above has responded to none of its reviewers, the majority of them saying 'use this business' - wouldn't at least a thank-you be in order?

What if the review is factually incorrect or misleading (or even malicious)?

You can appeal to Google to have the review removed. Here is an article that goes into detail about the procedure.

Better than that - if you are a member of HelpHound, you will have a very good chance that the customer will have written their review to you before going on to post it to Google. And all HelpHound reviews are moderated - not to 'weed out' negative reviews, but to ensure, for everyone's benefit, that reviews containing factual inaccuracies or potentially misleading comments are not published - either on the business's website or on Google (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Read all about our moderation process here. It's worth its weight in gold for everyone concerned - the writer of the review, the reader of the review and the business under review.

Quality is SO important where reviews are concerned

We have commented on the difference between 'feedback' and 'reviews' recently - here - but there is one aspect we neglected: quality.

If you are selling products a five star review is worth having, irrespective of the words attached to those five stars. people will buy a five star camera or a five star toaster on the basis of the star rating alone - but a high-value service? Not the same. They want to mine down into the content of the reviews themselves. 

Compare these...

With these...

Interestingly, for us at least, these reviews are the last three written for the first client we looked at. Check any HelpHound client's reviews and you will see the same. Why? Because of the way in which our clients ask their customers for their reviews - by email (not text). And the way in which they prepare their customers - the request to write a review does not come as a surprise, they have been preparing the way by 'warning' their customers that they will be asking for a review at every point in the transaction.

So: don't let the temptation to indulge in a headlong rush for numbers and ratings, quality of the reviews themselves is what drives business through the door for service businesses.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Is a reviews site strangling your business?

We wrote about this back in May ('Deflection - is it becoming an epidemic?') but since then the evidence has been piling up at such a rate that we need to revisit this important subject. 

What is 'deflection'?

It is the unintended consequence of focussing review efforts on a reviews site rather than Google. It results in the business looking good on the reviews site and less good - often a whole lot less good - on Google.


Because consumers have got wise to Google - and its power to influence their fellows. So when a business invites them to write a review to the reviews site of the business's choice they do write a review, but to Google instead - especially if they are unhappy with the service they have been given.


Here's a business on a reviews site...

...and here's the same business on Google...

This is exactly what we term 'deflection' - the business's happy customers doing as they are asked (writing a review to the business's reviews site) and a significant proportion of the unhappy customers - invited or not - writing their review to Google.

The harm being done

Ask any consumer these days 'whose reviews do you read?' and the answer will inevitably be 'Google's'. Unsurprisingly, because they are the reviews we are all shown in every search we ever make...

This business has been actively harmed* by adopting the independent reviews site. How can we/you tell? Well, no-one is walking into the business and saying 'I was going to instruct you to sell/let my house until I saw your reviews on Google' but we can be absolutely sure that is happening. How can we be sure? Because Google don't dedicate such large amounts of search real-estate to reviews for them to be ignored by their users - and just look at the 'likes' the reviews receive...

...and, unlike Facebook, where personal friends will 'like' a comment or review simply because of that friendship, with Google the 'liker' will almost certainly be a potential customer of the business under review.
*An exception to the rule is the 'clever' business that invites customers to post reviews to a reviews site and then only invites those that rated it five stars to copy their review to Google. Not only is that against the T&Cs of both the reviews site and Google - it is against the law (if you need to brush up on the law relating to reviews there's a link at the bottom of this article).

It need not be...

No reviews site here - just professional review management from HelpHound. Try this search yourself - and then 'estate agent Kennington' to see the local search results.

The good news - for businesses in this situation and for businesses new to the world of reviews - is that the solution to everything the reviews sites have promised and failed to deliver is right here at HelpHound. We will get you those stars in search - but the right stars: your own and Google's. We will also ensure that you are not breaking the law and are protected from inaccurate and potentially misleading reviews.

Further reading...

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Is your business a shining star in search?

Like this, in a search for 'estate agents in Weybridge'...

...or this, for Harringay - showing not one but two HelpHound clients leading the way...

...or this, in Blackheath...

..or even this, coming second and fourth in Guildford...

...and this, when searching on your business name (which untold prospective customers will do, even if only to find your phone number)...

And a new client? Farrell Heyworth joined in the last six weeks - and here they are already...

Now - we cannot guarantee that the Google schema (the mechanism that Google uses to pull reviews and star ratings through to search results) will work in every case and for every search term because it is dependent on just how your website is configured but it has to be a very nice bonus indeed! If you would like more detail just read this.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Understanding the value of professional review management

Professional review management should find itself placed firmly in the marketing column of any CFO's spreadsheet. And, just like any other marketing spend, it should be valued on the basis of ROI. 

But first we need to help potential clients understand the difference between the following...
  • feedback mechanisms
  • independent reviews sites
  • review aggregators
...and full-time professional review management.

Feedback mechanisms

These have a role to play in every business, be they point-of-sale or post sale (commonly initiated by email). They will be expressly designed to enable the business to refine its offering to its customers, with tailored questions, the answers to which can be analysed to enable the business in question to more accurately target future marketing.

As such, there may be no immediately quantifiable ROI. Nor need there be - it will be up to the business to use the information gained to drive that ROI through its marketing.

Independent reviews sites

Before the advent of Google reviews these were a very effective way of harnessing the power of tried-and-tested testimonial marketing. They still have their uses where product marketing is concerned (a toaster rated five stars on John Lewis's website will invariably outsell one rated four stars). 

John Lewis (and Dualit) know - for certain - that this ***** rating, and the accompanying reviews like the one below the listing, will sell more toasters. But just how many thousands of toasters did they sell to accumulate those hundred-and-one reviews? That is why service businesses need review management.

But for services Google reviews trump any other kind of review. Why? In a word: visibility. Google reviews win hands down in virtually every important search - specific (on the business's name)...

 ...and local (on the type of business)... 

Google also have the added advantage of credibility - everyone recognises Google (and most people now understand that Google reviews are pretty hard to game).

Review aggregators

A simple concept: scrape reviews from all over the web - Google, Facebook and the reviews sites - and then display them on the business's website, like this..., we are not saying these reviews are unrepresentative of the business in question, but we are saying that incorporating moderation would ensure they were. 

It is vital for complex high-value transactional businesses like estate agency (and legal, financial and medical services) to have a moderation system in place that ensures that the image they present is fair and balanced - for the benefit of future customers who rely on reviews to make their judgement and the business itself.

Professional review management

If you are in online retail - selling toasters or by the thousand or computers by the hundred - it is easy to get to critical mass with reviews, but service-based businesses rarely have that kind of put-through. 

If you are selling houses, providing legal, medical or financial advice or running a recruitment business you are likely to count your customers in dozens a month at the most, often less. This poses a very different question: "How do we get sufficient reviews to make an impact?"

There's only one way a service business is going to look like this in search, and that's by employing first-class full-time professional review management.

This is where professional review management comes in. With training and support from HelpHound you should expect returns the like of which reviews sites - and feedback mechanisms - can only dream. Our top-performing clients regularly achieve the targets we jointly set at outset. Those targets? We call them 50/50. 
  • 50/50 means getting fifty per cent of your customers to write a review to your own website and then fifty per cent of those to copy their review to Google
The other target we set in conjunction with our clients is the score. Google have set their filter - the mechanism that enables users to filter out low-rated businesses at 4.5 out of 5 in most areas (in some rural areas the filter remains where it was pre-June 2018 at 4.0) - so we agree a target score, and that is always 4.5 or more. It may well be that, on joining, a business will have to address internal CRM issues in order to achieve that score, and it is part of a professional review manager's role to identify areas for improvement to enable a business to attain that vital score.

By now you will be beginning to understand that employing a review manager is about far more than combining a widget on your website with efficient CRM. It is about working together, just as you do with your other professional advisers (legal, accountancy etc.) on a day-to-day basis if need be, to ensure the right outcome.

And that outcome? More business flowing through your doors (and, in this context, 'doors' means whatever channel your customers take - website, phone, email, personal visit and so on).

So now we arrive at the crucial crux of the difference between 'feedback', 'reviews sites' and 'professional review management'. Quantifiable cash-flow - pure and simple.

How to judge the value of professional review management

We - and you - will have failed if only the following happens...
  • great numbers of reviews to your own website
  • a great aggregate score on your own website
  • great numbers of reviews to Google
  • a great aggregate score on Google
...but that won't be the case. Because if you achieve all four (and with our help and support you should) you will also...
  • generate more sales leads through all channels
  • support more sales through all channels
...which you should be able to measure, not least through your monthly Google My Business report. Here's one sent to us by a client (and, good as it is, it's certainly not the best we have ever seen)...

We know that any business will be able to put a monetary value on those results - because they will know their own conversion rates, and be able to apply £s per conversion.

*and considerably more for most businesses

Adding even more value

There are two other - very important - ways in which a professional review manager will add value. The first is compliance. To comply with the UK CMA regulations - which all UK businesses must do - businesses must, if they are proactively inviting reviews...
  • allow all their customers to write a review - not just pick those they would like to write a review
  • allow those customers to pick their own time to write their review - not just be invited when the business thinks they are most likely to write a favourable review
We know you won't be able to factor 'not being fined £X,000 by the CMA' (actually the CMA's last fine had five zeros) into your financial forecasts, but we are sure you will see the value in this, especially when combined with the next way in which we will add value: moderation.

Moderation means having an independent entity - HelpHound in this case - reading every review immediately it is written and then enabling a discussion between the reviewer and the reviewed business pre-publication under certain critical circumstances. And those circumstances? If the review, suppose it were published, were to contain any factual inaccuracies or statements that had the potential to mislead any consumer reading them. 

So: professional review management will earn your business hard cash. Put it to the test and you won't have to wait long to see the results (the GMB report shown above relates to the first quarter of the client's membership) and, like most other professional services, we won't tie you into any kind of contract either.

Further reading...

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Don't incentivise your customers to post reviews to Google

Read the full horror story here

We've said it before - and we will keep on saying it. Google hates businesses that incentivise customers to write reviews (and, to be honest, we think it leaves a pretty sour taste in some customers' mouths as well).

But we all know reviews - positive reviews at least - don't write themselves. So what is a professionally run business to do? 

Our answer is simple: in the same way as businesses integrated consumer feedback into their day-to-day operations in the nineties, businesses now need to integrate review management. For so many businesses this is still seen as a bolt-on or an afterthought, when it should be part-and-parcel of everyone's daily lives.

Integrated review management - a 5 step guide...

1.  Invite all your customers - and any other stakeholders (potential customers, past customers) to post a review direct to your own website. 

A button like this will suffice

2.  Target staff to invite a certain number of their customer contacts to post such a review every week or month. Not as an added 'chore' but as part of their core role within your business.

3.  Get those reviews independently moderated - this is important: if they are not moderated your business will be at risk of publishing inaccurate or misleading reviews (and these help no-one - the person posting the review or the person reading it), if they are not independently moderated your reviews revert to the status of testimonials (simple puffs for the business - in the eyes of consumers and the regulators and Google).

4.  Invite everyone who has a review published on your website to copy that review across to Google. To show like this...

...and then - a click away - this...

and yes, those 166 reviews showing at top left under 'Reviews from the web' are the reviews on their own website

5.  Respond to every review (besides being good manners it is also excellent marketing - your response can highlight aspects of your service for those reading the review).

Further reading...

  • The 'rule of 50 per cent': getting half of your customers - over time - to write a review to your own website and then half of those who do so to copy their review to Google will ensure success. Here's how.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Monthly Digest: October 2018

This is our first 'Monthly digest'. There are now so many articles on this blog that we have decided to introduce a monthly summary; this will include 'News' and 'Perennials', 'perennials' being a 'top ten' of the most important articles.


Google announced yesterday that they are 'sunsetting' (their words!) Google+. This will impact few outside the world of tech, where the added privacy was valued by users, and it leaves this sector of the social media field clear for Facebook.

This month's articles...

Which business is going to be first to be fined for flouting the CMA rules on reviews? - if your business is hand picking customers to write reviews it might just be in the firing line. 

Is your Google score hurting your business? The answer, if that score falls short of 4.8 out of 5, is 'almost certainly'. If your business scores less than 4.5 the answer is 'certainly', as it is failing the Google Filter (see article below).

Two out of three UK businesses are breaking the law - if you have any doubts whatsoever read this article.

Google or Trustpilot? There is sometimes a marked disparity between a business's image on Google and that image as portrayed by a reviews site - which is correct?

Estate agents only: If your'e paying Rightmove you should at least look good when your potential fee earners arrive on your website.


Those new to the world of reviews - and review management - would be well advised to read as many of the following as possible. They are responsible for saving many businesses endless heartache over the years.

  • The single biggest focus for us here at HelpHound is 'results' - enabling our clients to prosper - see the impact of professional review management on a client here.

  • Are you complying with the law? Read this - the CMA's letter to businesses and our analysis.

  • And the opinions of our own clients? - see what some say here.
  • Independent reviews sites are everywhere you look - good for online retail but potentially disastrous for professional service businesses. If you are considering one read this first.

There are only two ways to look this good on Google (assuming you run a great business in the first place) - only invite 'happy' customers to write a review (which breaks the law) or adopt moderated review management 

  • Moderation - and why it is vitally important for every service business that engages with reviews.

And finally...

Do subscribe - that way you will get every article on the day of publication. Just pop your email in the box to the right of this article...