Monday 26 February 2018

Reviews - one of the most powerful PR tools there is

Reviews and Public Relations

Whether you conduct your business’s public relations in-house or contract it out to an agency, it is important to see reviews and review management as an integral part of your relationship with your customers, both existing and future.  

It is also important to realise that reviews of your business, especially Google reviews, will be used as a primary source by journalists, bloggers and vloggers alike.

It is so easy for your customers’ reviews to contradict the image that you put so much effort into promoting and maintaining. It is equally easy to harness the power of your happy customers – by turning them into brand advocates through the medium of reviews, it just takes a positive attitude and some know-how. 

A powerful resource

 Any PR messages here? You bet! And these are just two of over sixty similar stories on Google and 150 on the business's own website

A positive presence in reviews makes for a massively credible voice in support of all your public relations and marketing efforts. 

Remember testimonial marketing – that built brands such as Pears Soap and Coca Cola? – reviews are the new testimonials. 

The first impression 

Every search made by a potential customer delivers reviews. Like this…

…or like this…

A measurable impact 

Google reports the impact of reviews, every month, like this…

…so it’s not a case of ‘hit and hope’, you will have proof positive, one way or the other.

Wherefore HelpHound?

HelpHound exists for two reasons: first, to enable businesses to display independently verified reviews on their own websites, like this…

…and, just as importantly, to provide moderation between business and consumer pre-publication, so the likelihood of reviews containing misleading or inaccurate information is minimised, for the benefit of both business and consumer. 

The next step

Speak to Fiona Christie or Karen Hutchings and they will happily discuss the myriad ways reviews can be incorporated into your business's PR strategy.

Oh! And one other important benefit - we'll make sure everything you do is compliant with the CMA rules!

Thursday 22 February 2018

Jamie's Italian - should they be taking reviews (more) seriously?


We're going to make a couple of what may seem glaringly obvious comments here...

First: reviews matter. No business can blithely ignore Google reviews any more, TripAdvisor, Yelp or Zagat (in the restaurant space) perhaps, but certainly not Google. 

Second: Millenials (and many older consumers) refer to reviews all the time.

Now, let us look at Jamie's Italian scores on Google (we've limited ourselves to their London outlets, there is no discernible difference in the pattern UK-wide)...

These are shocking - shocking enough to deflect diners in numbers. But more shocking is the complete absence of action being taken by Jamie's to address the issue.

Now let's look at just two reviews from the last of these (Greenwich) and then we will make some more comments:

What can they tell us? All restaurants have their problems (and their problem customers), so we are not going to do a 'Gordon Ramsay' here; we will simply confine ourselves to what Jamie's Italian could do better in the context of their review management.
  1. They should respond to their reviews - they could thank the likes of Paul Spicer (surely they realise that people who take the trouble to post a positive review are more likely to return if the restaurant bothers to tank them for their review?) and they could apologise to Jos Bodewes (the guy took 45 - yes, forty-five - people to their Greenwich restaurant and it never crossed their mind to either a) say 'Sorry' or b) put their side of the story
  2. They should take action to ensure that more of their happy customers post reviews. The very act of inviting a review will show customers that Jamie's cares - and that in itself would be a positive step forwards 

Now you see them, now you don't 

Are Jamie's aware of the Google filter? If they are not, they are not alone, but surely if your business is suffering one of the first things you would do is try your very best to look good (we'll settle for 'good' - great might be a bridge to far) in search?

Here's a search on 'Italian Stratford'..., if the very low score has not put the potential customer off, surely the Google filter will show them far better options? it will!

So what would Jamie's in Stratford need to do to pass the Google filter (and look like a good bet for anyone looking for an Italian meal in the area)?

At the moment they are scoring 2.8 with 209 reviews. The answer is in the maths, Simply: they need to get more five star reviews.

The current breakdown of their scores is:
  • 67 one stars
  • 35 two stars
  • 30 three stars
  • 36 four stars
  • 41 five stars

    Jamie's in Stratford does have its fans - it just needs to mobilise them

...and this shows something very important: that they do have satisfied customers, in fact they have had 77 customers who were so happy that they were motivated to write a positive review without any encouragement from Jamie's. Imagine just how different these numbers would look if Jamie's were to proactively invite reviews? Another 100 five star reviews - just one a week over the last two years - and Jamie's in Stratford would pass the Google filter and be scoring more than 4.0 in search (and the same would go for all their other locations in London). Do we think that would have a positive impact on trade? Of course we do.

So - a simple plan of action
  1. Respond to existing reviews
  2. Invite customers to write reviews
That's all!

Where does HelpHound come in? 

There's nothing stopping Jamie's - or any other restaurant business for that matter - from mobilising their customers to write reviews. But the key advantage HelpHound offers any business is Resolution™ - our moderation mechanism, which, besides formalising the whole review gathering process, goes as far as is feasably possible towards ensuring that malicious or factually inaccurate reviews are not posted.

Saturday 17 February 2018

The Google schema - an explanation of the issues


The Google schema, as many of you will know, is a way of delivering your reviews scores into organic search. In this article we will show you its advantages and disadvantages and explain why we think it is being oversold by the independent reviews sites. We will also look at some of the issues of various kinds that web designers are having when they are asked to implement the schema on behalf of their clients.

First - let's look at it in action. First - for one of our clients (with the schema working and delivering):

  Here you can see that the schema has enabled Google to pull the rating (4.7), number of reviews (271) into two locations - organic search and 'Reviews from the web' and display a star rating in organic search

Next, for a business using an independent site (schema coded but not delivering):

The first point: that the schema is not delivering, is obvious from this screenshot, but there is a far more important point to be made: by adopting an independent reviews solution the business has been deflected away from the one place that all potential customers will be looking: on Google. It is far more important to look good there than on an independent site, irrespective of whether or not the schema delivers.

How do we know? Because here are the results for another search (admittedly not one that any potential customer is likely to make):

If the schema is not working for you, the solution lies with your web designer. You can be with HelpHound or any of the independent reviews sites but if the schema is not correctly implemented the result will be the same: no rating in organic search.

But don't rush to blame your web designer just because you think the schema may not be working - we see examples of correctly implemented schemas not working all the time, and then, just as we are about to call it a day, up they pop (and vice versa). 

The schema is imperfect

Day-in day-out we see examples where the schema has been correctly implemented but the results still don't show - or they show for one search term but not for another. Then they do show for a period, then they disappear again. You simply cannot rely on the schema - it has to be treated as a bonus when it is working.

Remember mobile search

Now that mobile search is so much more common than desktop (some estimates put it as high as 80%) it is important to remember just how much more important Google reviews are - just look at these two screens...

 ...and note the total dominance of Google, from scores and ratings to rich snippets. The schema has delivered 'Reviews from the web', but that, we say again, should be seen as a bonus. You core strategy must centre on having great reviews on your own website and great reviews on Google.

And in a local search?

Again - the schema is there, but Google is ever-dominant.

Further reading:
  • There's so much to great review management - see a bang up-to-date case study here
  • The consequences of employing an independent reviews site - here

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Greene & Co - just when you thought a business could not look any better!

One of our main roles at HelpHound is to ensure that our clients are always using reviews to their very best advantage, throughout the course of their membership - and many of you will have followed the evolution of Greene & Co since they joined HelpHound.

Here's a reminder of what a Google search looked like when they joined: 

And here are those three locations today:

Their remaining six that did not feature in a Google search on 'Greene & Co' back then look very similar

Against their competitors?

On their own website?

Remember that many potential customers will by-pass Google - it is important to host independently verified reviews on your own website...

 ...and it is these reviews that Google uses to allocate a star rating and score in organic search, to be seen by everyone searching on your business...

 ...and to deliver 'Reviews from the web' in your Google knowledge panel - linking straight to your website...


 Every Greene & Co branch has this button on their website - ensuring anyone can write a review at any time

And all this achieved in compliance with the relevant regulations (which expressly forbid hand-picking 'happy' customers to write reviews). We estimate that less than one in ten estate agencies currently comply with the CMA regulations - which have the force of law.


Results used to be anecdotal (verbal feedback from clients) - but now new clients can be immediately reassured when they see the uplift in calls and visits to their website because it will be reported to you by Google. Here is Curchod's Google report after they joined last year:

We have used this Curchods Google My Business report as Google only began sending them out last September - too late to prove the uplift for Greene & Co, but great proof for any business joining from now on

N.B. Without these results reviews and review management in any form are pure window dressing. We see marketing from the independent reviews sites every day which focuses on everything but results like these. Using an independent reviews site can backfire on the business by making them look worse on Google. For more on this subject read this article.

In summary

A typical Greene & Co Google knowledge panel, with a great score and star rating, the rich snippets are all positive with Google highlighting important trigger words; and 508 reviews on their own site just a click away

Greene & Co, by embracing the opportunities presented to them since joining HelpHound...
  • look great on Google - great scores and credible numbers of reviews
  • look great on their own website - with credible independently verified reviews there
  • look great in any search on their business name and location
  • look great in any local search
  • look great in organic search - with a great star rating and score for every location
  • look great in the Google knowledge panel - with great Google reviews, great rich snippets and great 'Reviews from the web'
  • look great against their competitors in any search
...all essential if a business is to compete effectively in today's marketplace.

Monday 12 February 2018

The unintended consequence of employing an independent reviews site?

Answer: your business runs a very high risk of driving unhappy customers to post their reviews to Google. 

We see this time and again (we call it 'deflection'). In this article we will look at the psychology behind this phenomenon, so your business need not fall into this trap.

First, here are three examples of three different businesses using three different reviews sites (we have a file full of them, but these will suffice to make the point)...

Driving negatives to Google

On independent site 'A'...

On Google...

 Just to make matters clear - this score includes over 100 one and two star reviews

Getting all their great reviews where they are next to invisible

On independent site 'B'...

 With nearly 350 reviews

On Google...

 Where all their potential clients are looking!

On independent site 'C'...

On Google...

And, just in case anyone thinks a score of 3.5 is 'OK' we would like to remind them that it a) fails the Google filter, and b) contains numerous very harmful one star reviews (eighteen in this case)

So why the disparity?

We have analysed so many instances of this, and in every case we are drawn to the same conclusion: human nature is at work. Let us walk you through what is happening...
  1. The business contracts an independent website to invite their customers to write a review
  2. Some of the business's happy customers do just that
  3. Some of their unhappy customers do so as well (just over 13% in the example above)
  4. But - and here is the killer punch - many more of their unhappy customers think to themselves "OK, I will write a review, but I'm not going where the business wants me to, I'm going to Google."

Why does this not happen with HelpHound?

Because of three important factors:

The reviews demonstrably belong to our client business - not HelpHound, our role as moderator is made clear through the 'What is HelpHound' link, and customers appreciate that

  • The 'invitation to review' comes from the business, with minimal HelpHound branding (but sufficient to reassure the customer that there is an independent moderator involved - see above) - and even disgruntled customers would appear to respect that, so they do respond to the business, rather than resorting straight to Google
  • HelpHound's Resolution™ - our moderation system - allows the business and their customer to iron out any misunderstandings pre-publication, and both parties are happy with that
  • Our 're-post to Google' function enables the business to get a significant proportion of the reviews posted to their own site over to Google, so our clients look good on their own site and on Google

Job done? We think so. More importantly so do our clients.

Simple really. Get reviews where they will do the most good, for your business and for your prospective customers - on Google and on your own website; but do it safely, compliantly and effectively - with HelpHound.

Compliance note

We do occasionally come across businesses that look better on Google then they do on an independent reviews site. In more than one instance this appears to be because the business is gaming both Google and the independent site: they are inviting customers to write a review to the independent site and then selectively inviting only those that write a five star review to the independent site to copy it to Google. This is not complaint with the CMA regulations and is simply refinement of the endemic - and equally non-compliant - habit of cherry-picking (inviting only 'happy' customers to write reviews).

Thursday 8 February 2018

Reviews and Luxury Brands - the issues

Looking at the record to date with reviews and luxury brands it has become apparent that some of them think they face issues particular to their niche in the marketplace (otherwise why would they all have such minimal exposure to - and virtually no engagement with - reviews?).

In this article we will look at some examples and attempt to draw some lessons that will enable luxury brands to actively engage with reviews without exposing their brands to unwarranted negative criticism (or are they, by doing nothing, already doing so?).

The World's Top 5 Luxury Brands

No. 1  

No. 2

No. 3

No. 4

No. 5

But first, let us answer a few obvious questions...

 Do we think reviews like this influence potential customers? - sure we do. How do we arrive at that conclusion? We ask ourselves 'would this review encourage me to use the business?' and if the answer is 'No' then it must discourage at least some people. On top of that this reviewer is almost certainly a customer/brand advocate lost.

  • Do reviews matter to these brands? The answer to this $64,000 question, we suspect, is 'Yes, but not as much as they do to a less well-established brand.' If 'Yes' then how? If you read any of the many negative reviews (and remember that a location with 100 reviews and a score of 4.0 has, by definition, 20 negative reviews) they invariably represent a customer lost. They also represent a brand advocate lost, and a potential negative influencer gained. So 'Yes' is the right answer.
  • Why don't they respond to their reviews? We cannot be sure (there are - rare - instances where some reviews have received responses, but usually of the 'contact us' variety, indicating a fundamental misunderstanding of the direction of travel when engaging with reviewers), but we reckon that it's simply a case that responsibility for doing so has yet to be delegated/nominated within the business. Given that we know for sure that businesses that respond to reviews fare better than those that don't, this has to be the only reason.
  • How do we know that none of the locations listed above have proactively engaged with reviews? Because the numbers are so small - if they had engaged the numbers would be in the high hundreds, even thousands, by now.
  • Why have they not engaged? The answer to this has to be 'fear'; an understandable fear of encouraging negative reviews. The problem with adopting a 'do nothing' strategy is that long-term it results in an accumulation of often inaccurate and misleading negative reviews, as it has done for almost all of the twenty-six locations above  - harmful for the business and equally harmful for those who might otherwise have considered purchasing their merchandise (as well as being unsettling for loyal existing customers).
  • How difficult is it to engage? It couldn't be simpler - all luxury brands collect their customers' email addresses as matter of routine these days, and the days of their customers resenting being asked for a review are also well in the past. So it's just a matter of deciding to engage.

The solution

Don't immediately rush to invite all your customers to post a review to Google, after all, you don't want incorrect or unfair reviews appearing there, especially when there is no need, and there's more to adopting a professional attitude to review management than simply addressing your brand's image on Google.

The HelpHound solution

By using HelpHound you are achieving three objectives in one fell swoop...
  1. You will be getting reviews to display on your own website and use in your other marketing efforts - advertising, PR and social media
  2. You will be getting reviews to Google - reviews that will be seen by everyone looking for your products - and then to other sites that matter (Facebook being the obvious next step)
  3. You will be doing so safe in the knowledge you will be able to engage with any incorrect or potentially misleading reviews pre-publication
 ...and we will be right beside you all the way to make absolutely sure you succeed.


It is a very rare occurrence that a HelpHound client scores less than 4.5 out of five - on their own site or on Google - and that's because HelpHound clients care about their customers, so that care is reflected in the reviews their customers write and their aggregated scores.