Thursday 30 May 2019

When are we going to see Google ratings referenced in advertising?

Question: which ratings and reviews are:

  1. Most frequently viewed?
  2. Most trusted?
  3. Free (for the business)?
The answer - we would humbly suggest (please feel free to comment) - is 'Google's'.

Most Frequently viewed

Every time a search is made, of whatever kind of business, Google displays reviews - it's own reviews. They are prominently displayed in every kind of search: specific (on the business's name) and comparative (local or competitive).

Most trusted

Ask any consumer. Reinforcing this trust is the knowledge amongst even the least sophisticated consumer - these days - that they are able to post a Google review whenever they wish. It is conceivable that consumers have heard of Feefo and/or Trustpilot, but Google?


Google doesn't charge.

So why are businesses not referencing their Google reviews (and scores) in their advertising?

Left: the business scoring five stars on its chosen reviews site. Right: the same business on Google

We think the answer is a combination of the following:
  • if a business has been 'sold' a reviews solution it is inclined to use that solution in its advertising, simply to justify the spend
  • research consistently shows that businesses that employ reviews sites score better on those reviews sites than on Google; this is partly due to a syndrome we call 'deflection' where happy customers are content to respond to the business's invitation to post a review on the site of the business's own choice but less pleased customers are more likely to vent on Google
  • the herd instinct: competitors do it, so why shouldn't we?

There is a fourth reason: the reviews sites invariably offer 'advantages' to attract businesses, and these can often result in a higher score; some sites are 'closed' (unlike Google) and only allow customers to post a review by invitation and others have some form of 'quarantine' for reviews that allows the business to challenge reviews it disagrees with. Both of these may seem reasonable on the face of it, but they place control in the hands of the business that tilts the board in the business's favour and, as a direct result, raise compliance issues as far as the CMA regulations are concerned (these categorically state that businesses, if they invite reviews, must allow all customers to write a review at a time of their own choosing - read this article for more on this important issue).

Our advice 

Build your advertising and marketing around this (score and content)!

Focus all your efforts on Google*. This advice is categoric, for the reasons mentioned above. Google is here to stay, and it controls the online gateway to your business. Get Google reviews and then reference these and your score in all your advertising and promotional activity. 

*In our experience there is only one thing stopping most businesses going down this route, and that is the fear that their customers may post inaccurate or misleading reviews. That is why HelpHound exists, to advise clients on how to go about protecting their reputations at the same time as shining in all forms of Google search. We say we 'manage out the fear' - to understand more about this read on.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Wealth managers - there's a world of opportunity out there

Last weekend the Financial Times ran one of its regular surveys of wealth managers; so far so ordinary. It also ran articles in the same supplement addressing two important issues:
  • 'Generation gap that managers struggle to fill' - referring to the poor take-up of wealth management by the young(er) generation. On top of that apparently, sixty-six percent fire their parent's wealth manager as soon as they inherit and (according to a 2016 survey) only fifteen percent of current clients currently expect their family's relationship with their wealth manager to survive their death.
  • 'Managers adapt to appeal to female clients' quoted a report entitled 'The Financial Power of Women' published by Fidelity International* saying 'women's default position is cautious' and 'women often do not feel confident making decisions about saving [and] investing'.
*Fidelity International (London) currently has no reviews showing in a Google search.

Now comes another killer statistic: this week a survey by EY found that a third of all wealth management clients switched providers within the last three years. Alice Ross of the FT goes on to say 'Wealth managers are painfully aware of all these statistics.'

Now let us throw in another number: at least eighty-four percent of consumers now trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends

That's not our headline, it is from an article in quoting a survey by Bright Local. And there's more (Bright Local again):

So here - below - we publish a table of our own, this time focussing on Google consumer reviews relative to each manager's published number of clients/investors. This is what the firm at the top returns in search:

With few exceptions, this is par for the course. Some have none:

This table raises some obvious questions. Let us see...

Do wealth managers see the value of Google reviews, or of any reviews at all? Some do see the value of less visible forms of review - Nutmeg, for instance, is paying Trustpilot (Google reviews are free):

AJ Bell subscribes to another fee-paying service:

Do wealth managers' potential clients see Google reviews? This bears some scrutiny; wealth managers gain new clients in a myriad of ways - personal recommendation, professional recommendation, through their advertising and marketing and through Google. How do we know the latter? Because many wealth managers are using Google PPC - here are two businesses that have bought Google Ads for the search term 'Sarasin asset management':

And here are two more, this time for the generic search 'wealth managers':

Interesting that these two firms - paying Google for the advertisements that you see above - would seem oblivious to their potential client's next (and obvious) step - to refer to their reviews (highlighted right bang slap in the middle of their advertisement)?

So the first part of the answer is 'yes - because they are buying Google ads'; the so far less well understood answer is 'yes, because every time a potential client looks them up - even if they are not consciously looking for reviews - they are being served reviews by Google, if they have any.'

But if they don't? Here's AJ Bell again:

So here we have a conundrum: wealth managers do subscribe to reviews sites but they don't ask their clients to write reviews to Google. Why do we suppose that might be? It is almost certainly a combination of the following factors:

  • Fear: they know that Google reviews can be a Pandora's Box, that a review once written there can seldom be taken down.
  • Google reviews are not being 'sold', whereas Trustpilot and Feefo have sales forces targeting businesses of all kinds.
Let's look at a business that has found a way to address the issue of overcoming the understandable 'fear' of engaging with Google reviews: Winkworth, the well-known estate agents. Here they are in Blackheath:

The differences are immediately obvious: 
  • Their own reviews show in organic search (saving them having to pay Google or a reviews site) - top left.
  • Their own reviews - and a link to them - appear in 'Reviews from the web' - bottom right - boosting their website's SEO as well as providing a welcome resource for potential clients to reference on their website.
  • They have a great Google score - 4.9 - top right.
  • They have great Google reviews a click away:

  • They look impressive in a generic search:

So what?

The impact this has on a professional service business is profound. It should expect:
  • volumes of inbound calls and clicks through to its website to rise significantly leading to...
  • ...significant savings in all other areas of advertising, marketing, public relations and all other promotional activities

So how did the business above 'manage out the fear factor'? They adopted review management - HelpHound's review management to be precise - and a big part of our function is to moderate every review that flows through the business's website and then on to Google. Not to deflect negative reviews, but to ensure that reviews are factually accurate and don't mislead potential clients or anyone else who reads them. 

The opportunity

If we look at the list above again we can see just what an opportunity the first mover in the area of wealth management has if they have the initiative to grasp it. The wealth managers listed have, between them, 2,217,730 clients, fewer than 0.00004 % of whom have written a review. That's a massive untapped resource in review management terms.

Over to you, wealth managers.

Further reading...

Thursday 23 May 2019

HelpHound - index of essential reading

This index is primarily intended for those new to the world of reviews and review management, but it is just as useful for our clients to act as a resource for refreshing knowledge. It will be updated as and when we publish a fresh article that meets our criteria for inclusion...
  1. Essential reading - legal and compliance, for instance 
  2. Case histories - we all learn from each other's experiences
  3. Success stories - like case histories, but all about how to maximise financial returns
Note for those thinking they have reviews and review management 'under control': please read the first article under each heading; we have yet to meet a business where we could not add value to their existing review management processes.

Legal and compliance

Nearly every business we meet - certainly those that are already proactively inviting reviews - is in breach of one or more of the UK government relating to reviews. It doesn't matter how great you look, if you got there by breaching CMA regulations you will need to take action.

Case histories

There is something for everyone to learn from each of these experiences.

  • Deflection explained: since Google entered - and began to dominate - the reviews sphere there has been an unintended side-effect for businesses committing to sites such as Trustpilot or Feefo: looking demonstrably worse on Google, something we christened 'deflection' because negative reviews are being 'deflected' to Google.
  • We published 'No better proof' quoting five clients over two years ago now; all five are still clients and all five look even better in competitive searches now than they did back in March 2017.

Success stories 

By far and away the best way to learn: from the hard-won experience of others. If, once you have read one or more of these, you feel you would benefit from speaking to the client concerned, just speak to us and we will arrange it.

  • Not long to wait: nearly twenty percent more calls and nearly thirty percent more visits to this clients website the month after full implementation.

Saturday 18 May 2019

Top secret! An amazing case history

Why 'top secret'? Read on and we are sure you will understand.

Company 'A' - a home counties estate agency - joined HelpHound in 2017. Over that period it has seen its market share - as measured by Rightmove - double in the last two years; they are now opening another branch and recruiting more staff. The fact that they attribute the extra ten thousand visits a month to their website to their review management strategy must be helping too!

What have they done differently - other than joining HelpHound? Nothing - they have carried on with all their other marketing as before.

So let's see what they looked like when they joined, and what they look like now...

On Google in June 2017...


On their own site...

And here's an extract from an email from another twenty+ branch client; they have analysed their reviews in detail, branch-by-branch, since joining last year:

HelpHound's review management - it's about so much more than just looking great.

Further reading...

Wednesday 15 May 2019

All businesses should learn the lesson of Richer Sounds

Here's a link to the full article for those who subscribe to the Times; when you have read our piece we suggest you ask a simple question: 'If Julian Richer were to see our business in a Google search, would he pick up the phone?'

Richer Sounds, founded in 1978 by Julian Richer, is notoriously one of the most profitable private businesses in the UK. Its original store under the arches at London Bridge station made the Guinness Book of World records for the 'highest sales per square foot of any shop in the world.

In an age of 'stack 'em high' and self-service check-outs Richer Sounds have taken on the likes of Comet and Dixons and won, and not just by a short head: they have thrived in a sector where just about every other business has suffered.

So what has been Julian Richer's secret? Nothing except customer service, owning his premises and reviews.


Richer Sounds embraced customer 'reviews' way before the web arrived (when we first encountered them back in the 1990s they were inviting customers to post handwritten comments of the reverse of the store's copy of the customer receipt)

Since before the advent of the web Richer Sounds' staff have been asking every single customer for feedback. When the web and reviews sites arrived Richer sounds were quick to adopt them; when it became obvious that Google reviews were where it's at, Richer Sounds began inviting customers to review them there.

And the result: from Chelsea to Cheltenham Richer sounds scores well and looks great. And in search:

Dominant in both the 3-pack (map search) and leading organic search (bottom).

We have already mentioned that staff are encouraged to get reviews. Actually, Richer Sounds go further than that, and reward staff financially for getting reviews to Google (nothing at all wrong with that, as long as there is no cherry-picking or gating involved, which there is not at Richer sounds - it makes sound sense from every business perspective).

If Richer Sounds were to adopt HelpHound? Three things would happen...

1.  They - and their potential customers - would see stars and scores in organic searches, like this:

And this (competitive local search):

Above you see just three of the dozens of businesses in that location; the top three in a competitive local search - perhaps the most important search of all - which business would you rather your business looked like? The one that has no score or reviews? The one that has 4 reviews and is rated at 3.8 out of 5? Or the one that scores 4.7 from 177 reviews and appears in the map search?

2.  All their reviews would be moderated - to prevent misleading or factually inaccurate reviews being published.

3.  Their SEO would be reinforced. They would have an added 'kicker' for Google to include in their ranking algorithm, so, all being equal, they would rank higher for any given search, just like Winkworth above.

So why don't they?

They would be more than welcome, but, strictly speaking, they fall outside HelpHound's target marketplace. That marketplace? High-value complex transactional businesses and services such as the legal, accounting and medical professions, financial services and estate agency.

But that should not stop businesses in those areas from learning from Julian Richer's success: adopt a professional and proactive review management policy. Get reviews to your business's own website (for SEO, moderation and those who visit there) and to Google (for those searching for a great business to use).

Finally - a quick note on the legal/compliance aspects of reviews:

It is illegal - in the UK at least - to selectively invite customers to write reviews (or select which reviews the business publishes). So many businesses are currently exposing themselves to sanction by the Competition & Markets authority by doing just that, mostly because they know they need to look great on Google but don't understand there are ways of doing so in compliance with the law. This article is essential reading for any of you that are currently in that position.

For those readers who are not, but want to understand the positive impact - in hard cash terms - that review management will have on their businesses we recommend you read this case history.

Monday 13 May 2019

A review that proves the value of reviews!

Read this review...

'On the basis of their online reviews'. That really says it all. And ROI? less than £100 a month to look like this...

Without having to invest in PPC! 

And this...

If you look under that last review you can see just how many people 'found [that] review helpful'.

And, speaking of ROI, here are the highest and lowest asking prices for a two-bed flat in Pimlico today according to Rightmove:

At 1.5% commission? £96,750 and £7,500 respectively.

Further reading...

Thursday 2 May 2019

Where is Google heading next? Reviews may be about to get a whole load more important

Google recently sent out a questionnaire to many of its Google My Business contacts - you may even have received one. But what was underlying the questions Google is asking business owners?

We don't know for sure. But Google dropped more than a handful of hints. Let's look at just a few...

Straight away Google reference their Google My Business knowledge panel. Up until now, as most readers will know, the contents of this panel have been listed by Google for free.

We were interested to see that Google - which never does anything by accident - has chosen to use a business with a) very few reviews and b) a pretty awful score (3.3 equivalent to having one five-star review, one three-star review and one one-star review). 

Is this in any way the kind of business Google may be thinking will be slap bang in the target market for whatever is coming next? Read on, and we'll see.

Google then asks what features you might like to see... 

The ones we were particularly interested to see were...
  • 'Remove ads from your business profile'
  • 'Offers' - currently free
  • 'Featured review' - may cause regulatory issues in the UK
  • 'Automated response for reviews' - Wow! Google knows your business that well?

There is more...

  • 'Google search results placement' - sounds remarkably like Google ads to us
  • 'Get leads from competitor profiles' - are Google seriously suggesting that they will feed one business leads from a search for another?

Now we move to the multiple choice section...

That asks businesses to choose which features they would like (pay for?).

Delete that last question mark!

Our concerns

Google and its parent company Alphabet are US-based. We are concerned that some of the features listed here, especially those that would appear to offer businesses the facility to promote [positive] reviews, may be in contravention of the UK CMA regulations. 

Our advice to our clients

Whatever Google finally decide to do, we strongly advise our clients to do their very best to maximise the number of reviews they have, both on their own websites and on Google. Businesses that have critical mass in terms of Google reviews - something we tend to loosely define these days as between 50 and 100 reviews*, with a score of at least 4.6 out of 5 - will not find themselves in the 'Handy Cleaners' position - where they need to resort to other mechanisms to attract business.

Further reading...

Here's the full Google survey And here's a detailed analysis, also courtesy of SEO agency Optimisey. 

*And don't break the rules in a headlong rush to achieve these. Cherry-picking (selecting satisfied customers to write reviews) and gating (pre-qualifying customers to ensure the business only asks 'happy' customers to write a review) are both illegal in the UK. Here are the CMA's rules and our analysis of them.