Wednesday 22 April 2020

ABC of Reviews: 4. Where should your reviews be seen?

Simple answer? On your own website and on Google, unless you are in a niche business sector with an overwhelmingly dominant specialist reviews site (TripAdvisor for hospitality, for example, where you will need reviews on both Google and TripAdvisor).

Why Google?

This search - on mobile, where, by some estimates over 90% of all searches are made nowadays - shows just how important, and dominant, Google reviews have become. Oliver Field Associates scores 4.4 on a review site...

...but just how many potential customers see that, compared with their score of 2.7 on Google? The answer: very few. Consumers have come to rely on Google reviews; even more importantly they have come to use Google scores as a shorthand guide. For better or for worse this means that customers are choosing businesses with a Google score of 4.5 or better and those with a significant number of reviews (our benchmark is 'at least 50').

Google is the universal gatekeeper. If a potential customer is looking for you - or a business that sells the product(s) or service(s) you provide - they are going to see your Google score and your Google reviews - or the lack of them, every single time they search, even if they are not consciously looking for them (they may be simply looking for your address or phone number).

Why host reviews on our own website?

Because hosting reviews - independently verified reviews - on your own website is proven to increase click-throughs and other contacts, it's as simple as that. They also reinforce all your other marketing efforts - adding a vital element of credibility: not only do you, in common with all your competitors say 'choose us' but so do the very people who have chosen your business in the past and have first-hand experience of it. Powerful stuff.

The underlying question, of course, is 'just how do we show reviews on our site?' For if you simply display them they cease to be reviews (in the accepted legal sense - a business must not have control over the display of its reviews) and revert to being simple testimonials with all the 'Oh, you must have made them up/got them written by friends and family.' kind of baggage inherent in those. 

If you do host independently verified reviews on your own site Google may pull them through, along with their score and star rating, to show in natural search, like this...

They will also show them - and link to them - in 'Reviews from the web' in your Google knowledge panel, just above the rich snippets (the three edited extracts from your Google reviews that you see here)...

What about the other reviews sites?

The stockmarket reacted to Google's entry into the reviews market by downgrading shares in the quoted reviews sites. Here you see Yelp's share price falling from its peak of $97 in early 2014 to less than $20 today.

Sites like Yelp, Trustpilot and Feefo make their living from hosting reviews and then selling that function to businesses. It is no accident that all three were founded before Google moved into the business of reviews. Google has simply made them redundant. There is not a consumer on the planet who doesn't recognise a Google review - or score - these days. Focus on Google and your own website and you will have a reliable long-term solution to reviews.

Why do some businesses continue to use reviews sites?

When businesses pay for a reviews site they often expect that reviews site to 'side with them'; the CMA regulations and Google's terms of service expressly forbid that.

The answers to this question are many and varied, and we have extensive experience of client businesses that have used these sites in the past. The only valid answers are as follows:

  1. The site in question is still a major influencer in our industry - e.g. TripAdvisor in hospitality.
  2. The business sells a range of products and it needs to show a rating for each individual product, a function that Google does not currently provide unless you have a Google Merchant Center account.

Before considering a reviews site, we always suggest read that site's reviews on rival sites. Here are just three - of hosted on Trustpilot. We will leave you to come to your own conclusions as to the authors' motivation...

Invalid answers include:

  1. The reviews site allows us to control the timing of the email inviting the review and denies anyone not in receipt of that invitation the right to post a review (this is illegal, but the practice remains widespread).
  2. The reviews site allows us to select which reviews we display on our own website (again, illegal).
  3. The reviews site allows us to challenge negative reviews by insisting on proof of purchase from the reviewer. This may sound reasonable at first, but in the real world results in a huge barrier for the reviewer which is precisely why the regulators have outlawed this practice.
  4. We were promised [insert benefit] by the salesman for the reviews site.

So: as we said in the first line of this article, with very rare exceptions, your reviews should be seen...

  • on your own website 
  • on Google

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