Friday 26 June 2020

ABC of Reviews: Our pitch to you

We are very proud indeed of what we have achieved for our clients, so here's our pitch:

Let us run through it phrase by phrase:

1.  'Quantifiably better off':

You will be able to measure exactly how many more clicks and calls you receive. How? By referring to your monthly Google My Business report in the weeks and months after you join. Here's a screenshot of a typical client's report taken within weeks of joining:

This is great, and I'm sure you would be happy with it; the best GMB report a client has ever shared with us reported uplifts of 169% and 950% respectively!

What value would your business place on an uplift in enquiries such as this? And if your business already looks great on Google? Read points 3, 6 and 7 with special care.

2.   'More enquiries through Google':

See above. A great score + great reviews = more calls and more clicks. 

And see point 6. It is crucial you look good compared with your competitors without flouting the law (see point 7.)

3.  'More enquiries through your own website':

It is now a universally acknowledged truth that hosting independently verified reviews on your own website drives enquiries (and reinforces all your other marketing). If in any doubt we suggest you speak to a HelpHound client - or, better still, try it for your own business. 

Just ask yourself 'How would our potential customers react to seeing independently verified reviews like those above on our website?'

4.  'CRM enhanced':

Hosting a 'Write a review' button on your website - see point 7. below - has multiple CRM benefits: It allows all your stakeholders - customers, existing customers, past customers - to express their satisfaction with your service, publicly. It also gives those with an issue to resolve a non-confrontational way to contact you - in preference to posting a potentially damaging review direct to Google, for instance.

5.  'Staff morale boosted':

This - on Google:

And this - on the business's own website:

Who doesn't like seeing comments such as this? Besides being enormously reassuring for prospective customers (in this case patients of a Harley Street GP client of ours) comments like this tell staff that their services are valued in a way few other mechanisms can. 

Would you rather have this comment in a private email, or on Google and your own website?

6.  'Great in all types of Google search':

Look at this (local search):

Probably the most commercially important search of all: when a potential customer is most likely to be influenced by the business's reviews, review score and 'stars in search'. The score/'rating' (4.8), reviews/'votes' (204) and five gold stars under Winkworth's organic listing are pulled directly from the business's own website and the reviews hosted there, not from their Google reviews and scores. Google rewards businesses that host their own reviews, and it is estimated that up to 15% of a business's SEO score is derived from this alone.

And this (specific search):

Again: the 'Rating' (4.8) and the number of reviews (204) are pulled from the business's own reviews hosted on their own website - shown twice in this search, as distinct from their Google reviews (130) at the top of their Google knowledge panel on the right, most of which have been reposted from the reviews written to their website. 

The 'Reviews from the web' at the bottom right links directly through to the reviews hosted on the business's own website.

7.  'Compliant with the law':

It is illegal to selectively invite customers to write reviews. So businesses either flout the law and only invite customers who they know will post a 5* review or they shy away from inviting reviews altogether.

Those in the first category are inviting action by the CMA (and will lose business to competitors savvy enough to alert potential customers), those in the second are missing out on a fantastic marketing opportunity. HelpHound's independent moderation is the answer to both.

All a business needs to be instantly compliant is the 'Write a review' button you see above.

Further reading:
  • Results - expanding on point 1.
  • Compliance - all you need to know.
  • ABC of Reviewsindex to all eleven chapters.
  • Moderation - protecting your business from all kinds of inaccurate or misleading reviews.
  • Deflection - the unintended pitfalls of using a review site.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Reviews: a business adopts entirely the wrong solution

Review solutions are sold not bought. And one of the biggest 'sellers' currently in the marketplace is Trustpilot. Here is a how business that was sold their reviews solution looks on the worlds biggest search engine:

The second screenshot shows how a business with NO reviews at all on Google returns when a prospective customer hits the 'Reviews' tab so prominently displayed in the first search box.

And here they are on Trustpilot:

What a shame. When they could be looking this good on the biggest search engine in the world (see screenshot below).

Businesses owe it to themselves to do some homework before investing in any marketing tool. A simple Google search would elicit the following:

And there's much more here.

But the main horror story is the fact that the business has missed one of the greatest opportunities to get the message out there for those searching for reassurance to buy its products: Google. 

Our advice to this business?

Refocus your efforts towards Google. Apart from being the world's shop window it's free! For a fraction of the price of Trustpilot you could easily add some professional review management - which would take an unbiased look at the right review strategy for your business. If you had consulted us you would now be looking like this:

Our advice to Trustpilot?

If you carry on 'selling' your solution irrespective of the target business's needs not only will you garner even more negative reviews on Google and all over the web, you will continue being attacked by consumer programmes like Joe Lycett on Channel 4 last month and ultimately gain a reputation that contradicts your name.

Wednesday 10 June 2020

ABC of Reviews: 10. Responding

Which is more impressive (bear in mind the people the businesses we have used as examples in this chapter are attempting to impress those that are looking to sell their major financial asset - and often earn the business tens of thousands of pounds)?

This 5* review...

Or this 5* review...

There is one fundamentally important issue to understand when responding to reviews online: that you are corresponding with the future readers of that review as much as you are responding to its author (your customer).

Here we will take you through the dos and don'ts of responding to reviews:

  • Respond! To every review as soon as possible - preferably the same day it is written. Turn on 'notifications' in your Google My Business page so you know every time a review is written.
  • Thank the reviewer for their review, but only if it's positive. People - reviewers or potential customers - don't relate to businesses that thank people for criticising them. 
  • If the review contains a negative comment by all means thank the reviewer for bringing whatever issue prompted it - staff failing, systems breakdown, communication failure - to your attention, but don't - as mentioned above - start with a general apology
  • Address all of the issues raised in the review: there are few things less impressive - especially for those considering using your business - than a response that ignores points raised in a review
  • Respond to all reviews - not just critical ones (you would be amazed just how many businesses only reply to negative reviews)
  • Use your response as a vehicle for communicating your business's strengths. If the reviewer has praised the service they received say 'Thank you for highlighting [aspect praised]' and continue with 'we find most of our customers are pleasantly surprised that, unlike many of our competitors, we 
This last point may be the most important of all. A response to a Google review provides your business with free marketing on Google. What other mechanism does that? Use the opportunity to reinforce relevant messages...'We are so pleased you found [aspect of service] to be so helpful'.

Rather than:

How much more impressive is:


  • get into a confrontation - bear in mind that the reviewer can respond to your response and edit their review accordingly. 
  • always check all your facts before posting a response
  • expose personal details - it is surprising just how many people forget this and include sensitive financial and contact information 
  • attempt to deflect to off-line - the 'please contact us on [email address]' response (see the first example, above), except in cases where confidentiality makes it impossible to respond online, in which case explain fully why this is the only route
  • leave your response for more than a week (as you can see above, Google date-stamp both the review and the response)

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Google scores matter

Here is a very simple example:

GP practice 1:

GP practice 2:

A sign in the window of GP practice 2:

Do we need to say more?

For those of an enquiring mind: we know both these GP practices extremely well - members of staff are registered with both - and there is very little in terms of expertise and service levels to separate them. So why the disparity - and the marked disparity at that - in scores?

The simple answer: surgery 1 has taken reviews seriously, both as a feedback mechanism to help its staff improve the service they provide and they recognise that looking good in reviews and having an impressive Google score ensures new patients have every reason to register with them. Surgery 2 has been entirely passive and has allowed dissatisfied patients' opinions to overwhelm the impression given in search.

Friday 5 June 2020

ABC of Reviews: 9. Targets

Why targets? Because, as with so many other aspects of business management, without targets management and staff can easily 'forget' to keep up the momentum.

We can tall you, with absolute certainty, that our client businesses that set - and achieve - targets succeed in maintaining flows of reviews and the resulting flows in enquiries, clicks and calls.

The first target...

Is your score.

This business has doubled in size since they focussed their efforts on their Google reviews.

This needs to be as close as possible to the 'perfect 5.0' as can be. Ignore anyone who says 'I don't believe businesses that score 5.0', all the evidence both from statistical surveys and anecdotal feedback indicates that '5.0 businesses' succeed in generating volumes of enquiries, clicks and calls - and sales - way ahead of their competitors.

Beware the Google filter

We continue to meet businesses that haven't heard of it. When they do, they understand why they may not be getting the volume of business they would expect through Google - it's very simple: they are being filtered out of search results. Potential customers are not being put off by their negative reviews - they are not seeing the business in search at all!

In the example above the user - the person searching for a business (a local GP in this example) - has set the filter at 4.5. Why would anyone set it any lower is beyond us.

So: businesses with a score below 4.5 need to take urgent action to get that score over 4.5 - and then as close to 5.0 as possible. 

Pure numbers

Over the years a considerable amount of research has been done into how consumers react to reviews, and that includes volumes as well as scores. We advise businesses as follows:

  • Prioritise quality over quantity: when you speak to customers about reviews emphasise just how helpful really detailed reviews are
  • Aim for fifty reviews per location as a first target
  • Then 100
  • Then focus on keeping your reviews 'fresh' - meaning that you should always have a review from the last month showing

 A score such as this, backed up by 166 reviews on the business's own website (many consumers confuse the stars and rating you see above, which is taken from the business's own reviews hosted on their own website, with the business's Google score and rating - see bellow) and feeding through into every Google search, will help drive calls and clicks, especially when it is seen in the context of the business's direct competitors...

And then is reinforced by its Google reviews, again - more than 100 and an impressive score...

There is a natural tendency for businesses to want to achieve critical mass as soon as possible - be that 50 or 100 reviews - but don't rush things: remember that just five reviews a month means sixty after one year. It is much more important to sustain the flow - and there is plenty of evidence to show that savvy consumers shy away from businesses that have a mass of reviews in short order and then few subsequently. Keeping the reviews coming is critical.

In practice - on the ground

Our most successful client businesses have built review management into their day-to-day SOPs. They would no more neglect reviews than they would forget to check their emails. Some set numerical targets: x reviews per month per member of staff, some simply operate what we call our 'rule of 50%'...

The Rule of 50%

It's really very simple: aim to get a review to the business's own website from half your customers - and then to get half of those to copy their review to Google.


We have covered incentivising customers here - and it's a no-no. Even if you manage to comply with the CMA regulations and Google T&Cs, which will be difficult, your competitors will make hay with it ('Oh yes, they pay their customers for reviews.').

But there is nothing in the regulations or Google's T&Cs that says you cannot reward your staff - as long as all your customers are able to write a review whenever they choose

How to reward staff? That's very much up to you, but we generally suggest that businesses think along the lines of 'how valuable are reviews to us?' and work from there.