Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Reputation.com - it has a role


We occasionally come across a potential client that is either a client of - or is considering using - Reputation.com. In this article we analyse just what kind of business benefits most from this kind of solution.


So, first, what do we know of Reputation.com?

The business was founded as ReputationDefender in 2006 which specialised in 'correcting' search engine results for individuals. In 2011 its name and business model changed to Reputation.com and it began providing B2B services.

Since then Reputation.com has developed a suite of business tools to enable businesses to invite and monitor online reviews and their search engine listing on a variety of platforms, from Google to Facebook to the various review sites and other social media.


Who are its clients?

Its clients, in the US at least, where over 95% of its business is transacted, are almost exclusively large corporations with multiple hundreds of outlets.

There is a good reason for this demographic forming not just the core, but the overwhelming majority, of Reputation.com's clients: it is a business sector that, while looking 'good' in terms of reviews is essential, looking 'great' is viewed as a definite bonus. Why? No-one expects car dealerships or telecoms companies to have near-perfect track records. 


Let us explain:

There are several types of business from the point-of-view of reviews, and it's important for every business to understand exactly where it falls on the spectrum before establishing what kind of review solution best suits it.

We categorise every businesses and/or service as one of the following:





Let's look at the very different needs of each category of business, along with an example of each, so we can see what type of reviews solution, if any, might suit them.


Category 1 - Businesses that don't care about reviews



As close as any entity can come to being impervious to reviews. Does anyone think JobCentrePlus ever look at their reviews, let alone cares?


Category 2 - Businesses that sell products, irrespective of the service alongside that product




This McDonalds has received more than 1500 reviews on Google. Do they bother to respond? No. Do they care? Almost certainly not. If they did they would respond - it's free, after all.

The plain fact of the matter is that no-one reads a review to decide whether or not they want a Big Mac. The reviews are overwhelmingly written by three categories of customer;

  1. Happy customers who use a review as a way to thank staff for good service (see the one from the bottom above)
  2. Unhappy customers, for whatever reason (see the first and second reviews)
  3. Google Local Guides who will often review every single business they ever come across 

We also suspect franchisees and regional management also glance at reviews occasionally from an HR perspective. But that's about it.


Category 3 - businesses that customers are bound to use





Most consumers know what to expect from Sainsbury's - and every other supermarket. So, yet again, we see businesses that see little profit in engaging with reviews, so long as they don't identify any systemic faults.

And their reviews all say mostly the same things. 


Category 4 - businesses that are vulnerable to reviews



Now we are getting somewhere. While restaurants and hotels provide a product - food and rooms respectively - they also incorporate a substantial element of service. This can give one business in any given location an edge if they look particularly great when potential customers are searching the web. The hotel above is notoriously committed to reviews and proactively manages every guest touch-point with the ultimate review the guest will write in mind. The result? All the hotels in the group score way above average for their category, guest facilities and location. The resulting knock-on in terms of occupancy and room rates is measurable.


Category 5 - businesses in competitive and often sophisticated marketplaces



No we are moving on to more complex and sophisticated - and often B2B - offerings. Business buyers do far more research pre-purchase than most consumers but they are just as influenced by reviews, even if they may think otherwise! Why? Because they will not only be taking personal responsibility for whatever choice they make, they will be answering to management or the board - or even shareholders - as well. 

And this, perversely, is where we get into areas where businesses would appear to do their level best to avoid attracting reviews altogether - see the recruitment consultants above. Why? Because this type of business knows that just a single well-written criticism of their services can herald the death-knell of new business through the web. 

Any system that simply invites every client to post a review direct to Google - remembering that it is illegal to pick and choose those to invite - is never going to appeal to such businesses.


Category 6 - service businesses

The top tier: businesses that provide the kind of service that anyone considering them - whether B2B or B2C - will want to reference as much as is humanly possible. If you put yourself in the position of someone...

  • requiring urgent medical care - cardiology or oncology, for instance
  • needing a home for their life savings or pension
  • having a complex legal problem
  • needing a reliable letting agency for a portfolio of properties
The point about all of these is that health and/or wealth is at risk. The business owes it to its customers - clients/patients - to provide reviews, but has yet to find a mechanism that it can safely use without exposing itself to unfair public criticism.

How else can the absence of reviews on businesses such as these be explained?





And this is where professional review management - and HelpHound - comes in

At HelpHound we leave categories 1-4 to Google - and, if a business sees a cast-iron reason for using a review site such as Feefo or Trustpilot, to them or to a business like Reputation.com (although we would be wary of using the offshoot of a US business in the UK as they have a habit of 'doing a Yelp' and giving up on the UK/EU market as Yelp did in 2016, leaving thousands of businesses and their reviews stranded).

One of the main drawbacks of the Reputation.com offering for Cat 5/6 businesses is their review display widget; businesses like the one below, being extremely vulnerable to single well-written (and therefore credible) negative reviews - the kind we christened 'killer reviews' - do not want to be importing the latest one-star Google reviews into their own websites...



So they have now got around that by simply selecting the reviews they want to show to potential customers, in this case at least, with a link to all their reviews on Google...




...and this client of theirs, illustrating how the quest for volume is trumping quality - is this review helpful?




...and not even providing:

  • a link to their Google reviews
  • or any way for the visitor to their website to actually write a review of their own (at least in the first example the savvy visitor stands a chance of finding their way to Google)

Apart from these 'work arounds' being highly questionable from a legal and compliance point-of-view, these businesses are fooling themselves if they think potential customers won't just shrug their shoulders and find their way to reading their Google reviews anyway (we call this 'deflection' - more on that here).

And, furthermore, given that there is a fully compliant way of being completely transparent, why not adopt it? Look at this...



What do we find on the right? A star rating, a link to all of the reviews of the business, a link enabling anyone to write a review straight away, a sample review and a full explanation of the process.

Everything anyone looking for reviews could want.

Leading to this...





And/or this...




And then this on Google...




Leading to this in local search; the score of 4.8 and stars in the Google '3-pack' at the top are taken directly from the business's Google reviews, the stars, score and number of 'votes' in organic search are taken from the business's own reviews hosted on its own site.




And the disadvantages of a review harvest system focussed on volume as opposed to quality has other undesirable impacts for high-value service businesses: imagine, for a minute, you are looking for an estate agent to sell your home, your main asset (as we are always being reminded) or any of the other Category 6 services listed above. This agent has loads of reviews and a good overall score...





And so does this one...




Which, on the balance of probabilities, gets your call? 

The key difference:

Is moderation. At HelpHound we moderate all our clients' reviews. We politely request that the reviewer rewrite any that we consider to be...
  • legally questionable
  • offensive - in language or tone
  • factually inaccurate
  • potentially misleading
And we don't allow ratings (reviews that only contain scores). On top of that, we correct bad English. This can impact volume* - but what business wants volume over accuracy? And what consumer wants or needs to read one, two or three-word reviews?

*But there are plenty of ways to counteract that, just ask us.


How to measure success?

We have three yardsticks...




The first is simple - it's the business's Google score. We will not rest until it is as close to 5.0 as it possibly can be. If this means addressing the whole of a client's CRM, or even their core business model, then so be it. We are 'review managers' not just a reviews platform. And that means that we work with our client businesses to identify any issues that may conceivably cause customers to rate them at anything but five stars.

The second? How our client looks - and ranks - in Google search...



So many businesses have yet to understand just how important hosting your own reviews on your own website is when it comes to Google scoring it for ranking in organic search...




The third?


The raw material of new business in the 21st century: inbound calls and clicks. Great scores and great underlying review content drives new business. It's this that proves the worth of professional review management above all else.


Conclusion

If you want volumes of reviews, irrespective of their content, then a solution such as Reputation.com just may be the right one for your business (but bear in mind you can always embed a free widget to import Google reviews to your website, so you need to be asking 'Just how much value is Reputation.com adding?').

If, on the other hand, you want accurate and consistently helpful reviews - to your own website and to Google - then we humbly suggest your business and your customers will be rewarded by becoming part of the HelpHound experience.


Further reading 

If having read all the above you still feel that a direct import of Google reviews into your site is a viable solution for your business - you don't need moderation (inaccurate and/or misleading reviews aren't going to harm your particular business) or the SEO kicker hosting your own reviews gives your business in local search (you don't care where your business ranks in search), watch this video and then import them to your website - no charge - no contract. Completely free.




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