Friday 17 September 2021

Trustpilot losses surge

The Times' words, not ours...

And the Evening Standard...

What can we learn from these statements and the numbers contained in their first report as a Plc? First: the numbers.

The near 200 percent increase in losses is only partly explained by the costs associated with the IPO. Trustpilot would appear to be following the post-IPO path followed by Yelp by effectively buying customers with their cash pile. This has not ended well for Yelp, or those who bought its shares anywhere near their post-IPO peak, from which they have fallen over 50% and tracked sideways for the last six years (while the market, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has risen by just about 100%):

$95 in February 2014, $36 today. And what fundamentally differentiates Yelp and Trustpilot? Well, Yelp has a colossal community/social media element that Trustpilot currently doesn't and is also massively more visible in search, otherwise they both boil down to being sites that host reviews in competition with an alternative that is free for businesses and consumers, but with far, far greater reach: Google.

Here is just one of a plethora of reviews by staff. One or two might be put down to disgruntled ex-staff, but dozens?

We almost always advise our client businesses to be entirely passive when it comes to Glassdoor. What do we mean by this?  We mean 'by all means respond to reviews on Glassdoor, but resist the temptation to 'encourage' staff to leave reviews'. Any attempt to 'inject some balance' by getting staff to post reviews of their experience will inevitably be seen by the outside world for what it is: manipulation (of the site and of your staff!).

Reviews - on Trustpilot

Goodness, you sure have to give Trustpilot credit for being 'transparent' (see the Evening Standard headline quoting their CEO). 18 percent of reviews rating them 'Poor' or Bad', with bad at 15 percent? That's over 25,400 people, of whatever stripe, taking the trouble to criticise the business on its own site.

Reviews - from business customers - on other review sites

And on a similar site: Only 116 out of 1,932 reviewers recommend Trustpilot.

Much the same story.

Could this be sour grapes? perhaps (what couldn't we achieve with just a fraction of that cash mountain?), but please give us credit for one thing: we desperately want to see an environment where reviews are reliable, not just 'partly reliable' or even 'mostly reliable'. Why? Just imagine you're looking for a life-saving or life-changing service - an oncologist, an investment manager, a divorce lawyer - and you chose one based on the kind of reviews hosted by Trustpilot, and the kind of business that is attracted to their quarantine system out of impure motives? Quite. 

So why doesn't Trustpilot simply change its business model? Because they would then become 'Google lite' - less reach, less credible and very little added value for businesses.

If you are currently paying Trustpilot?

Seek professional advice. And while you are doing so ask yourself - or your marketing director - a simple question: 'Would we prefer to have [insert current number of reviews hosted on Trustpilot] on Trustpilot or on Google? And in five years' time?

Friday 10 September 2021

Two important success stories

First: here is an extract from a comment made on Property Industry Eye (the full article reporting on Winkworth Plc's latest results can be found here):

'In a number of areas in London and outer boroughs where they [Winkworth] go head to head with Foxtons they put them to shame picking up the higher ticket sales. Foxtons inflexibility on fee charges no doubt helping.

 In Blackheath, for example, the difference is staggering: according to ZPL [Zoopla, the property portal] where the value of stock either U/O [under offer] or SSTC [sold subject to contract] is 7 times higher.

Sales inventory 124!
U/O or SSTC: 67.
Total Value of which £49m+
Average Asking  Price £746,000

Sales inventory 44

U/O or SSTC 13.

Total Value of which c £6.2m.

Average Asking Price £442,000  
In Putney the quality of stock listed, there is a huge discrepancy on pricing
Foxtons: Average asking price £627,590.  Winkworths £1,573,000 .

Now, we are the first to agree that there are many factors leading to anyone's final choice of estate agent (or any other professional service, for that matter): personal recommendation, the chemistry between individuals, local marketing and PR etc. But just take a moment to see what Winkworth Blackheath and Winkworth Putney look like in Google search and then on their own websites:

First in the Google 3-pack and leading organic search - in a marketplace full of competitors. On top of that? Stars and ratings taken direct by Google from the reviews hosted on their own website helping the business really stand out from the crowd.

Again: leading organic search - with stars and rating. And you might be surprised just how many consumers think, wrongly, that Google ranks businesses in these local searches, but who are we - or Winkworth - to argue?

The Google knowledge panel: where Google sources all of the information it needs on a business. 145 Google reviews, the majority of which have been copied to Google having first been posted on the business's website - and moderated by HelpHound to ensure they are as factually accurate as possible (a crucial element of any business's review management, often undervalued as long as a business is lucky enough to avoid a 'killer review' but never again once the business sees moderation in action). And those 'Reviews from the web'? Yes, they're sourced by Google from the business's own website.

Put yourself, just for the time it takes to read these two reviews - shown directly in your eye-line on the business's home page - Winkworth Blackheath, Winkworth Putney - in the position of a potential client of either of these two businesses.

And then add in this extraordinary testimonial (full article - including estimates of increased earnings for the business - here):

Now, don't you think there may possibly be value added by HelpHound (especially given that membership costs less per month than just one Linkedin professional account)?

Wednesday 8 September 2021

The keys to success with reviews

What you see above - a great Google score derived from a significant volume and flow of Google reviews and reviews on your own website that are owned by your business (not a review site) and then generating stars in natural local search drive business, there's no longer any argument about that. But how to achieve this...

  • without exposing your business to unfair, inaccurate or misleading reviews?
  • legally and in compliance with the CMA regaulations?
  • without disrupting your business?
  • without being sold the wrong solution?
  • for the long term?

Reviews - every business needs them - or so the sales forces of all the review sites and aggregators* would have us think. But this couldn't be more misleading. Let's see what almost every business in the world actually needs to get their review management spot-on, legally and to get the maximum benefit for the long term.

The following eight subheadings cover just about every critical aspect of review management a business needs to understand. Once you have read this article you have three options:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Follow the links to more detailed explanations and in-depth articles (there are more than a million words on this blog, written over more than ten years - it can be instructive to pick an old article at random to see if HelpHound was accurate in its predictions!)
  3. Contact us to see just how much value HelpHound can add for your business

*review site: the likes of Trustpilot, Yelp, and Feefo; review aggregator: the likes of and Trustist. If your business is a client of any of these you need to pay special attention to the contents of this article.

Not yet engaged

It is completely understandable that many businesses have yet to find a safe and credible (not to mention compliant) way to engage with online reviews review management remains a minefield for the unwary (witness the massive monthly fees charged by some providers and the questionable credibility of many review platforms), but if your business has yet to adopt a formal review management strategy it is missing a huge opportunity to generate a significant and regular flow of inbound enquiries, both through Google and your own website.

The first question, therefore, you will be asking anyone pitching a reviews solution is 'How can we protect our hard-won reputation from...

  • fake reviews?
  • inaccurate reviews?
  • malicious reviews?
  • misleading reviews?'
The next question should be 'is your solution compliant with the CMA regulations?' And we suggest that you insist on having the answer to that one in writing, as very few are.

And only when you are completely satisfied with the answers to all of these should you even consider taking the next step into proactive review management.


If your current reviews solution is not compliant then you need to seek advice - urgently. Non-compliance is against the law**, in the UK and EU at least. How will you know if your solution complies? Here's is a simple test...

  1. Do you pick and choose which customers to invite to post a review?
  2. Do you control the timing of the invitation to write a review?
  3. Do you use a customer survey or another review site - or any other mechanism - to establish who your 'happy' customers are before inviting them to write a review
  4. Do you use a system that allows you to defer/deny the publication of a review pending 'proof of purchase'  

If your business cannot answer 'No' to all of the above it is non-compliant, and liable to sanction by the CMA. 

Read this article; it contains everything you need to know about compliance with the CMA regulations and UK law.

**It is also blindingly obvious to even the least savvy competitor, and they won't hesitate to alert potential clients to the fact that 'XYZ may look great, but they flout the law to do so; would you want to do business with that kind of outfit?'


Hosting reviews on your own website encourages potential customers to make that crucial first contact and, vitally, contributes to your search engine optimisation score and therefore directly impacts your business's ranking in local search. If you don't currently rank in the top three (top five in densely populated areas) of local search you need to be consulting a review manager that allows you to host your own reviews on your website (not theirs).

There is also no doubt whatsoever that Google will, at some future date, further refine its review filter to produce ranked search results based on a business's Google score and the number of Google reviews it has and businesses that are not prepared will suffer. 


The number of businesses we meet that have adopted review solutions without first seeing concrete proof of their effectiveness is astonishing, to us anyway. Proof? Every business receives a Google My Business report once a month. In that report are the number of clicks and calls the business received through Google in the previous month. To understand the impact that effective review management has on any given business all that business has to do is monitor the uplift in the flow of enquiries through Google from before adoption through implementation and onwards.

Read this and see the audited results of properly implemented review management, and then read this 5-year-old article and bear in mind that all five of the clients quoted remain clients of HelpHound to this day (you might also conduct a local search on any of our clients to see the impact we have been able to have).


Unmoderated review systems work for some businesses: retailers, online more so than high street; monopolies (or virtual monopolies) such as utilities. All other types of business that provide a service - or a significant element of service - in a competitive marketplace will invariably benefit massively from adopting moderated review management.

For the latter, a mechanism that prevents factually inaccurate and/or potentially misleading reviews from seeing the light of day, either on their own website or on Google, is not just 'nice to have' it is essential.

For more on this critical ingredient read this.


Own your reviews

We all now know that data is valuable in the modern technological age, so why give all your clients lovely data to a review site? The solution you use should enable you to retain all your client data and that includes their reviews. Only give it away when there is an overarching reason to do so - having their review copied to Google, for instance.

Take a long-term view

We know of at least one Plc that has changed review solutions over five times in the last ten years. By retaining control of all but the most essentially contracted out aspects of your review management (moderation is a good example of something that has to be done by an independent agency, otherwise all credibility would be lost) you will be well on the road to establishing a firm long-term review management strategy. 

Here are some pointers:

  • Your strategy must be Google-focussed: Google will still be here in ten years and, if anything, will be even more influential and credible than it is now. Your business needs Google reviews, not Trustpilot reviews, not Feefo reviews, not Yelp reviews (oops! Yelp has already shut down their UK and EU operations; just goes to show how the biggest of the review sites can be the most unreliable)
  • Your business needs to invest in adopting a proper API-driven review display system that doesn't jar with the rest of your site design and allows Google to 'see' all of its contents
  • Your staff need to be trained to understand that review management is not an add-on, but an integral part of your business's long-term marketing plan
  • Targets should be set for review flows and scores; few things look less professional or risk a slide down the search rankings than a business that has let this slip

Nothing to lose

It's intriguing just how dominant the wrong solutions have become in the last five years. The review sites, which are pretty much ideal if you are selling shirts or vacuum cleaners are currently making significant inroads into sectors where they are not only unsuited but indirectly positively harmful.

Suppose you had been sold a solution by one of these sites three years ago and had garnered 300 reviews there, and then read this? And realised that those 300 reviews could so easily have been on Google instead and owned by you on your own site, where they would be...
  • more visible
  • more credible 
  • more powerful
...and not just by a small margin. It is estimated that Google reviews are seen over six times more than reviews hosted on any review site and as for credibility...we leave that judgement to you (and your customers).

If you are at all unsure as to the viability of your business's current review strategy, just contact us. There's no obligation and we might just be able to set you on the road to the kind of success you see at the top of this article.