Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Be aware of this little Google person


This innocuous little badge - showing someone wearing a Google Local T-shirt and carrying a smartphone and a camera, is 'awarded' to Google Local Guides.

So what is a Google Local Guide? (If you are a Local Guide, or you are familiar with the concept, you can skip to the next paragraph.) They are simply a more committed Google reviewer; the sort of person that actively reviews just about every business they come into contact with. They have absolutely no qualifications - anyone can volunteer to be one. There's more on them here.

Why mention them at all?

For two reasons...

  1. They are far more likely to write a review - whether asked to do so or on their own initiative
  2. Their reviews carry a disproportionate influence with consumers - for no rational reason
Look at these two reviews...

Which do you think is the most credible? Their content is similar and their score for the business is identical. The only thing that separates the two reviewers is that one is a Local Guide and the other is not. With what you know now you may justifiably be cynical about the Local Guide's review, but we can assure you that Joe Public gives their reviews more credence.

So: if someone mentions that they are a Google Local Guide you can be pretty sure they will review your business. That's all. We don't recommend you quiz your customers to establish if they are a Local Guide or not, but just be aware that such people - millions of them - do exist.

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Is your business running the risk of suffering from review 'Dry Rot'?

This was an analogy used by a client recently: that a business's review policy could suffer from 'wet rot' - meaning it had obvious flaws: a low score, a preponderance of damaging one-star reviews, not enough reviews and suchlike.

But 'dry rot'? It's an insidious, slow-burning but ultimately very time-consuming and costly to repair 'disease' not immediately visible to the untrained eye.

Just as dry rot is every homeowner's ultimate nightmare, so should its equivalent in review management be every business's. Look at this example...

Scoring 4.3. Not so very bad? Not, that is, until a prospective fee payer does what almost all consumers of high-value services do in 2022: compare the business with local alternatives and mine down into the negative reviews. The local comparison first:

Nowhere to be seen in this local search. The searcher has, as is more and more common these days, used the Google filter - see top right - to shed any business scoring less than 4.5.

Suppose they do persevere, or have come across the business in other ways (personal recommendation or the business's own marketing, for instance)? They will still search for the business and be presented with Google reviews. And when they look at those reviews? They will invariable filter by...

This then exposes the potential customer to no less than 39 one-star reviews, one after the other. Here is the most recent, just to give you a flavour...

This constitutes a case of the above mentioned 'dry rot'. Why? Because many potential fee-earners will be deflected from making contact with the business. One or two 1* reviews may be ignored or glossed over, half a dozen will begin to erode confidence, more than that will begin to counteract the business's marketing big-time (and will also be referenced by competitors when pitching).

What should the business have done?

It should have adopted a moderated review management system. This would have ensured that most of those reviews which were based on misconceptions or errors of fact would never have seen the light of day, at least not in the form in which they were first written.

What should the business do now?

The same. The first action would be to go through each and every negative review to see if their are any grounds for appeal to Google. There are bound to be some. This is not to say that Google will remove many but it is certainly worth the time and effort. 

Next: begin actively inviting reviews to the business's website and to Google. But via an independent moderator such as HelpHound. It will be a long process with a business with so many negative reviews but time and effort (and moderation) should at least see the business's score clamber its way above 4.5. And the proportion of 1* reviews will drop over time.

The alternative - doing nothing but piling good reviews on top of bad - is no solution.

A note on moderation

Moderation does not exist to neutralise negative consumer comment. It exists to ensure that, as far as is possible under UK law, reviews are written with access to the full facts of the case to hand, and are therefore fair to both business and reviewer and, importantly, provide a reliable guide to the business under review for future consumers. This sometimes means initiating a mediated dialogue between the reviewer and the business under review. It benefits everyone...

  • the reviewer: because their review will be accurate
  • the reader of the review: for the same reason
  • the business: which will see its activities fairly reflected in its Google reviews 

Further reading...

Monday, 14 November 2022

Forget the cost - you owe it to your customers and your business

Times are not getting easier for consumers - and of course this feeds straight through to businesses. No matter what business you are in, life becomes more competitive. 

And this is where reviews - especially Google reviews - come in. Just about everyone reads Google reviews these days - surveys indicate 92% of consumers or more - but that figure is sure to rise where businesses providing high-value services - legal, financial, medical etc. - are concerned.

So businesses now have two options*:

  • Invite Google reviews from customers directly to Google and import the Google reviews through a widget into their own website
  • Or use a moderated review management system to invite reviews to their own website and then Google

*anyone considering, or already using sits such as Trustpilot, Feefo or Riviews.co.uk should read this article. In short? They have been made redundant by Google.

So what kind of business should be using each solution? First, let's look at their pros and cons:

Direct to Google and a Google review widget on your website?


    1. Free - Google doesn't charge for hosting reviews 
    2. Credible - the Google brand has more credibility than any other where reviews are concerned
    3. Simple - reviews can be invited by the business or the consumer can post to Google via the business's website


    1. No moderation: reviews will be posted unchecked - for errors of fact or statements likely to mislead future customers (or even just plain 'unfair' reviews)

Or: reviews to your website and then on to Google


  1. The business owns the reviews - a valuable business asset in these data-driven days
  2. The business has a high degree of control over factually incorrect, potentially misleading or just plain unfair reviews

This simple analysis gives us our answer: if your businesses sells products, from socks and shirts to auto-spares or toasters, use the 'direct to Google' route. Because it won't get hurt  if it receives the occasional one star negative review.

On the other hand, if you business sells a service - if you call your customers 'clients' or 'patients' - then you need a moderated system. Your customers take the content of each and every negative review on board and you need to keep these to a minimum (if you have any doubt as to this, may we suggest reading the review cited in this article?).

The only other conceivable solution is to fly in the face of the law and hand-pick those you invite to post a review. This will not only put you at risk of having your collar felt by the CMA but such activity will also become apparent to your competitors who will then use it against you.

The concrete results of using a moderated system

It will give you all the benefits of going direct to Google:

  • Reviews on Google 
  • Reviews on your own website
  • The SEO kicker that hosting your own reviews gives your business in local search
  • The assurance that factually inaccurate, potentially misleading or just plain unfair reviews will almost always be addressed during the moderation process, before they are published anywhere (if at all).
We estimate that adopting a moderate review management system will, over time, add between 0.2 and 0.6 to a business's Google score. And that in turn will generate between 15 and 25 percent more inquiries through search.

So: HelpHound will pay for itself. That's a promise.

Further reading...

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Next buys Made.com - but why?

This is not yet another article about how many £££s in fees the sponsoring banks and lawyers have made out of Made.com. It's about why Next might spend over £3m buying a website and a few domain names out of the liquidation.

We'll keep this simple: Made.com gets over 20 million visits a year for which it pays nothing - by ranking very high for loads of keywords in organic search. Next, on the other hand, is paying about 40p for every click. Buying Made.com will save Next over £4 million in the first year alone.

And all because Google search ranks Made.com so highly.

So what relevance does this have for reviews and review management? It's simple really. In these increasingly tough times businesses need to do all they can to maximise clicks and calls through search. And one thing that can make your business stand out to Google? Hosting reviews. Most tech professionals estimate that hosting reviews on a business's website contributes around 15 percent to its overall SEO score. And great SEO = more clicks and calls, right?

Add on moderation, to drive the business's Google score up by from 0.2 to 0.6 and you have a winning formula.

Thursday, 3 November 2022

Scoring 4.6 on Google is not enough - Part 2

Some people don't have the time to read some of the longer posts on here, and we freely admit that Part 1 is quite extensive. So here's a more concise post.

One Google review can kill - or very seriously maim - your business. 

Correction - will seriously maim. A well-written negative review won't drive calls and clicks so, by definition, it must do the reverse: put people off making that crucial first contact.

Just look at this review of a legal firm (that has a Google score of 4.4 from 44 reviews):

What do you think? Will it be ignored? No? We agree. The point here is not the score - or the number of reviews (they have two other 1* reviews, both pretty innocuous) but the actual content of the review.

  • Is it written by a real person?
  • Is it well-written?
  • Does it ring true?
  • Would you want what happened to the reviewer to happen to you?
Quite. Now bear in mind that...
  • that review will remain on Google forever
  • readers will invariably click on 'Lowest' when reading business's Google reviews

  • well over 90% of all consumers - especially consumers of high-value services - consult Google reviews before making first contact
...and we're sure you will understand why we stress to all the businesses we meet the importance of 'taking out insurance' against inaccurate, misleading or just plain unfair reviews by adopting a moderated review management system.

But, we hear you say, the review we have shown above is demonstrably not 'inaccurate, misleading or just plain unfair'. How do you, or we, know that? We don't. But that's the conclusion most fair-minded consumers will come to when they read it. 

If the business had offered their customer the possibility of writing a review - by sending them an email and having a link on their website where they could write their review - maybe they would have taken that route instead? Well, over ten years of experience shows that a large proportion will. 

There's only one legal solution: independent moderation.

Further reading

Monday, 24 October 2022

How many more people lost their money thanks to Trustpilot?

The answer to the question posed in the headline is: we cannot know. But let's look at this dreadful saga and you can be the judge. The business was a member right up until the liquidators were called in, and only subsequent to that action, as far as we can see, did this warning appear on their listing:

Which, somewhat suprisingly, makes no mention of the fact that the business has ceased trading.

A disservice to the consumer

On the face of it, the Trustpilot 'quarantine' mechanism, which allows businesses to challenge reviews - and it's overwhelmingly negative reviews that businesses challenge - is attractive. To businesses. After all, what business wants their sales and enquiries adversely impacted by a low score and critical 1* reviews? 

And it wouldn't - in theory - harm costumers, except for one crucial consequence of the Trustpilot mechanism: it relies on consumers, who have already taken the trouble to write a review, providing 'proof of purchase' to Trustpilot. As you can see from the screenshot below, very few bother to respond to that request - well under 3 in a hundred. 211 mostly heavily critical reviews failed to remain on the Trustpilot site.

...and these figures are just for the last 12 months

Does this benefit the consumer? Do we need to answer that question? 

A disservice to good businesses

This takes more than one form. The first is that when the business is sold the Trustpilot package it distracts the business from concentrating on getting reviews where it really matters (and the reviews really drive clcks and calls): on Google. We see endless examples of businesses with hundreds of Trustpilot reviews - that are next to invisible in search - and a handful on Google. Here's just one example...

It beggars belief just how much better off this business would be if it hadn't focussed on Trustpilot but concentrated on Google reviews (free!) instead

The next is that as a result of businesses (ab)using its quarantine system it could be argued that Trustpilot enables 'not so great' businesses to look better than they really are. We would argue, and we think the CMA in the UK would agree, that denying the consumer the right to have their voice heard on the basis that they hadn't provided proof of purchase was borderline illegal.

We know that good review management practice will improve a business's score - our clients will see uplifts of between 0.2 and 0.5 in their Google score - but this should not involve any mechanism that denies the right of a customer to have their review published. Apart from being, in our opinion, in breach of the CMA regulations, it also has - in the case of review sites like Trustpilot - the effect of leaveing a disgruntled customer no option but to post their opinion staright to Google.

The bottom line

The company has been placed into administration. Reading many of the recent reviews it would appear that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of customers will lose the money they have paid. Just how many of those customers would have been saved from sending their hard-earned cash to Screen with Envy if some of those 211 reviews had been published by Trustpilot?

This is a question that we will never be able to answer, but if you read this review on Google, posted back in June of this year, would you have ordered?

Further reading...


Friday, 21 October 2022

Google reviews: scoring 4.6 is not enough!

How often do we meet a business basking in the glory of what they consider a great Google score? Daily, probably.

To be fair, it's almost certainly taken a considerable effort to achieve that score, and no one wants to be told they need to do more when they reckon they've already done all they can. But that's why HelpHound exists: to enable businesses to successfully build - and improve - on their already great efforts.

To return to our headline: why is a Google score of 4.6 'not enough'? It's all in the numbers. Let's look at two examples.

The business with few Google reviews...

While no business would relish a review such as that written by 'Jack Forest' above, most sensible consumers will discount one or two such negative opinions. The business has, quite correctly, responded, thus neutralising, as far as possible, the impact of the original review. The impact on the business's score, however, bringing it down from a perfect 5.0 to 4.7 remains.

A note for those who, understandably, think the review above is 'unfair' (the business has made clear in its response that they have no record of any dealings with the reviewer): Google's conditions for removing reviews are very tightly drafted indeed. That does not mean the business should not appeal to Google to have the review taken down - we conduct such appeals on behalf of businesses and are sometimes gratified when they succeed when apparently not in contravention of Google's terms of service. If in any doubt whatsover, consult us.

The business with many Google reviews...

Now we have our score of 4.6. Including nine 1* reviews. Some are more damaging than others - read about 'killer' reviews, those that have the power to stop the phones ringing, here - but collectively they are undoubtedly off-putting for potential clients. 

We are sure that we can all agree on one thing: that the business would rather not have any of these reviews, not just because they reduce the business's overall Google score from a perfect 5.0 to 4.6 but chiefly because of the negative impression made when a prospective client reads them. They will result in a drop-off in inquiries, in the same way as scoring close as possible to 5.0 will result in an increase (see here for concrete examples of this).

What should the business do?

Take these three steps...

First: respond to each and every review. 

At least then the readers - potential customers - will see that the business takes their customers' reviews seriously. Don't argue - thank them for their feedback (albeit sometimes with teeth gritted) and sign off with a name, not 'customer services'. Remember who your core audience is: all those potential customers who will be reading that review.

Second: institute a proper review management programme. 

At first sight a hundred reviews may seem like a lot, but it's only two a month for four years. 

Businesses that build moderated reviews (see 'Third' below) into their CRM, by incorporating them into all their marketing, online and off, and their sales pitches, and then 'warn' their customers that writing a review is the norm, get very high response rates when they ask for the review.


Third: - and most important of all going forwards - adopt a moderated review management system. 

Over ten years of experience has led us to conclude that over eighty percent of inaccurate, misleading or just plain unfair reviews will be addressed by a properly moderated review management system. Simply inviting reviews - on your website, in your correspondence and face to face - means that the likelihood is that your unhappy customer/client/patient will post their review to you first, enabling an independent* moderator such as HelpHound to step in and enable such reviews to be corrected before they are published on your website or on Google.

And when a 1* review does find its way to Google, how much more powerful is the response that says 'Thank you for posting this review, here is our response to you....if, in future, you feel that we haven't performed to the best of our ability please don't hesitate to contact me directly or write your review via the button on our website, where you can be assured of a response on the very same day.'

The Golden Key...

Is this link on the business's website (the Write a review button)...

Leading to this box... 


Once the review is submitted it is automatically sent straight to a moderator where it is checked for accuracy and then either posted to the business's website or referred back to the reviewer for correction. All reviewers, whether their review has been corrected or not, are then invited to copy their review to Google. Simple, effective - in protecting the business's reputation from unfair and inaccurate comments - and compliant.

Moderation, besides aiding customer retention (a customer with an issue successfully addressed in private is a continuing customer, a customer that posts a one star review direct to Google is very unlikely to generate repeat business, or referrals for that matter) is estimated to add between 0.2 and 0.5 to a business's Google score.


Every business in the service/professional arena must have a moderated review management system; inviting reviews direct to Google or employing a review site are simply not options for high value fee-based or transactional businesses. They may be alright for online retail but they are simply not fit-for-purpose in the highly competitive world of finance, medicine, law or the likes of estate agency or recruitment, where a single client lost or gained is worth thousands to the business.

Further reading

  • Moderation - the 'Golden Key' to review management:  a detailed analysis and explanation
  • Compliance - many businesses are unaware that selecting customers to invite to write reviews is illegal. Moderation means that such selection - often done to protect the business - becomes redundant
  • Results - moderated review management doesn't only protect businesses from unfair and inaccurate reviews, it drives enquiries through Google and the business's own website

* Independent moderation: we are often asked 'If you work for/are paid by the business, how can you be truly independent when moderating their reviews?' A fair question. 

Our answer: if we were ever found to be favouring the business - or even more seriously, attempting to suppress a fairly-held negative opinion - all our credibility would simply vanish. Our name would be terminally tarnished and our moderation process, besides becoming questionable in the eyes of the regulator, would lose all value in the marketplace. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Trustpilot - so many businesses barking up the wrong tree

 One of us received this email marketing today...

As you can see, they proudly boast of their image on Trustpilot, which is, indeed, very positive indeed. Here's the detail...

Nearly a thousand reviews, almost all of them rating their business 5*.

So what has the business done wrong? Well, along with so many others they have chosen - or 'been sold' - the wrong solution.

Before we mine down into the reasons behind that choice, let's conduct a quick Google search on the business...

One Google review and one Google rating.

And it's not just Trustpilot. Review sites of any kind, and the aggregators that feed off them, are no longer viable solutions. Just look at this estate agency - they've tried them all...

And this is the impression everyone searching for them online is given...

Most potential customers won't get as far as their website - the 1* reviews on Google will be enough to deflect them.

So what should the Fine Art Warehouse - and any other business relying on a review website - be doing?

Cancelling Trustpilot and refocusing all its efforts on Google reviews. It's as simple as that. Think of yourself in the position of a customer - which reviews are going to impress you most 700+ Trustpilot reviews or 700+ Google reviews? And this advice goes for any other review site.

Google has more reach and far more credibility amongst consumers, their reviews appear far more often in any given search, and they will still be in business in 5 years' time (Trustpilot's share price has fallen from 450 p to 79 p in the last 14 months). 

Oh - and Google reviews are free!

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

A single review can strangle a business

The catastrophic human cost of lack of moderation at social media sites such as Instagram has made front page headlines in recent days. Our view - that all social media platforms, including review sites, should be made legally responsible for the content they publish - is well-known to our members and regular readers of this blog. 

But what about businesses on the receiving end of fake, false, malicious or just plain inaccurate or misleading reviews? What is the real-world impact of these all too often seen reviews on businesses? 

Sometimes we hear businesses say 'As long as we score 4.5 we're happy'. It's a natural response to something most businesses feel they have little control over. But this attitude denies the power of a single review to halt a business in its tracks, to stop the phones ringing or to see the clicks dry up, never mind unsettle existing loyal consumers when they see them as they are googling your business to find your phone number.

Let's look at what over ten years of fielding calls from seriously concerned business owners and managers has taught us...

1.  A well-written 1* review will be read, and re-read, for months and years to come

This is what we call a 'killer review'; it is written by someone who is not disguising their identity, is a frequent Google reviewer and a trusted Google local guide; it makes  believable statements about the business and their interactions with their customer. It will have lost the business enquiries and future business


That feeling you get when you first see that review - or are sent it by Google? That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? It's the reflection of the reaction of your potential customer: 'Oh dear! I'm not sure I want to use a business that even one customer has had such a negative experience of.' 

Note the stress on well-written. You can discount rants - most consumers see through those these days. 


2.  Once a review is published the horse has bolted

A business's chances of getting Google remove a review are negligible (but see 'appeals' in 3. below and Google's own T&Cs here) unless the reviewer has contravened one of those T&Cs; such contravention does not cover criticism of the business, however misguided, unfair or just plain factually incorrect that may be. 

It is therefore essential to have some mechanism in place to enable the business to respond to such reviews before they are published.


3.  1* reviews are always read first, no matter the business's overall score

The business can be scoring 4.9, but if that one negative review is written convincingly it will lose the business significant amounts of enquiries.

What can the business do? It can appeal to Google to have it taken down, as long as it contravenes their terms of service (we draft appeals on behalf of clients all the time) and it must respond to the review. Not with a 'never heard of you...' but addressing all the points made in the review, however unfair or inaccurate they may be, calmly and coherently. And sign off with a name, not 'customer services'. You will never convince that kind of reviewer to change their review or take it down, so your response is aimed solely at readers of the review.


4.  1* reviews, providing they are not obvious rants, are believed by consumers 

It is tempting to say 'we run a great business and all our other reviews confirm that' but leave a well-written one-star review unaddressed and it will hurt your inbound enquiries - for the foreseeable future (a one star review written five years ago, if it is one of a few, will still be being read today).


5.  The higher-value the service the business is offering the more diligently the 1* reviews will be read.

We estimate that all the one star reviews - within reason, but certainly up to half-a-dozen - of the following services will be read by a potential customer/client/patient... 

  • financial services, investment management, accounting 

  • medical and healthcare 

  • legal 

  • business services - such as employment agencies, PR and marketing consultants 

  • high-value transactional businesses - such as estate agency  

all of which involve transactions with at least £4 zeros on the end, not to mention 5 or 6. 

Put yourself in the position of...

    • someone investing a sizeable lump sum
    • someone with a life threatening medical issue
    • someone looking for a family lawyer for the first time
    • someone considering moving from one advertising agency to another
    • someone looking for the best local estate agent to sell their major family asset

...and we're sure you will agree that spending a few minutes reading reviews is the very least they will do, even if the business has already been personally recommended or has the best marketing on the planet.


The solution 

All of the above are the reasons why our clients value our moderation so highly. By moderating every single review written through our clients' websites we can ensure that the accuracy and relevance of each and every review is of the highest order. Moderation cannot absolutely guarantee that no rogue reviews will ever be published - that would be against the CMA regulations which categorically protect the consumers' right to have their opinion published - but we estimate (and we have over ten years' experience to back up this contention) that our moderation resolves the issues contained in over 95 percent of such reviews before they see the light of day.

Of course consumers can always write a review direct to Google, but by inviting them to write a review through your website you will succeed, far more often than not, in channelling their review in that direction, and therefore benefitting from our moderation. You will also have the moral upper hand when responding to those reviews which still go direct to Google: 'We did invite you to post a review...and we would have been able to resolve [whatever issue the review raises] at that point if you had accepted our invitation.'

The fact that the overwhelming majority of such contentious reviews are, by definition and by their very nature, one or two-star also enables us to accurately estimate that HelpHound's moderation increases the average client's Google score by between 0.2 and 0.5 - so from, say, 4.3 to 4.7 or 4.8. That in itself will ensure the business rises up the rankings in local search.

Think of moderation as an insurance policy: it protects your business's hard-won reputation against damage - its as simple as that.

Further reading

Monday, 26 September 2022

Partner with HelpHound

Here are the reasons we think you should partner with us. And when we say 'partner' we mean a partnership of equals - we share all our revenues 50/50 with our partners. Unlike the dictionary definition above, where only the profits are shared!

1.  Free Membership for your business - then a significant income stream

By introducing just two businesses you effectively gain free membership for your own business.

And that's just the beginning - by introducing more than two businesses HelpHound Partners begin to earn a significant income stream. Extra revenue for your business for no input bar the introduction - you help the business concerned and earn an income for your business at the same time - and we all help each other in these troubled times.

2.   Thanks from the businesses you introduce

Referrals or introductions, call them what you will, almost always involve some element of risk for the referring business. Not so in the case of HelpHound: our members never fail to see their online image improve. 

Any business you introduce will...


    • look more impressive on their own website

    • look more impressive in Google searches - how much do you think a competitor would value being in the position Winkworth in Blackheath find themselves in here?
    • increase its Google score by between 0.2 and 0.5 on Google 
    • be compliant with CMA regulations - most businesses are currently in breach - knowingly or unwittingly - where reviews are concerned
    • support its SEO - it's no accident that Winkworth Blackheath lead local search in the example above
    • show stars in local search; the five gold stars next to the rating of 4.9 and the '247 votes' above are not Google stars, they're taken directly from the business's own reviews on its own website (as you can see if you compare both screenshots or perform these searches for yourself)
    • drive revenue up - measurably, as a direct result of their HelpHound membership

3.  No downside

None whatsoever. Except our membership fee, of course. But then they can negate that by becoming a partner in their turn.

What kind of business is best suited to becoming a HelpHound Partner?

The simple answer is 'any business at all'. We will never turn away a prospective client or partner, but those businesses best suited to generating significant revenue through a HelpHound Partnership are those that already have an advisory relationship with their clients, those in...
  • advertising
  • any sales or marketing driven enterprise - estate agency being an obvious example
  • public relations
  • web services
  • legal services
  • financial services - accountancy being the most obvious
  • insurance
...we're sure you get the drift. The sort of business where the client will not be at all surprised when they are asked 'Would you like an introduction to a business that will help you look even better than you currently do in Google searches?'

Of course, the best possible introduction is 'Would you like to know how our business got to look so great (whilst complying with the law)?' So, if you are reading this and are not already a member then that's the first step. But the day after you join there's nothing to stop you from introducing your first partner business.

Welcome to HelpHound Partnership - where everyone benefits.

And finally... the mechanics

Simply send an email to your business contact along these lines, copying in fiona.christie@helphound.com...

'We use HelpHound to maximise our review management without losing sleep, it's the only safe - and legal - way of having all our hard work and great customer service reflected in our Google score as well as the underlying reviews. I'm dropping you this line to introduce them to you.'

And we'll take over from there. The next thing you will see is a credit from HelpHound against your own membership fee.

Monday, 5 September 2022

Looking the best your business possibly can

We've already established in the previous article that scoring 4.0 on Google will leave a business languishing at the bottom of the Google rankings in most business sectors, certainly in the sectors that are key for professional businesses: financial, medical, legal, estate agency, recruitment etc. To even begin to make the top 5 in local search a business needs to score 4.7 or more.

Now let's look at the solutions many businesses in these sectors are currently adopting in order to achieve such scores.

1.  Cherry-picking

Everyone's favourite: simply hand-pick happy customers and then invite them, and only them, to write a review. How do we know? Easy. It took us less than a minute to find this example and then about the same amount of time to establish that this law firm is cherry-picking by analysing the pattern of its reviews: out of a total of 46 reviews five are older than 3 years and two - both rating it 1* - were posted after 2019. It almost certainly cherry-picked its happy clients in 2018, achieved a perfect 5.0 with 44 reviews and hasn't asked anyone for a review since then.

And - be sure - if we can tell so can the CMA. Cherry-picking is illegal.

2.  Gating

Really just a sophisticated version of cherry-picking: send a questionnaire out to every customer asking them to rate the business and then only invite those who respond with 10 out of 10 or 5 stars to write a Google review.

There's a variant that involves using one of the diminishing band of review sites - get the customer to write a review there and then only invite those who have posted a 5* review to the review site to copy that review to Google.

Again: illegal.

3.  A moderated system

Moderation: 'the act of having an independent agency read and check every review before publication' is the only sure-fire - and legally compliant - way of ensuring a business looks as good as it deserves. 

Why? Because moderation focuses on identifying reviews that contain errors of fact and statements likely to mislead the reader. 

And, by their very nature, those kinds of reviews also tend to be ones that carry the 1* ratings. If they can be corrected before publication, then the business's score will rise.

There's a reason we are able to drop the anonymity of the business above: that's because they are fully compliant with the law - the CMA regulations. They don't cherry-pick and they don't gate. They are able to sleep at night for two crucial reasons: they don't fear the CMA will come knocking and they know that unfair, inaccurate or misleading reviews will benefit from moderation.

We often meet people who say 'but we can respond to our Google reviews and correct errors of fact and any misconceptions then'. So you can, but by then most of the damage is done: the score is set in stone (as well as the impact it has on the business's overall score), irrespective of your response (Google* won't change it, even if you have cast iron proof that the review is in error); as well as that the harmfully and unfairly negative review will stand and will be read by your prospective customers. 

Why not just invest in moderation and that concern - and the potential harm caused by a factually incorrect or potentially misleading review - goes away?

*Appealing against a Google review. In short: unless the review has contravened one of the following...

...you will struggle. That doesn't mean you shouldn't appeal, we conduct Google appeals on behalf of clients on an almost daily basis and are sometimes surprised when one that does not fit neatly into one of the categories in the above checklist succeeds, but you will note that the following are not prima facie grounds...

      • errors of fact
      • misleading statements

...and that's exactly why moderation is so valuable.


We estimate that our clients score between 0.2 and 0.5 more on Google than if they had simply gone it alone - compliantly. That may not seem like a lot, but in the context of a competitive marketplace where over 90 percent of potential customers are influenced by Google scores and reviews and almost all businesses score above 4.0 it is almost always the difference between being at or very near the top of a ranked Google search and at or near the bottom.


If your business falls into either of categories 1 or 2 above - don't panic, you're not alone! - but you need to seriously consider 'going straight' by adopting a moderated system - as soon as possible. If your business has yet to engage with Google reviews for fear of the damage factually inaccurate or misleading reviews might do to your Google score then solution 3 is for you.

It's not only the CMA you need to be concerned about, your competitors will soon cotton on - if we can easily identify businesses that are cherry-picking so can they, and they won't hesitate to use that information in competitive pitches in order to devalue your Google score.

Spin that around and be able to say 'We invite all of our customers and stakeholders to write reviews, so the score you see and the reviews you read are a genuine portrayal of our business.' And you will find out just what a business winner moderation can be.