Tuesday 28 June 2022

Google under fire for search

Google came in for criticism in the Sunday Times this week - rightly or wrongly - that it is returning irrelevant sites for given searches as well as too many ads. 

Our feeling is - having seen some of the examples given in the article - that some critics are expecting Google's algorithm to perform some impossible mind-reading. How's this search string - 'poop coming from shower drain bad what to do' - from The Atlantic contributor Charlie Warzel of Galaxy Brain. Not quite in the same league, English-wise, of past Atlantic contributors Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath? When we performed this search we got no ads and these organic results...

Not bad, considering. And we looked through the sites and blogs returned and, to be honest, we found the quality - in terms of helpfulness - to be pretty good.

Others are criticising Google for too many ads. Here's Diasuke Wakbayashi, who covers Google for the New York Times, searching for a hearing aids for his father: 'I was stunned by the number of ads'.  Here we go again...3 ads at the top, 3 at the foot of page one, bracketing the usual - and expected - 10 organic/natural searches, map search and dictionary definition. The same as for any other 'commercial' search.

There is an issue here, for businesses - and we're mildly surprised it wasn't addressed by the Sunday Times (although they did report Google's ad revenue fro 2020 at £147 billion) and that is 'how to appear in search without spending money on Google ads?'

And this is where HelpHound comes in. Our core role is to enable businesses to safely invite, moderate and display reviews on their own websites and then get as many of those reviews as possible copied across to Google by the reviewer. But what does that have to do with visibility in search? Our answer is twofold.

First - the simple part. Google displays reviews in search in two ways. The first we all know about - Google reviews...


The second all HelpHound clients know about: their own review scores appearing, along with their own reviews' star rating, in searches.

Including in the vital local search...

There is one key aspect of this where Google could be vulnerable to criticism: the fact that local (or generic) search results are ranked by SEO - in plain English: how well the business's website is designed and constructed, not on how good the business is at what it does. 

While we are astonished at just how many times we still encounter businesses that complain that 'we are the best in the area but so-and-so [competitor] always ranks higher in organic search' (and when we look at the business's website? It's not optimised for search) we are also mildly surprised that the business doesn't realise that Google gives it credit for hosting its own reviews. Here's a simple Google search...

The web is awash with articles on the subject...

...but your business can simplify Google's job no end - and increase your ranking in local search - by making sure your website is fully up-to-date and optimised and hosting and displaying reviews.

Just look at the example we've used above: Winkworth in Blackheath. They have accumulated nearly 250 reviews on their own site and have got nearly 150 of them across to Google. Guess where they appear in local search?

  • TOP - of the Google Maps search (what we used to call the 3-pack)
  • TOP - of Google's organic search - with 5 glowing gold stars
And do they need to pay for Google ads?

  • No they don't!
And finally - Google's share of the UK search market?

So: get Google right and you've got search cracked.

Friday 10 June 2022

HelpHound - reasons to join, updated for 2022

It's a while since we focussed on us! So here's a reminder for clients - some of whom may be unaware of all the services we provide these days - and an unashamed pitch to everyone else who is yet to join.

1.  Results

Why do anything in business without being as sure as possible of the financial returns? Not a bad mantra really.

The results HelpHound provides for its clients are measurable - within weeks of joining. How so? Each month your business receives a report from Google detailing, amongst other things:

  • how many potential customers found your business in Google search and called you
  • how many potential customers found your business in Google search and clicked through to your website

For full details read this article. But for now we think these two anecdotes sum up the value we add pretty well. The first is a report by a client of a client of ours...

The second is an analysis of another two locations of that same client by a direct competitor commenting on an industry forum..

We think that, combined, these speak for themselves.

2. Safety - and boring old compliance

HelpHound pays for itself over and over again where high-quality professional businesses are concerned. Nothing stops inbound enquiries faster than a factually incorrect or potentially misleading Google review. And the only way to ensure your business gets the absolute minimum of these? Moderation. And the only way to have your reviews moderated? By inviting them to your own website in the first place.

Case history 1

Anyone who doubts the impact such a review can - and will - have should read this horror story: it's about a law firm that lost so many enquiries thanks to just one such review that they felt they had no alternative but to take the reviewer to court. They won - or did they? 

Case history 2 

We have a client that conducted an experiment: what if they simply bypassed moderation and embedded a Google widget to feed - and invite - Google reviews direct to their website(s)?

Sounds great? Save all the hassle of having to get the client to copy the review they've already written on the business's website over to Google. Bound to get more Google reviews that way - and the Google widget has the same SEO impact, right? And it's CMA compliant.  

All went swimmingly until unhappy consumers began to find the 'Write a [Google] review' button on their websites. Within six months nearly half of the locations involved in the experiment were showing a damaging 1* review front and centre on their websites' home pages. 

Now, there's being open and there's being rash. We suppose it would be kind of OK if the 1* reviews that appeared there were fair and balanced assessments of the service the business had provided, but the overwhelming majority were not, they were just the kind of reviews that would have previously benefitted most from our moderation: mistaken, wrong-end-of-the-stick, inaccurate and potentially misleading - sometimes one of these, more often a handful.

The business is in the process of unwinding the damage done. Not quite as simple as replacing the Google widget with the HelpHound moderated mechanism (there are compliance and SEO issues at play), but we're getting there.


Yawn. Until you begin losing business because a competitor has spotted that you are selectively inviting Google reviews (illegal) or only showing 5* reviews on your website (also illegal). Then you will suddenly want to be compliant. All of our clients are complaint from day one. To continue the sleep analogy: they can all sleep soundly in their beds at night knowing they are not vulnerable to criticism by anyone, including the CMA.


3.  Service - we're here when you need us

See 'Safety' above. We have so much experience - just see how far back this blog goes and how many articles there are - and all of it is here for our clients to use. Seen a new review site and want to know if it will suit your business? Ask us, and we will know all about it. Have a review you are having trouble finding just the right response to? We'll have seen one just like it. Have a Google review you think is unfair or inaccurate? We'll know exactly how to draft an appeal to Google.

N.B.  We hope you never need any of the above, and I'm sure you do as well, but when you do need help - and the phones have stopped ringing - you will then be sure to understand the value of our service and the decades of knowledge behind it.

4. Total coverage - we know the mechanisms and the marketplace

We didn't just invent review management - although we did! - we stay abreast of every single development in the world of reviews (just put 'Trustpilot' into the search box on this blog, and we're sure you will see what we mean). And there's an awful lot to know about that you don't want to be bothered with. Think of us in the same way as you do your lawyers - we're there to provide specialist knowledge and advice exactly when it's needed, not software (that's a given) but person-to-person specific and targeted advice.

Monday 6 June 2022

Purplebricks - a condemnation of review sites

 This article appeared on Property Industry Eye this morning...

But, should you look at Purplebricks' review sites of choice...

But, you may well say, those scores - 4.4 from Trustpilot and 4.5 from Feefo - are more than respectable. Why are allAgents so hard on them and why does Purplebricks accept it needs to improve 'quality of service to our customers'? Maybe a look at their Google scores - where they are available - may help?

Here's London...

And their HQ in Solihull...

Oh! - and here's another review site that they don't belong to...

And the aforementioned allAgents...

Now, we don't propose to go into any more in-depth analysis of the whys and wherefores of all the above, simply because we think we've already given most people enough information to come to the conclusion that subscribing to a review site can make even a business that rates so low on Google and other review sites look great. 

There is only one review mechanism that is open to all without interference from the business under review and that's Google. And our sincerely held view is that consumers are best served by reading a business's Google reviews and being guided by a business's Google score.

That goes for businesses as well: how can you justify - to the regulators, to your potential customers - using any other review mechanism but Google?

Google also happens to be seen by everyone when they search - that's unless the business has made strenuous efforts to make its Google reviews as invisible as possible. So why would a business pay for a review solution that comes a very poor second - in terms of both visibility and credibility (not to mention transparency) - to Google reviews?