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