Wednesday 13 December 2023

The world of Google reviews is upside down - it's up to all of us turn it the right way up!

Google reviews are available in inverse proportion to their need. There are 100 times more Google reviews of any McDonald's than there are of lawyers or financial advisers, and many more of those than there are of medical specialists. Why is this the case? There are two main reasons...

  1. More people use fast food outlets than GPs or lawyers
  2. The professions, and service businesses in general, are extremely wary of Google reviews - for good reasons (see 'moderation' below)

Note: All of the following discount 'personal recommendation'. Of course, we all welcome and take note of personal recommendations, especially for categories 0 - 4. But the further up our scale we go, the less likely any individual or business is to know someone well-qualified to recommend such a business. Note we don't say 'impossible', but far less likely. This leaves the responsibility for getting Google reviews fairly and squarely in the hands of the '6 - 10' businesses:professions and services in the main.

0 - 1


More people write reviews of entertainment venues than read them! How can we tell? By the very few 'Likes' the individual reviews receive

Few people read reviews of venues. If your favourite actor/band/play is on at the ABC Theatre that's where you're going. Reviews of the venue may warn you that the queue for the toilet at the interval is horrendous or that the refreshments are overpriced but you will still attend. We do read reviews of performances - but not Google reviews!


We want it? We buy it. Savvy retailers will use product reviews to add/drop lines - when did you last see a 1* toaster for sale on John Lewis's website?

Well-known services

McDonald's? Boots the Chemist? RyanAir? Reviews are written - by unhappy customers in the main, but will that stop most of us from using them? Will we even read their reviews? 

2 - 3

Hotels and Restaurants - hospitality 

Most consumers now use a specialist site when booking hospitality - and, to make doubly sure, the sites dominate search by block-booking Google ads (note - of all the links in's site that could have been served, it's 'Top Reviewed Hotels' that gets the nod)...

And just a click away, with over 6,500 reviews...

The one sector where specialist websites win hands down. Of course, a good Google rating helps, but TripAdvisor, Expedia, and the like are so well-established (and funded) that it is a secondary consideration.


Business services

As the consumer's need for them rises, the number of Google reviews dwindles dramatically...

Accountancy, recruitment, advertising, PR, marketing, web design, SEO, review management (!). All of these are a minefield, especially for SMEs. Why 'especially SMEs'? Because large businesses often have in-house capability, at least enough to be able to judge a specialist service - for example: a CFO of a large business will invariably have accountancy training and qualifications, so will be better placed to make an informed choice of an accountancy service; an SME director, almost always an entrepreneur, will seek out as much independent reassurance as possible. If your business is targeting the SME market, it needs to find an effective, and safe, way to engage with Google reviews.


This is an interesting one. There is a huge amount of information available about educational establishments from preschools all the way up to universities and beyond. But with pastoral care increasingly in the headlines these days, parents, especially, are looking for added reassurance - outside of their own social circle (When did you ever hear a friend say 'I chose XYZ school for my little Jimmy and it's rubbish'?!). Very few schools indeed - if any - have yet to find a safe way to proactively engage with Google reviews. Prospective parents and guardians, as well as other stakeholders, need those educational establishments to find a way to engage.


Heard the term 'A legal minefield'? Of course you have, and it sums up the quandary facing anyone about to engage with the profession. There is a huge discrepancy in both areas of expertise - will the solicitor that conveyances your house purchase have the expertise to manage your divorce? - and quality of advice.

Those seeking legal advice will seek out Google reviews for reassurance. But is that law firm finding a complaint way to engage with Google reviews?


Financial advice, investment management, banking and insurance. Financial institutions spend fortunes promoting the value they supposedly add for consumers, whatever their specialism. The only true benchmark is past performance combined with Google reviews - and my, do they seem to do everything they can to ensure the bare minimum of Google reviews are written. Here is arguably the UK's largest retail fund manager, in the news this week...

And, to be fair, it's not alone in not engaging with Google reviews...


Medical and healthcare

GPs, specialists from ENT to oncology, hospitals, and nursing homes. Here we are often dealing not only with the person involved but with relations as well. Reviews - Google reviews - will be actively sought out and read. We stress 'read' because in the 1-6 categories a Google score will often be all the reassurance someone needs before contacting the business; in the case of medical and financial businesses, the reviews themselves are far more likely to be read.

The reason they all send you so many requests for reviews - either directly to them or to an otherwise obscure site, but almost never to Google, is because they - and/or their advisors - understand that a negative opinion will do far less harm on a specialist review site than on Google. It's a purely defensive measure. But it doesn't help those seeking out the right practitioner at all.

A shining beacon

There is one sector that has embraced Google reviews like no other, and we wonder if you can guess from the following clues which it is...

  • The average transaction - across the whole of the UK - is just shy of £300,000
  • The average revenue to the business - per transaction - is £4,000
  • It is one of the top 10 'Least trusted occupations' in the UK, after politicians and press!
...and you would think it would be one of the last to want to invite its customers to post their opinions to Google. But it's not. Why not?

Back in the middle of the last decade we were approached by a well-known and well-regarded Plc estate agency. They took the plunge when estate agencies had few reviews, and many of those reviews, across the profession, were negative (you can imagine the kind of thing, we're sure).

We had just introduced moderation - the function whereby every review that is posted through HelpHound is read and, if it contains errors of fact or potentially misleading statements, a process is initiated to ensure, as far as is legally possible within UK law and the CMA regulations, that those are corrected before publication. We already had enough experience of this moderation process to reassure Winkworth Plc that their franchisees would not be exposing their businesses to reputational risk (as would have definitely been the case without moderation - roughly 1 in every 10 reviews is subject to some kind of moderation, and many of those would cause considerable unfair damage to the business if published unchallenged). 

Here's just one of their offices on joining...

And now...

And in local search...

This, understandably, lit a fire across the entire profession when their competitors realised the power of Google reviews to drive business through their doors, so a search now looks like this...

We have examples of other high-value and sensitive sectors as well. For anyone thinking, quite understandably, that 'my clients/patients won't want to write publicly visible reviews', just take a look at this client and take a minute to read their reviews...

Not a huge volume - but enough grateful patients to provide a very helpful impression have taken the trouble to post a review to the Clinic's own website and then on to Google


The most complex and demanding businesses - and the consumers that use them - need reviews far more than simple ones, by a huge factor. The only thing stopping them is a safety net to prevent unfair reputational damage, and it's called moderation. With moderation, the business can relax in the sure knowledge that the factually inaccurate, potentially misleading or just plain unfair reviews it might receive if it simply took the - unnecessary and unhelpful - risk and invited its customers to post a review directly to Google, will be highly unlikely to see the light of day.

We hope this encourages businesses in those '6 - 10' sectors to become proactive - to give their prospective clients/customers/patients the moderated reviews* they crave and you will see enquiries/clicks and inbounds surge - guaranteed. 

*Note: alongside the safety features inherent in moderation there are other helpful 'side-effects'...

    1. The reviews posted through a moderated system tend, on average, to be longer and more detailed and, as a result, more helpful to readers - your prospective customers. Consumers also report that they are far more likely to be convinced to interact with a business having read a detailed review (see 'Results' below)
    2. Consumers that have posted a positive review of a business tend, on average, to be more likely to interact with that business on multiple occasions or remain as ongoing customers of the business they have reviewed
    3. Consumers are far less likely to post critical reviews of businesses when the review process is initiated by the business under review

Further reading

  • Moderation - protecting both business and consumer from factually inaccurate or potentially misleading reviews
  • Results - businesses with great Google scores and significant numbers of reviews commonly see rises in both enquiries (often in the 15 - 25% range) and the quality of the resultant transaction

Monday 4 December 2023

Review Moderation - and why it is essential for all professional and service businesses

We were prompted to introduce moderation, way back in 2013, when a prospective client said...

"If my business gets 99 five-star reviews but one really well written but factually incorrect, or just plain unfair, review, all the wonderful impression made by the 99 may be undermined."

And they weren't wrong. If we look at the many thousands of reviews that have been corrected before publication by HelpHound's moderation process over the years, some were simply bad English, but so many were what we call 'call and click stoppers', the kind of 'factually inaccurate, potentially misleading or just plain unfair' review that will stop someone searching for a service from making that first vital contact with the business in question, even if it has been highly recommended by a friend or colleague.

How can we prove this? You would be right to ask. We have three answers to that key question...

1.  Why have many businesses still not engaged with Google reviews? Is it because they don't think scoring 4.8+ with 50 or more Google reviews will win them more new business? 

With the help of our clients, we have proved that doing so will win between 15 and 25 percent more than the equivalent business with a lower score or fewer reviews - and not only in numbers, but in quality as well. See those exact numbers here. So it's not that engaging with Google reviews is unproductive.
The reason for the lack of engagement is simple: the businesses are, just like the potential client back in 2013, very much afraid of the damage a single unfair or inaccurate review will have on their inbound enquiries. They are searching, still, for a solution that will enable them to engage with the absolute minimum of risk.


2.  Imagine your business receives a review like this... 

This is an actual review (the firm's name redacted by us) left on a well-known review site.  Luckily for the business the review did not appear on Google, where it would have been far more visible and done far more damage. As it is, the firm was awarded £25,000 in damages by the court. 



These two extracts from the Law Gazette reinforce our point; to the firm's undoubted chagrin the case was picked up by all the mainstream media, from the Mail to the Guardian to the TV news

The salient point here is that, unlike in US civil actions (where punitive damages may be awarded), the damage to the firm had to be proven beyond reasonable doubt to the judge. £25,000 is a lot of enquiries deflected by a single review, and the firm was able to prove its case. And can you imagine how much soul-searching took place before the firm went to court, with all the attendant publicity?

Again, had this firm adopted a moderated solution, it is possible that the client in question would have gone down that route - at least initially; allowing the business at least the opportunity to resolve the issues he had.


3.  Another salutary tale: We had a client - every business has one such - that, despite us reducing their fees by 50% throughout Covid, taking it from a handful of Google reviews when it joined to critical mass (well over 200 reviews on its own site and in excess of 100 on Google, advising it on constructing an appeal against two extremely damaging negative Google reviews aquired before it joined (both far more potentially damaging than the one above - they were both on Google and both written by someone who understood the power of social media very well indeed - we were, among other things, able to identify the author) and visiting it on multiple occasions to explain its options, still persisted in cancelling its membership in order to invite their clients to post their reviews direct to Google, thus 'saving' them less than £200 a month.  

And imagine what happened next? They received two more damaging - and demonstrably unfair and misconceived - Google reviews, but this time, instead of having a moderated HelpHound feed on their website, they had a feed straight from Google - so double the exposure for those 1* reviews and the only too predictable damage to the flow of inbound enquiries.

This kind of Google reviews feed is available from a number of third-party suppliers, mostly US-based, as it is legal in the US to manipulate the feed so only positive reviews are shown. It is not legal to do so in the UK (or EU)

We were called by its advisers and asked if we would be prepared to act on the business's behalf again in appealing both reviews to Google, a service we offer to all our clients. Our response was: of course, should they wish to rejoin. Instead it simply chose to delete the Google reviews feed from its website until such time as it had been able to muster sufficient new positive reviews to drive the damaging 1* reviews down the list. Cunning? Yes. Legal? No*. 

*It may be that the business in question is never sanctioned by the CMA, but it would be optimistic in the extreme to assume that none of their competitors had noticed the changes to their website. Playing fast and loose with reviews fatally undermines their value (by playing directly to the cynical consumer's 'You cant trust reviews' attitude), as well as calling the business's own ethics into question. 

Now follow this link and read about our charges. Some clients view them as an insurance premium -  their online reputation is, in their view, just as important and valuable and in need of protection as any other business asset; most, though, just like to be seen as offering their potential customers an effective and credible window onto the services they provide in a manner that is fully compliant with UK legislation.

And finally...

We frequently meet businesses that have perfect - 5.0 - Google scores. When we meet these 'perfect' businesses we sometimes have to remind them that not all their customers are as 'perfect' as they are. Then they invariably look at each other and name names...'What would happen if we asked that Mr Jones from Reading to write a review?'

The author of the 'A total waste of money...' review shown above was just such a case. Great businesses need great review management. Welcome to HelpHound.

Further reading

  1. Compliance with the law - and how non-compliance hands compliant competitors a big win
  2. Results - professional review management will bring more customers to your door, guaranteed
  3. Moderation - more on this key ingredient (and, by the way, HelpHound currently offers the only moderated review management service, globally)



HelpHound fees - 2024

As clients know, we have held our fees since well before the onset COVID-19 (we also reduced them by fifty per cent for the duration of the pandemic). For 2024 we are introducing a new fee scale - this will reward clients that...

  • achieve critical mass with both their own and Google reviews
  • recommend us to other businesses

The basic* fee scale is as follows...

Joining, set-up and implementation                               £ 495

Monthly                                                                          £ 349
until 100 reviews on own site and 50 on Google

Monthly, after the above numbers are achieved            £ 145

Hourly advisory fee**                                                     £ 295                                                

Drafting an appeal against a Google review                  £ 200-500   

Important Notes:

  1. 'Joining, set-up and implementation' includes everything from supplying the code for your web designer to enable them to implement our API (or module) on your website to advising your business how best to train your management and staff to achieve the optimum results from your membership.
  2. The monthly fee includes full moderation of every review submitted via your website or any other mechanism - your email to your customer inviting them to submit their review, for instance - and full support by our client services team from 9-5 on every weekday as well as an emergency number to contact us outside those hours.
  3. The reduced monthly fee reflects the fact that once these numbers are achieved you and your management and staff are likely to need far less input from HelpHound - you will have achieved critical mass on both your own website and on Google, where the positive results of Professional Review Management really begin to bear fruit: increased enquiries through both your own website and through Google search.
  4. Drafting a Google appeal: the chances of you needing this service after you have joined HelpHound are much reduced (our moderation will ensure that) but in cases where a customer - or another poster: a disappointed applicant or a competitor - writes a review, direct to Google, that contravenes their terms of service we will use our extensive experience to draft an appeal to Google.
  5. *The fees outlined above are 'per location' and assume a flow of reviews to the business's website of <= 30 per calendar month. In instances of businesses with multiple locations/branches a scale of reduced fees will be applicable. In cases where review flows average significantly in excess of 30 per month, fees will be agreed on a case-by-case between HelpHound and our client.
  6. **Advisory fees: these are charged when a business requires detailed advice on integrating review management with its CRM processes. They are not charged for the initial consultation - unless we are invited to meet at the business's location - and are waived entirely in cases where HelpHound's own software (API) is implemented as part of the recommended solution.
  7. If travel outside the M25 London Orbital is required, both time and out-of-pocket expenses will be charged.

Initial meetings

We will begin with an online meeting to establish your business's exact requirements, during which we will agree on a strategy for implementation and training. In the majority of cases this meeting - which is free - will be all that we both need to progress to full implementation. 

Recommending HelpHound

As any business knows, some of the best new clients often come by recommendation from existing clients. In this case, HelpHound credits the recommending business with 25% of the fees invoiced to the recommended business for the first year of membership. 

Further reading
  • Partnering with HelpHound - a great way to help non-competitive business contacts and add an income stream for your own business

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Reviews 101 - or 'The beginner's Guide to Reviews'

Notice we say '' not ''. HelpHound has been advising businesses about reviews since the middle of first decade of this century. There are more than a million words on this blog alone - Tolstoy's 'War & Peace' contains a mere 587,000! 

So: follow the advice contained in this article and the links embedded in it and your business will thrive - at least as far as reviews and their potential to drive new customers are concerned. On the other hand, continue to ignore the power of reviews or listen to a salesperson from a review site and opportunities of all kinds will be missed and your competitors will gain a head start that may become insurmountable.

Note: HelpHound is all about Review Management, a term we coined back in 2009, just eighteen months after Google first introduced their review function. Back then we ran a review site - similar to Trustpilot, Feefo, Yelp and the others, but we soon realised that professional and service businesses were always going to be served best by Google reviews, because consumers were being given a one-stop review service with visibility and credibility that could never be matched by a review site. 

We might have simply folded the business right then but for the fact that we realised that Google had no intention of moderating - another HelpHound word meaning 'ensuring the factual accuracy and veracity of' - their reviews and that if they were to be of significant value to the business under review and the readers of those reviews then moderation would be essential. Moderation remains the core of the value we add for all our stakeholders - clients, their customers, reviewers and consumers, not to mention Google, relying on reviews to be accurate - right up until today.

Lastly: you only need to click on the hyperlinks if you wish to mine down into the subject under discussion. We recommend you read all of this article before you do so. And then speak to one of us.

In the beginning

It became rapidly apparent that professional and service business reviews were of immense value to consumers: far more so than product reviews (helpful as those might be). A consumer requiring a medical, financial, legal or educational professional to look after their health, investments, legal issues or children's education was going to pay far more attention to, and have a far greater requirement for, reliable reviews. 

Put simply: a product with a headline review score of 4 out of 5 will sell and the underlying reviews are highly unlikely to be read, a service needs to score 4.8+ and the reviews themselves will be read.

Your business's starting point

Will be one of the following...

  1. It has no reviews, or very few
  2. It has many Google reviews - because it has realised the value of reviews and, as a result, has been inviting selected customers* to write reviews to Google
  3. It has focussed on a review site - the likes of Trustpilot or Feefo or

*those reading this article are likely to describe their customers as 'clients' or 'patients', in the main. For simplicity's sake we will refer to them as either 'customers' or 'consumers' depending on the context.

From the very beginning, it became clear that businesses in category 2 gained far more business than the equivalent businesses in categories 1 and 3. 

Category 1 businesses were either very small, very new or very nervous. The first of those three are self-explanatory, the third - 'very nervous' requires further explanation: they were - are - nervous of having inaccurate or misleading (and therefore damaging, from the business's point-of-view) reviews written to Google. And they are right to be: we would never advocate that a business in a complex area, easily misunderstood by the layman, invite customers to write a Google review about its service without some form of safety net. Hence moderation (see more on this below).

Category 1 businesses were missing out of the power of Google reviews to bring new customers to their door via search and Category 3 businesses were expending energy acquiring reviews that were going to be seen by far fewer potential customers - at least until they reached the business's website - than if those reviews were posted to Google. Of course, a 4.7 rating of a shirt will support sales on your website, but we're not talking about online retailers here - we're talking about professional services, and those need the superior visibility and influence of Google. 


It comes under the heading of 'boring, but absolutely essential', like making sure there's engine oil and anti-freeze in your car. It means: getting the review written in private first and then vetted for accuracy by an independent intermediary - in this case, HelpHound - before it is subsequently published on the business's own website and on Google.

The business's website?

The reviews hosted on this Harley Street clinic's website are read by prospective patients (29 readers have voted the 'Life Changing' review at bottom right 'helpful') - do we think that they are convincing? you read them and be the judge

Once you accept that reviews drive business - enquiries, calls and clicks - then it becomes self-evident that having those reviews prominently displayed on the business's website is a good thing. The fact that this allows the business to capture valuable data on its customer's opinions and make sure those opinions are not damagingly misleading is a double benefit.

Obeying/breaking the law

here we are talking about Category 2 businesses. Many currently break the law, which states that businesses must not...

  • 'Cherry-pick' customers to write reviews. You are not allowed to invite happy customers to write reviews - - anywhere - to the exclusion of other customers or stakeholders
  • 'Gate' - gating means employing any mechanism that filters customers to establish which are most likely to write a 5* review of the business. A common way of gating includes sending out a customer survey and then only inviting those who indicate 100% satisfaction to write a review 
We understand why they break the law, some without even realising they are doing so: they know they need to look great on Google but they are - again, rightly - terrified of attracting factually incorrect or just plain unfair reviews if they follow the CMA regulations. Boy, are Category 2 businesses pleased to encounter HelpHound!


Category 3 - review sites

Why would a business such as this ask its customers to review it on a review site with far, far less visibility than Google (on the right)? Furthermore, why would a business pay a review site - Google reviews are free - when it includes the following in the business's listing...

Businesses that are paying for review sites fall into two distinct categories...

1.  Those in retail - online or otherwise - need a review score to support sales. There's no doubt that a Trustpilot 'badge' next to a product reassures purchasers of products (as opposed to services).

A professional/service company that has suffered by choosing a review site over Google reviews. The results on the left are only available for potential clients who bother to visit the review site, those on the right are seen by all. Just look at the search result below...

...the business's Google score and reviews are displayed in the knowledge panel on the right for all to see, read and access - ouch! Their Trustpilot reviews? Nowhere in the top 50 organic results of the same search. Would your business 
pay for this?

2.  Those in the services and professions - that have either been 'sold to' by the review sites (they all spend impressive amounts on sales and marketing) or have simply failed to find a better solution. The latter - the professions and allied service businesses - should focus on getting reviews to Google and their own websites. This advice is unequivocal: Google's reviews have an unrivalled profile in search, and this, coupled with their credibility (the fact that the business is not paying them to host reviews is part of that) makes it a hands-down winner where impact and effectiveness are concerned.

What should your business do?

No matter what category your business currently finds itself in, it should look to adopt professional review management going forwards. Then it will...

  • get significant numbers of reviews on its own website
  • get significant numbers of them copied to Google
  • be fully compliant with UK and EU law - from day one
  • enhance its SEO
  • stand out in every search
  • receive measurably more clicks and calls
  • have wonderful ammunition for sales and marketing
  • make your management and staff proud
And, before you know it, your business will look like this...

...on its own website - with the 'Write a review' button (arrow/swoosh) ensuring compliance by enabling anyone to write a review (don't worry! Remember they will all be moderated), and like this...

ultimately having the best chance to lead local search, with stars (5) and a rating (4.9) pulled from its own reviews (573), unlike its competitors local search, whenever a potential customer is looking for a business in your sector, and like this...

Scoring at least 4.8 from hundreds of Google reviews. Even the most cynical or sceptical consumer is forced to admit that over three hundred reviewers can't be that far wrong - especially when they read the content of the reviews for themselves (you can do just that by googling 'Winkworth Kingsbury' to see exactly what a prospective fee payer sees)

... whenever a potential client searches for your business specifically (those looking for contact details having been recommended by a friend, for instance).

Taken from a new client's first meaningful Google My Business report. What would you give to have your business's calls and other inbounds rise by a similar amount?

Can you imagine the impact on your potential customers? If you have any trouble doing so please read this article which focuses entirely on the uplift in enquiries through Google search and your own website and the equally impressive rise in the quality of the resultant business transacted.


Professional review management combined with moderation will achieve the following:
  • a steady flow of reviews to your website and your Google listing
  • an increasing flow of enquiries through both
Secure in the knowledge that your business will be protected from factually inaccurate, potentially misleading or even downright malicious reviews.

Welcome to professional review management and welcome to HelpHound. 

Further reading...

Friday 24 November 2023

Review sites - could this be why they are so attractive to some businesses?

Why would any business choose any of these...

Over these?

It has long been a puzzle - and not just to us here at HelpHound, just look at one of them on another review site...

...and, to be scrupulously fair, reviews of that site on Trustpilot...

...and Trustpilot (UK) on Google...

And their Copenhagen HQ?

Here's our question for any service or professional business using Trustpilot or Feefo (or Yelp - although they pulled their sales operation out of the UK and EU a while ago) in preference to Google reviews (we acknowledge that online retailers simply use it to reinforce sales of individual products - although, even in that context, we constantly find reviews of product A being used to promote product B). Why would you pay a review site when Google reviews that are...

...and - wait for it - free?

We wrote about the obvious answer years ago - and there's a clue in many of the negative reviews - the fact that the review sites offer what we consider to be marginally compliant benefits to businesses that have the ultimate effect of reducing the number of negative - 1* - reviews that are published. 

A review site may be just what a business in retail - online especially - needs when it is looking for support for its advertising and marketing. This business, for instance, has more than 4,000 one-star reviews, but few prospective customers will look past their five-star rating to the actual reviews themselves

In the case of Trustpilot, that consists of what we call 'quarantine' where a business can challenge any review - weirdly they don't seem to challenge 5* reviews! - and the reviewer is then required to provide proof that they have used the business - invoices/emails or the like. We can hear some readers saying 'That's a great idea!' but it has at least one disastrous unforeseen consequence which we christened 'deflection' many years ago - the savvy rejected/unpublished reviewers and their one-star reviews simply migrate to Google, damaging the business in question's image there, for all to see. 

But it has now dawned on us that there is another reason...lack of visibility in search. How would not appearing in search be seen as a benefit? Simple really, when you think about it: it gives the business far more control over who exactly sees their review score or the reviews themselves. Use Google reviews and the world, including every one of your prospective customers, will see your reviews. Use a review site and they will only see them when and where the business wants them to (few customers bother to visit the review sites) - in its marketing and advertising and exactly how and where it wants them displayed on its website.


If we were consumers - and of course we are, after hours! - we would be asking any business that has adopted a review site 'Just why?' 'Why not Google?' With a moderated system such as HelpHound protecting a business from inaccurate, potentially misleading or just plain unfair reviews and ensuring that their positive reviews make sense too, and getting them to both the business's website and to Google, there's no reason to give up the vastly superior credibility, visibility and longevity (they'll definitely still be around in ten years' time) of Google reviews.

If you sell products - stick with your review site - if you provide a professional service we heartily recommend you invest the money saved in HelpHound membership and start looking amazing in Google searches - compliantly.

Monday 13 November 2023

Why did they join? - and why do they remain members?

Those of you who read 'How to Succeed with Reviews' last week will know that we have been speaking to some of our most successful members recently - more than we usually do! - so we could pass on the secrets of their success to new members. It won't come as a great surprise, we are sure, to find that once we had finished mining for those nuggets we went on to ask them what attracted them to HelpHound in the first place and - just as importantly, if not more so - what, once they understood HelpHound and how their managers, staff, clients and customers reacted to their relationship with us, they valued us as the relationship matured?

We weren't surprised to find that some of the less obvious benefits at inception became more valued as time passed  - we hope you find these illuminating.

A note

We have used estate agency clients to illustrate this article  - as we often do - everyone understands the stresses and strains involved in buying or selling, letting or renting a property, and we can all imagine just how often estate agency clients and other stakeholders misunderstand aspects of what can be a complex and stressful transaction, with the potential for factually inaccurate or potentially misleading - and ultimately very damaging for the businesses concerned - reviews. In the following article you will find multiple references to moderation - the process whereby we ensure that the vast majority of our clients' reviews are accurate and fair - and we make no apology for those; if there is one thing that sets HelpHound apart from every other review solution on the planet it is our moderation service, which we would suggest is essential - vital - if any professional or service business is to engage with, and benefit from, effective review management. 

Before reading on, we would ask you to read this review, of a service even more complex and easily misunderstood (and, dare we say, vital) than estate agency: medicine. Then ask yourself if you think such a business would be likely to engage with Google reviews without the safety net provided by HelpHound's moderation...

 ...and also ask yourself how much more likely you would be to make the first vital contact with such a business having read such a review.

Before joining, they valued...

  • More clicks through Google search
  • More contacts through their website
  • More calls through Google search and their website
  • Far fewer inaccurate reviews
  • Far fewer misleading reviews

On joining...

  • How much staff - and management - relaxed when asking for a review
  • The pride staff took in the addition of independently verified reviews to their website
  • How much the stars generated by their HelpHound reviews made them stand out in search
  • How quickly - virtually overnight - reviews became an integral part of the sale - 'Look at our reviews'
  • For those who had previously been cherry-picking (or gating) - the relief that those days were now over and they were now fully CMA-compliant

After a period of membership...

  • The value of moderation
  • The proportion of customers prepared to write a review
  • The proportion of customers prepared to post both reviews - one to the business's own website and copied to Google
  • Compliance with the CMA regulations
  • SEO - local search
  • Savings - in Google Ad spend and other marketing
  • Support - for both sales and marketing
And in many instances...
  • Staff staff training and ongoing support from HelpHound
  • Help and support with drafting appeals against fake, malicious or fraudulent Google reviews 

A detailed analysis - point by point

Before joining

  • More clicks through Google search and more contacts through their website

From here...


To here... 

These two screenshots, the first taken on joining, the second today, illustrate the prime initial motivation for most clients: more - positive - reviews, safely, leading to a great competitive position in all Google searches and the consistent uptick in calls and clicks that flow from such a dominant position. The stars right underneath the business's organic search results are drawn directly from the reviews hosted on the business's own website, not their Google reviews



This is a Google My Business monthly report illustrating the precise numbers of calls and the rise (in green) for a business in the first full month after implementation


These are easily measured by reference to Google Analytics and the business's own website stats. Suffice to say that our clients commonly experience uplifts in the region of 15 - 25 per cent, especially if they have not previously proactively engaged with Google reviews
  • More calls through Google search and their website
As for 'clicks' and 'contacts' above. Great reviews are an acknowledged trigger for engagement and reinforce personal recommendation and other marketing efforts
  • Far fewer inaccurate reviews
Our moderation enables the reviewer and the business to resolve factual inaccuracies before a review is published, whether to the business's own website or to Google. Inaccurate reviews benefit no one, not the business, not the consumer relying on the review and certainly not the reviewer (they are invariably happy when errors of fact are brought to their attention)
  • Far fewer misleading reviews

English is a wonderfully complex language, and this can lead to misleading reviews; again, moderation will result in correction or modification so that the review accurately reflects the reviewer's experience of - and with - the business under review

On joining

  • How much staff - and management - relaxed when asking for a review
Asking for a review can lead to raised blood pressure all around; is the reviewer as happy with the service provided as the business thinks they are? Does the reviewer understand and appreciate the hard work the business has put in? Moderation has been described to us as 'a safety valve', 'a safety net' and 'vital for giving staff the confidence to invite the review in the first place'.
  • The pride staff took in the addition of independently verified reviews to their website

Consumers actively seek out independently verified reviews on business websites these days.  

In the 2020s staff generally have the same attitude to testimonials as consumers do: they're 'a bit 20th century'. They want to be able to say 'Look at our own reviews and our Google reviews.' Management and staff take pride in independently verified reviews far more than they ever did with testimonials.
  • How much the stars in search generated by their HelpHound reviews made them stand out in search

Those stars right under the business's organic listing search are hugely valued by members. We know because when a couple of years ago there was a software glitch which resulted in them going missing for a couple of hours we had over a dozen calls from clients asking for them to be reinstated!
It's a fact of life that at least half of all consumers still think that these stars are awarded by Google. It's definitely a fact of life that they impress consumers when they see them up against similar businesses with either no stars at all or a lower rating.
  • How quickly - virtually overnight - reviews became an integral part of the sale - 'Look at our reviews'

This client's 600+ followers on Instagram can't help but be impressed by reviews like this 

Research shows that consumers under 45 now trust reviews even more than personal recommendations. What is absolutely not in doubt is that our clients are proud to display their reviews prominently - on their websites, in marketing and advertising, and in all their PR and social media engagement. They know that great scores and great reviews drive business
  • For those who had previously been cherry-picking (or gating) - the relief that those days were now over
Almost every business we meet with over twenty Google reviews admits to one or other of these tactics: they hand pick 'happy' customers to write reviews and/or they use some mechanism or other to find out which of their customers is most likely to write a positive review (this is called 'gating'). Why? Not, surprising as it may seem, because they think they have a cohort of unhappy customers, but because they have know way of knowing just which of their customers are likely to write a factually inaccurate or potentially misleading review. By using a moderated system that fear evaporates - compliance with the law (the CMA regulations) can be a pretty powerful plus for a business that finds itself up against a non-complaint competitor

After a period of membership

  • The value of moderation
One a business has seen its first potentially damaging review resolved in moderation they heave a huge corporate sigh of relief and realise moderation's value. And then it's full steam ahead. Moderation gives them the confidence to be proactive - knowing that they are far less likely to get a factually inaccurate or misleading review
  • The proportion of customers prepared to write a review*
We first suggested our '50%' rule nearly ten years ago now: aim to get half your customers to leave a review on your website and then half of them to copy it to Google. Our most committed clients always achieve at least those numbers - if they have 200 customers in any given period they will get more than 100 reviews to their website and at least 50 of them copied to Google

*many years of anecdotal evidence have shown us that someone invited to write a review is far less likely to write a negative review of their experience of a business: they will simply communicate direct with the business instead 

  • Compliance with the CMA regulations
Most businesses we meet deny any knowledge of the CMA regulations. They are surprised when we tell them that they are not allowed - by law - to cherry-pick or gate. They are hugely relieved when we tell them that, as long as they allow customers to post reviews to their website (moderated, of course) they can invite exactly who they like to write a review. 
  • SEO - local search

There are +- 25 businesses that would pay good money to top Google organic search. They're the same businesses that are paying £thousands a month for Google Ads
It's universally acknowledged that hosting reviews on your own website makes up around 15% of a business's score as far as SEO is concerned. All we know is that our clients feature very highly, if not top, in all major searches
  • Savings - in Google Ad spend and other marketing
If your business comes top in natural/organic search why pay to appear top? Simple really
  • Support - for both sales and marketing
Sales people need sales aids, they have done so since time began. We have no doubt that Barney Rubble got Fred Flintstone to write - chisel? - him a testimonial to support the sales of his stone wheels. And that applied right up until the days of the web - your prospective customers always want to know what your existing customers think of you. And ideally they want those opinions to be independently verified and displayed. The combination of HelpHound and Google gives them just what they crave, and what your salespeople need to reinforce the sale

And in many instances
  • Staff staff training and ongoing support from HelpHound
We are not just a great piece of software accompanied by moderators. We support our clients all the way along the journey. You need...
    • on-site training
    • training aids
    • advice about damaging Google reviews
    • Help and support with drafting appeals against fake, malicious or fraudulent Google reviews 
    • updates on changes in legislation
    • updates on Google's review processes

...and we will provide them all. Just ask*.

*and subscribe to this blog!