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has at least one disastrous unforeseen consequence which we christened 'deflection' many years ago - the savvy rejected/unpublished reviewers and their one-star reviews simply migrate to Google, damaging the business in question's image there, for all to see.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!