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?

Pros

    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

Cons

    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

Pros

  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
Plus:
  • 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.


Conclusion

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.