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at least one disastrous unforeseen consequence which we christened 'deflection' many years ago - the savvy rejected/unpublished reviewers and their one-star reviews simply migrate to Google, damaging the business in question's image there, for all to see.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

Friday 27 October 2023

How to succeed with reviews - the secrets of our clients' success

It's a question we find ourselves being asked all the time: 'How has ABC Plc done so well?' And we have generally answered it with a combination of the memo below and 'showing and telling'. This time we thought we would reach out to some of those successful businesses and actually ask them and then report back here. Some of their answers will be common sense, some will be pretty obvious, but many will not be either (otherwise, why would so many businesses either fail to look as good as they deserve or feel they need to flout the law to do so?).

So: what questions did we ask?

It would have been easy to ask 'What process(es) do you adopt?', but it soon became evident that this question bypassed a great deal of thinking and planning. We needed to go further back and ask 'What were your objectives?' and 'Why did you adopt HelpHound?'

So let's address these two first:

'What were your objectives?'

The simple answer was 'To look great on Google [scoring 4.8+ with three figures of reviews] and great on our own website' along with 'To drive more enquiries through search and though our website'.

Supplementing those were 'We want to be legally compliant' and 'We want to support our SEO/ranking in [local] search', as well as 'We want to save money on Google Ads and other marketing'

'Why did you adopt HelpHound?'

Because you told us we would achieve all of the above! 

Now, some of our readers will be thinking 'That's it then; join and all our wishes will be granted/all our problems will be solved.' but that's akin to someone walking into a car dealership and buying new car. Without first learning how to drive! The next section is all-important. Here is the guide we give to new members...

... and all of our most successful clients follow it to the letter: crucially they prime their customers by warning them that writing a review is an integral part of the relationship and they follow up every email with a call.

But there's more, for those star performers: invariably they do one or more - or all - of the following...

  • they set targets for staff to achieve a certain volume of reviews - as a percentage of business transacted or on a periodic basis
  • they reward* staff for excelling at obtaining reviews
  • they operate as a team, with back office supporting front office in their efforts to obtain reviews
  • they have a dedicated member of management responsible for coordinating and reporting on review management
  • they respond - to all their reviews; there's some interesting psychology at work here - it has become obvious that businesses that always respond to reviews send a clear message to those tempted to play fast and/or loose when writing a review. That message? We're going to be reading your review and we're definitely going to be addressing any exaggerations or misapprehensions.
  • they give their customers the option to post their reviews to either the business's own website or directly to Google - with direct links to both in the email. This has the practical effect of achieving more Google reviews from those who find writing more than one review a chore**

** 'A chore': this is why the telephone call is so important. The call has an overall objective: to get review(s) written - to the business's own website and to Google if at all possible. But within that call there are steps that deal with potential objections...

    1. 'I don't have a Google account' - 'Don't worry, I'm sure you will be able to write a review, almost everybody can because they have used one or more of Google's services in the past; if you like I'll stay on the line while you follow the link I sent you.'
    2. 'I've only got time to write one review' - 'That's great, we will send you a copy of the review you write on our website and you will only have to copy & paste that to Google, you won't have to begin all over again.' or 'Great, just write the one review and copy it to both links.'

We then asked them what aspect of HelpHound they valued most: invariably, to a man or woman, they answered: moderation.

Here is the line that sums it all up, the clincher if you will...

"We joined HelpHound when we realised that we would then be legally compliant whilst still maintaining the ability to choose precisely whom we actively invite to write a review.'

As regular readers know, we don't hold back when stressing the value of moderation but the crucial thing that kept being mentioned by businesses was the fact that it was moderation that gave them the confidence to engage with reviews in the first place. Without moderation, they would simply not be willing to run the risk of attracting inaccurate or potentially misleading reviews. They would either have to rely on customers posting reviews unprompted or do as many businesses still do: flout the law and select which customers to invite to write reviews.

The screenshot above is of the Google rating and number of reviews for a client that had only two Google reviews when they joined. The one below is of the reviews hosted on their website (as you can see it contains the crucial 'Write a review' link that keeps all our clients compliant with UK law and CMA regulations)...

They are really, really good at what they do. We know, not only because we have met them (all of them, from the owners of the business to the managers to the salespeople to the back office staff) but because we have seen and read every single review ever written about them, on their website and on Google, and - crucially - the ones where our moderators intervened in order to ensure, as far as legally possible under the CMA regulations, that the review accurately reflected the experience of the reviewer. 

That's why moderation has to be done by a human being - our moderator will come to know the business whose reviews they are moderating as well as their customers; this enables them to spot outliers, right down to individual members of staff mentioned by name in reviews. They will know that it is highly unlikely that staff member A of business B has left multiple emails unanswered and a metaphorical alarm bell will ring that initiates contact with business B. Suppose, in this instance, the customer of business B had their email address hacked and therefore blacklisted, leading to non-delivery of emails? Would it be fair to simply publish a 1* review saying that business B didn't care about their customers? Of course not. Moderation in action - benefitting both business and consumer.

In Conclusion

Success? It's a combination of adopting the correct mechanism in the first instance - any amount of good practice and procedure cannot make the wrong approach right - and then following the 'rules' as laid out above. Do that and we absolutely guarantee that your business will shine in search and produce results such as these.

The 'Multi' review invitation - and why it has so many hidden benefits

The original purpose of the 'Multi' - inviting reviews to the business's website and to Google simultaneously with both links in the same email - was to enable established clients to simplify review gathering. A 'one email covers all' solution.

Why only 'established' clients? The rationale was simple: inviting both reviews simultaneously ran the risk that a customer might submit a review containing errors of fact or misleading statements directly to Google, thereby bypassing HelpHound's moderators. 

Ten years of experience shows us that...

As you might expect, we spend quite a while analysing numbers and other data here at HelpHound. And we have a lot of numbers to crunch. Amongst the most important of all of those is the difference in outcome for businesses inviting their customers to write a review directly to Google as compared with those that use the two HelpHound routes...

Route 1 is as follows: send an email to the customer asking them to write a review to the business's own website (including the direct link supplied by HelpHound), call the customer to ensure a high conversion rate, then HelpHound sends an automated email to the customer once their review has been moderated and posted to the business's website asking them to copy and paste their review to Google*

*Back in the day only about 50% of people could write a Google review, they needed a Gmail address or some other Google account. Over the years almost everyone has had reason to log into Google or one of its multitude of services. You will find that these days almost everyone can write a Google review. 


Route 2 consists of: sending a single email with two links (see screenshot above) - one to the business's own website and one to their Google page. The follow-up call is made in exactly the same way except the caller's objective is to get the customer to write a review to either or both of those locations.

This latter email is known to us internally and to many HelpHound clients simply as the 'Multi', short for 'multiple invitation' (it can include other sites as well - we had a client who needed to boost their presence on Trustpilot recently, so we simply included a link to their listing for a few weeks). Now back to the numbers (which will explain why we don't advise new clients to use the Multi straight away). 

A business has three options...

We've all seen and read them. But you owe it to your business and to readers who will rely on the review in question to have chance to interact with the reviewer before a potentially factually inaccurate or misleading review is posted for all to see

Option 1:The business invites its customers to write their reviews directly to Google. It will receive, on average, a one-star review every 15-20 reviews. Those one-star reviews may or may not be factually accurate or potentially misleading. What is sure is that the reviews will stand (the likelihood of a successful Google appeal against a factually inaccurate or potentially misleading review is vanishingly small). Those one-star reviews will be served in every Google search, and be especially damaging when the searcher uses Google's 'Lowest' default.

Option 2: The business only invites its customers to write a review to its own website, using the HelpHound module. That way it will receive a one-star review every 30-40 reviews. Why the disparity in numbers? From our extensive experience of studying how our users - both business and consumer - behave the conclusion that we have come to is that reviewers are far more careful with the wording of their review when they know, for certain, that the business, and the person they have interact with at the business, will read what they have written. Put simply: people are far less likely to write ill-considered negative reviews when they know they will be read by someone with whom they have interacted. HelpHound then automatically invites the reviewer, once their review is published on the business's website, to copy their review over to Google. Most of our clients achive at least a 50% success rate when following this up with a phone call. 

Option 3: The 'Multi'. Inviting both reviews in the same email. This results in even fewer one-star reviews, sometimes as few as one or two per hundred reviews. Why? Because of a combination of the factors already alluded to above. Customers with negative issues to air are far more likely to choose the 'Write a review direct to the business' option. Mostly because there is an implication in the invitation that it will be read, and therefore acted upon. Happy customers, on the other hand, are far more likely to choose to write their review to Google, in the knowledge that it will be seen by prospective customers of the business and therefore help the business that has helped them.

Hence our invariable advice: to discount Option 1, the 'Direct to Google' option altogether: it is far too high risk for professional and service businesses - and we have seen too many businesses over the years harmed - and by 'harmed' we mean 'literally stopped the phones ringing' in extreme cases -by factually inaccurate or misleading reviews that would have been corrected in moderation, to use Option 2 until they have at least double figures of Google reviews scoring 4.8+, and then to use Option 3, the 'Multi', thereafter.  


There are only three ways for a great business to look as great as it can be where reviews are concerned:

  1. Be perfect - and have perfect customers. There are such businesses, but they are few and far between. No matter how hard most businesses try to please all of their customers all of the time there will be those who misunderstand or simply get the wrong end of the stick 
  2. Adopt a moderated review system - and use it all of the time. Invite every customer to write a review and have all their subsequent responses independently moderated (a business cannot legitimately moderate its own reviews - the conflict of interest inherent in this is obvious)
  3. Adopt a moderated review system but allow customers to choose where to post their review - via the moderated system to the business's website or directly to Google
Bear in mind that everyone who writes a review to the business's own website and has it moderated - they all are - and ultimately published there, will, in the case of HelpHound, receive an automatic request to copy their review to Google. 

Now you know exactly how all our - great - clients have their hard work and expertise reflected in their reviews. And why those reviews tend to be more helpful to prospective customers of those businesses than the average review on Google (or Trustpilot or any other site hosting reviews, for that matter). Our results, we feel, speak for themselves.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Review sites to address fake and fraudulent reviews? Forgive us for being sceptical


A link for those of you with access to the Times Online

Estimates vary, but there appears to be pretty universal acknowledgement that around 15% of all online reviews are fraudulent - 'fake' in short - bought and paid for by unscrupulous businesses. The UK's CMA estimates that consumers were defrauded to the extent of £312 million as a direct result of fake reviews in the last year under review. And that does not begin to address the losses - both financial and emotional - resulting from consumers being misled into using professional service businesses - financial, legal, medical and the like - that are in breach of the CMA regulations.

Here's a link to the full announcement on Amazon's website - Trustpilot's website, as of today's date, remains silent on the issue, so do the others. The 'Coalition for Trusted Reviews' does not, as yet, appear to have a website of its own (please don't hesitate to alert us if you find one). There are also some names absent: Google, the overwhelmingly dominant player in online reviews, Yelp (and, as you might expect, HelpHound).

We have read everything there is about this move, as well as other announcements made in the past by these businesses designed to convince their stakeholders that their reviews are trustworthy and that they are doing their very best to ensure that trustworthiness. It is interesting that none of the statements released by the members of the Coalition for Trusted Reviews so far mention potential solutions or courses of action.

Our reaction so far? Hollow words. 

The problem

This broadly divides into two distinct issues...

  1. Sellers of products paying for fake 5* reviews - Amazon alone estimates that there are at least 10,000 Facebook groups dedicated to generating fake reviews on behalf of businesses. Such reviews are for sale across social media. This is obviously not a 'good thing' but getting misled into buying a second-rate product by a business faking reviews is one thing. £Tens, maybe £hundreds, wasted.
  2. Sellers of services flouting the law - at least in the UK and EU - as well as Google T&Cs that specifically forbid cherry-picking or gating: identifying and then inviting happy customers to write reviews as well as offering rewards for positive reviews. There's nothing wrong with their reviews - they are written by genuine customers - it's the method of invitation and collection that is being abused. Being misled into using a service business by fraudulent manipulation of the review process is of a whole different order of magnitude from point 1 above. Imagine you are looking for a reliable financial adviser, a lawyer, or an oncologist? Even a good estate agent (read on, see the screenshots and then carry out your own Google searches).
And then we have the advent of AI. In the past fake reviews were often pretty easy to spot, often as a result of some pretty awful use of English. AI has changed all that. Here's an example, produced by ChatGPT in less than a second...

The only solution

There is only one solution to this issue. How do we know? Because we went through the very same thought process over ten years ago. We invested heavily in software designed to weed out fraudulent and suspect reviews - we even named the software 'Buster' because it was designed to 'Bust' fake and fraudulent reviews. But it didn't work. By comparison with human oversight and intervention, it was ineffective. 

Only a trained human being can spot, with any degree of reliability, a fake or fraudulent review, or, for that matter, a review containing factual inaccuracies or misleading statements that a consumer might then go on to rely on when making purchasing decisions.

Every single review written through HelpHound is moderated by such a human being. We estimate our moderators' accuracy in identifying the contentious areas outlined above is over 97% accurate. Combine that with the fact that the business under review and anyone reading the published review also has the right to challenge its content and the figure climbs further towards the unattainable 100%.

One last question for businesses

Which do you think is more visible, viewed as more credible and more trusted by consumers? For an in-depth answer read this. For those of you in a hurry - the answer is 'Google', by a country mile, especially where service businesses and professions are concerned

If you are paying Trustpilot or any other review site - why? When you can have eminently more visible, credible and influential Google reviews. 

You can then use the money saved to host moderated reviews on your own site - reviews that you own - and get a significant proportion of these across to Google.

Look like this...

See those 567 'votes' next to the ***** 4.9 rating? They're the business's own reviews gathered using HelpHound

And this...

When anyone clicks on that 'Write a review' button (top left) their review goes straight to HelpHound moderation - it is that moderation that gives businesses like this the confidence to be proactive in inviting reviews, to their own website and then to Google

And ultimately lead in search like this...

Further reading
  • Don't make the mistake of going straight down the Google route - it invariably leads to a game of 'Splat the Rat'
  • Results - hard proof that effective review management drives business - both quantity and quality

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Avoid being forced to play 'Splat the Rat'

Look at so many successful businesses, and what do you see? A great Google score backed by lots of reviews. Are we right?

Of course we are. But underlying so many of those scores, especially with businesses that have hundreds - even thousands - of Google reviews, are far more negative - 1* - reviews than necessary.

Look at these two real-life examples (we're not going to name names for obvious reasons, but we can tell you they are both legal firms)...

Now, they both have what most untrained observers would consider to be respectable scores, one eminently so. But here the good news ends, for them both. 

When a consumer conducts the most popular second search move - clicking on 'Lowest' - what do they find? 16 one-star reviews of the business rated 4.9 and 61 one-star reviews for the business rated 4.3. In both instances, that's a lot of people saying, effectively, 'Don't use this business'.

And even if they just read the feed Google supplies they will almost certainly come across one or more damaging 1* reviews.

The impact of those one-star reviews? They get read, and the ones that are carefully written and credible are believed and acted upon. Consumers trust reviews (why else would businesses put so much effort into getting them?) both positive and negative. If a negative review doesn't drive business (and we've never met anyone who thinks it does) then, it stands to reason, that it has to have the opposite effect. Not always and not all the time, but enough to make a significant impact on contacts, inbounds and lead flows as time goes by.

So both these businesses have adopted the only course of action they believed to be open to them (given that the likelihood of an appeal to Google** to have any of the reviews removed succeeding is vanishingly slim): they have played 'Splat the Rat'. In other words, every time they have received a 1* review they have made every effort to invite reviews from happy customers in order to drive the 1* review down and, hopefully, out of sight. Apart from the questionable legality of such a strategy - the CMA expressly forbids such activity by businesses unless they provide consumers with an open conduit whereby they can submit reviews at a time of their choosing - it leaves the 1* reviews to be found by anyone considering using the business, forever.

**If you have a review that you consider infringes Google's Terms and Conditions please speak to us, we have over ten years' experience of conducting Google appeals.

But surely, we hear some of you say, the law also states that consumers' opinions are sacrosanct? Indeed they are. But the law also allows for moderation should the review contain an error of fact or a statement likely to mislead readers (future customers to a man or woman - who else is going to be reading reviews of a law firm?). Here's a great example from amongst the 1* reviews of one of the two firms...

This review - and its annotation/correction by the reviewer - illustrate exactly why HelpHound exists: with our moderation the interaction that has taken place would have happened in private, before the review was ever posted to Google. And almost certainly - 97.3% certainly - before the review was even posted to the business's own website. The business will also have to contact the reviewer - assuming they have posted under their real name (in the case above they will struggle to identify the reviewer!) - in order to ask them to correct their star rating, which will have impacted their overall Google score, again unnecessary with moderation.

The bottom line

Our moderation process applies to every single review written to a client business's website, whether rating the business 5* or 1* or somewhere in between, and addresses everything from incorrect use of English through factually inaccurate or potentially misleading wording to reviews written by people who have not used the business under review - fake reviews or reviews by competitors, for two examples. With a moderated review management system your business can relax in the knowledge that it will no longer need to watch your reviews every second of the day in case an unfair negative appears. 

This link: 'Write a review' performs two functions, it allows anyone to write a review whenever they wish which ensures the review goes through HelpHound moderation (with all the attendant benefits for both business and reviewer) and it means the business is fully complaint with the CMA's regulations (the law)

The business can also be confident in being proactive in inviting reviews from customers through whatever channel may seem most appropriate, the obvious ones being inviting reviews by emailing customers direct with the appropriate links and the passive invitation that will be embedded into your website (see screenshot above).

And some real-world results? See here.