Sunday 29 June 2014

Search engine evolution - does it spell the deathknell for independent review sites?

We all know the old adage "If it does not appear in page 1 of search it might as well not appear at all."

Independent review sites, whatever their nature, depend for their influence on their position in any given Google search. If they don't feature on page 1 of a Google search, then their influence over our buying habits wanes fast.

Let's see what we mean in practice:

The search term "Hotel [in] Kensington" - in 2013 returned the following result:

Today* there is no return at all for TripAdvisor 'above the fold': 

With Google Hotelfinder and Google Places reviews prominent:

And the first return for TripAdvisor down here after the 'Magic 7'...

So what does this mean for our clients?

We are not suggesting that you completely refocus all your efforts away form TripAdvisor to Google today, TripAdvisor is still consulted by a massive proportion of travellers, and old habits die hard. But do remember Bebo - at it's height it was by far the largest social network (10.7 million users in the UK alone) but was killed off by the arrival of Facebook. Dominant today does not guarantee dominance tomorrow.

Web users are notoriously fickle, and when searching the overwhelming majority will pursue the first relevant result served to them by Google, whatever its origin.

Our advice

Clients with few Google reviews should speak to us. We will help you plan a strategy to get reviews to Google without diverting them away from TripAdvisor, for the timebeing.

*Remember that Google returns search results depending on your own individual search history, so search results will not be uniform for everyone.

Friday 27 June 2014

Dialogue™ for the medical profession

More than ever before the medical and caring professions have to address the concept of reviews

First let's examine the current state of the reviews and the medical profession...

Specialist sites

If a business or service exists you can be sure that there will be review sites specifically targeting it, it's the nature of the web. Here are some examples:

From NHS Choices
From IWantGreatCare

General sites

A 'general' review site is one where anyone can comment on any type of business or service, from accountants to zoos. here's an example of a review on Yelp, the big daddy of them all...

Yelpers don't pull their punches!


Everyone wants reviews: patients commonly search the web for them; they want to know what the existing patients of a given practice or practitioner think. In today's competitive environment practitioners welcome honest feedback as a way of attracting new patients, and, just as importantly, a way of gaining valuable insight.


Not all reviews are written with the best of intentions: some are written maliciously (some have even been known to be posted by competitors)! Much more commonly, misguided (and potentially damaging) opinions are posted about complex medical issues without the practitioner being able to engage with the patient beforehand.

Is this really representative of the practice?


With reviews of hotels or restaurants the simple 'right-of-reply' which is incorporated into most review sites may be all that is needed to correct misconceptions. This is not enough for medical issues: they are far too important, for the patient in question and for the potential patient reading the review. There has to be a better way...

There is. All reviews at HelpHound are moderated (read by trained professional moderators) in a process we call Resolution ™, and any reviews that contain issues which should be addressed by the practitioner are first forwarded to that practitioner for response. 

People actively engage with this process and both parties find it rewarding, to the extent that over 99% of reviews that are written and subject to Resolution result in no final review being published. 


It's every medical practitioner's nightmare - more paperwork, more complex technology. How to keep track of the 47 sites where a patient might comment? The answer is simple: you don't have to. 

Invite all your patients to write a simple review, direct to your practice, once a year and/or whenever they feel the need...

What your patients' reviews will look like on your website - a mock-up with thanks to Abingdon Medical Practice

HelpHound will moderate them and we will publish them on your own website; we will also invite your patients to post their reviews to Google so you don't look like these GPs when future patients search:

Your prospective patients are looking for reviews - here (on Google) and on your own website, but only one patient has posted one review on one of these practices. What a lost opportunity to benefit for everyone concerned, practice and patients alike

To summarise

Dialogue brings you and your patients all the benefits of reviews and none of the drawbacks: it can only be good for you both.

  • Great feedback, easily analysed 
  • Positive comments to show to prospective patients
  • Negative issues managed in private, benefiting both parties equally

Please contact Karen Hutchings (karen.hutchings@helphound) for more details.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Estate Agents: Google 'Denial' is not an option

It is so simple that it has been overlooked by the majority of estate agents. What is it? It's the impact your Google star rating will have once you have the first five qualifying reviews.

Let's look at a real-life example: this agent currently has four reviews and so no star rating...

Just one more review, and their listing could be well on the way to looking something very like this:

Helpful? We don't think so. 

So what strategy to adopt? Get Dialogue on board and get your staff focussed on driving your reviews to Google - now, before your Google star rating bites back.

A P.S. for those as yet unconvinced....

...You have no preconceptions about the local agents; which one gets your first call? And (maybe even more importantly) if you end up with an average showing less than 4 full stars: which one doesn't get a call at all?

Monday 23 June 2014

Cornell University and ReviewPro - essential viewing for every hospitality professional

A huge vote of thanks to Cornell School of Hospitality and ReviewPro for this study. For those who have an hour to spare we seriously recommend watching the whole presentation; here we present some of the key findings and overlay some of our own conclusions...

Online reputation and RevPAR

This study conclusively proves what we have always contended: that the two are inextricably linked:
  • If you can positively impact your online reputation (your TripAdvisor ranking and your score) your RevPAR will rise
  • This applies equally to volume (occupancy) and rates. Until now businesses where occupancy was not an issue were sceptical about how scores impact on rates - no longer!

ReviewPro/Revinate and Dialogue 

Services like those provided by ReviewPro are invaluable for identifying and internally addressing the areas being criticised by guests. Acting on the detailed feedback these services provide will enhance the guest experience and is bound to feed through into more positive reviews.

Combine this with Dialogue and you will turbocharge the results: ReviewPro impacting on your ability to focus on improving the guest experience and Dialogue translating that into more positive reviews (by 20%+) and fewer negative reviews (by as much as 75%) and you will see the difference impact on RevPAR - dramatically.

Here are just two screenshots from the presentation:

Occupancy and Rates


Showing that online reputation up = RevPAR up - and, interestingly more for 3 and 4 star hotels than their 5 star bretheren (the result for 2 star hotels was even more marked: at 1.9). Just a 1% increase in your TripAdvisor ranking (from 200 to 198 etc.) leading to a 1% increase in RevPAR

For further interpretation and advice please contact Karen (

Friday 20 June 2014

Responding to reviews - Feedback Manager helps with morale

We were speaking to a client the other day and they highlighted aspects of Feedback Manager that we haven't really broadcast, here's a synopsis of what they said...

  1. We were not employed (in hospitality) for our excellent written English. Knowing that your moderators will write great English every time is greatly reassuring
  2. We knew we should be replying to all our reviews on TripAdvisor, but sometimes there just did not seem to be enough hours in the day; knowing that they are replied to properly and professionally, day-in, day-out, enables us to rest easy and concentrate on providing a great guest experience
  3. We can now use reviews positively to drive best practice throughout the hotel, rather than being upset by the negatives and going into a form of denial about the issues raised in them: it's so much easier to read reviews objectively once they have been responded to by HelpHound
  4. We had our doubts when you promised you would consult us about issues raised by guests so your responses would be accurate, but you do and they are

All in all, the hotel is saying that the job we are doing is as good as, if not better than, the job they would have done themselves if they had the time. They are also saying that their morale is improved as a result.

If you don't currently have Feedback Manager and would like a no-obligation trial just email Karen Hutchings -

Tuesday 17 June 2014

How important is Google for estate agents?

These are the comments made on a recent article in Property Industry Eye (click for full article):

Hotels - Blog summary - June 2014

We've been blogging for over four years now, and in that time we have written over 270 articles. To help everybody, every six months we post a list of 'must reads'. This is designed to help existing and prospective clients keep abreast of review management in general and developments with Dialogue in particular. 

  1. Our hotel clients - success with TripAdvisor: and update on what we know will influence your ranking
  2. Reviews - the future for Hotels: Google is coming, and will slowly but surely begin to dominate the market currently occupied by TripAdvisor and the OTAs (unless they find more ways to add value)
  3. What happened when a client suspended Dialogue: a 43% drop in positive reviews; more proof that Dialogue really works
  4. Dialogue working unseen: Dialogue working without even being shown on the hotel's website; an instance where ranking was much more important than occupancy
  5. Our elevator pitch - updated for 2014
  6. And finally: for new clients: What to expect when you join

For much more, select 'keyhotels' in the word cloud in the column on the right (you might even like to bookmark it) and make sure that you are subscribed for new blog posts (top right, just under 'contact us' and 'search this blog').

Estate agents - Blog summary - 2014

We've been blogging for over four years now, and in that time we have written over 300 articles. To help everybody here we post a list of 'must reads'. This is designed to help existing and prospective clients keep abreast of review management in general and developments with Dialogue in particular. 
  • Do you remember Bebo? How dominant Google has become where reviews are concerned, and how other review sites are set to decline


  • Reviews - the future - we all have to keep looking ahead, and this post highlights what we think will happen in the next 1-3 years - the major impact on review management will be the increasing dominance of Google, making small sites increasingly less influential 

  • Credibility - a Cornerstone of Dialogue - one of the major reasons Dialogue is able to drive business is that your prospective clients know the reviews are written by real clients with any editing or selection by you. This Q&A answers all their (and your) questions about that credibility

  • Everyone loves a Case History - and here's the story of just one client's first year with Dialogue
  • Stop using Testimonials - Now! Not our original thinking, but a repeat of a blog post by respected US web analyst Dave Linabury 

If you find that there is a little repetition, we make no apology (especially in the case of Google) for review management is increasingly forming a key plank of every serious business's marketing strategy, and repeating some of the essential points that all businesses must address is, as we see it, simply part of our responsibility to our clients.

Our hotel clients - and their success with TripAdvisor

At HelpHound we are taking 'best practice' and adding value. So what do we mean by 'best practice'? 

Best Practice

Let's set out what we know is working for the best ranked hotels on TripAdvisor:
  1. They run a good hotel (not necessarily a great hotel)
  2. They have a very tight focus on review management
  3. They actively invite their guests to post reviews
Now let's examine each of these in more detail:

They run a good hotel (not necessarily a great hotel)

Your hotel's not going to rank well in your city or area unless it's delivering guest satisfaction, but if it is and it is not ranking in the top 5% you can be sure that there's plenty of room for improvement.

They have a very tight focus on Review Management

We are constantly asked "What is review management?" and our answer is simple: "If you have to ask you are not doing it."

In its broadest sense it is an awareness throughout the hotel's staff, from doorman to GM, that each and every guest is a potential reviewer. After that it is having recognised procedures in place to ensure that:
  • happy guests write reviews
  • unhappy guests bring their concern to the hotel and don't write reviews

They actively invite their guests to post reviews

They don't leave it to chance, it is considered part of every guest-facing member of staff's job to identify potential reviewers and encourage them to post. They go much further than simply handing departing guests a leaflet. We know this partly because we know the hotels in question and partly because we can tell from the ratio of rooms to reviews.

Rooms to reviews?

We monitor this statistic very carefully: take the number of reviews you have had in the past month and divide it by the number off rooms in your hotel you will achieve a figure; if it's less than 1 review for every 7 rooms (e.g. If you have 100 rooms and you have less than 14 reviews) you need to address review management (London's top ranked hotel, for instance, achieves a review per month for every 3.8 rooms).

Now - overlay HelpHound's Dialogue:

Take the number of positive reviews you receive and increase that number by 27%.

Take the number of negative reviews you receive and reduce them by 76%...

This is taken from a previous post - see it in full here

The result will always be better with Dialogue, and we guarantee that, but how much better will be determined by how much you and your staff engage with the other aspects of review management.

And please use us: we are professional review managers with over seven years of experience and we pride ourselves that we can add tremendous value for our clients, you only have to ask.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Understanding TripAdvisor - again

It's so important: understanding as much as we all can about how TripAdvisor make up those all-important rankings. So at great personal hardship one of our researchers paid a visit to two establishments in Spain. 

Ranked at number 1 and 2 in their area, here are the raw TA statistics for both hotels:

Hotel 'A'                                                                                       Hotel 'B'

Which, do you suppose, is which? Well here are some more statistics before you decide:

Price per room: Hotel 'A': 90, Hotel 'B' : 240. Difference in facilities: both have great staff and a lovely pool, rooms at hotel 'A' are slightly more luxurious, Hotel 'A' has air-conditioning, Hotel 'B' has portable units (which were not needed in temperatures in the 90s). Both offered excellent breakfasts and three-course dinners. Both were in very similar locations.

So which was which? Hotel 'A' is the one with 80 reviews, hotel 'B' is the one with 310 reviews. 

There's just one more similarity: one has 8 rooms, the other 11. 

So what makes Hotel 'B' TripAdvisor's choice for Number 1 in its area? It has to be 'volume of reviews' - for what else could possibly indicate that Hotel A is less worthy of the number one spot (they have NO 3, 2 or 1 star reviews). It's a puzzle to both hoteliers (and to all of us as well).

As ever, we'd be delighted if someone at TripAdvisor would like to post a comment to enlighten us.