Monday 29 September 2014

It's all about the future - winning the 'Reviews Race'

Businesses rightly plan for the future, and expect us to do so for their review management. This, of course, involves constantly re-evaluating the educated guesses we make on your behalf - and publishing them here!

So here goes for 2015 and onwards... 

Reviews are here to stay - for all businesses

Not just for hotels and restaurants, but for everyone from accountants to zoologists. Just because some businesses don't currently have a lot of Google reviews doesn't mean they will be immune in future, and businesses that start planning now will win the 'reviews race'.

To state the obvious:
  • If you have no Google reviews now, you almost certainly will have at least one by this time next year
  • That review, thanks to human nature, is almost 20 (yes, twenty) times more likely to be negative
  • If a competitor has not yet engaged with Google My Business to get positive reviews there, how long will they wait?
  • If a competitor successfully gains traction with Google reviews, what impact will that have on your business?
  • If Google begin to rank businesses in local search, where do you want to rank?

Just a tiny sample of the buttons seen on US websites - come on UK, we can do it!

Google will dominate - more and more

Ignore the changes made to 'Google My Business' at your peril. They already own the point-of-entry for all your prospective customers, and Google My Business has made them far more dominant (read this for more specific information).

Here are two specimen searches:

Currently TripAdvisor has far more reviews (over 2000) of the Kensington Holiday Inn, but maybe 46 is enough to decide you one way or another? How long before all but a loyal hard core don't bother with TripAdvisor?


Would you rather be Martin & Co? White Walls? Or are you currently looking like Oliver James? Remember that just five reviews gets you a star rating

Yelp will gain in the short term but suffer long-term 

Yelp has one major thing going for it - size (and size=money, at least for the present). But will that be enough? Not unless they address the flaws in their business model that are currently alienating big business. 

Yelp needs to confront two major issues: its filtering system (which currently appears to many of their prospective customers to 'park' perfectly legitimate reviews) and its advertising model, which sells preferential treatment to those who pay (not exactly at the top of most consumers' criteria for a great review site).

The same for TripAdvisor and the other independent review sites 

TripAdvisor (and every other review site) is already suffering by coming second (at best) to Google reviews. That was fine when there were no (or few) reviews (and they were mostly of hotels, restaurants and bars), but not any more. Consumers read the first reviews that are shown to them: Google reviews are always served first.

Google reviews also have the added advantage of credibility: they are much less likely to be fakes (negatives written by disgruntled ex-staff, competitors or positives written by employees or agents of the business). 

Is this necessarily a bad thing? 

No. For one: it simplifies life for businesses. They only have to focus on Google (getting positives posted, diverting negatives). 

This - from a doctor in the USA - a little clunky, but better than doing nothing at all

It's great for consumers. They don't have to think 'I need reviews of accountants, now what was the name of that site?' they can just go to Google for all the reviews of whatever business they need.

It could be viewed as unfair. But only because it is uniformly unfair to all businesses: if you run a good business and engage with Google, you'll look good. If you don't engage, you won't. It's as simple as that. 

To summarise... 

  • Engage now and you'll look good
  • Engage now, with Dialogue, and you'll look great

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