Tuesday 4 November 2014

Google reviews - a glimpse into the future

This article is about a new phenomenon: Google denial. If it takes root it will cause businesses considerable harm.

Google denial usually takes one of the following forms:
  • Google reviews do not matter (to our business)
The business has no (or less than five) Google reviews. So no star rating is showing. Therefore Google is not influencing your potential customers, so it does not matter.
  • Other review sites matter more (to our business)
There are some very influential review sites out there; Yelp, with nearly 200 million reviews; TripAdvisor and Booking.com dominant in hotels, FourSquare for restaurants. Smaller sites in niches for every business under the sun.

And currently your business may feature more (or only) on these sites.

The answer to both these 'denials' is:
  • Google matters - even if you currently have less than the five reviews that get you a star rating
  • Google matters more - because Google's reviews are the first your potential customer sees - always

Let us first look at a real life example (we've chosen 'estate agent' in 'Southampton', but this example applies across the board for any search on any type of business):

Today's result:

Three agents have reviews, four do not. None have sufficient reviews for the all-important star rating. The seven reviews break down as follows: 3 one star, one 2 star, one 4 star and two 5 star. An average of 2.7 stars. 

Here's what this search result will look like at some stage in the future:

First (and incontrovertibly): there will be more reviews; second: some businesses will have more than others, some none at all (for the moment); third: some businesses will look better than others. The point is that there will be a pattern emerging.

Then, further down the line:

All businesses will have reviews, some more than others, some better than others. How will not really matter (to Google or the consumer). What we do know for sure is that the businesses with lots of great reviews (and scores) will prosper and those with few reviews and poor scores (or no score at all) will suffer.

Review management will have a significant role to play, providing professional advice to businesses and in terms of the mechanics of ensuring a regular and steady flow of reviews that accurately reflect the levels of service provided by those businesses to their customers.

Delay will be costly, and not just in terms of lagging the competition: there is significant evidence available already that shows that once a pattern of reviews is set (both positive and negative) subsequent reviews tend to conform to that pattern. If the initial pattern is negative (deserved or not) that pattern will work against the business.

The message must be: don't delay. Don't leave the first (and often only) impression created in the mind of your potential customer to chance. Engage with review management today.

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