Monday 31 August 2015

Hot News! Google move into 'Home Services' - where next?

 Read the full WSJ article here

Are you ready? On Friday Google launched its 'Pre-screened' service in San Francisco. This is what it looks like in search:

And this is what the click-through looks like: 

So - we picked the highest rated plumber - what do you think everyone else will do?

To qualify, the business must agree to have its staff checked out by Pinkerton, but the most obvious qualification most people will be looking for (and at) will be the business's reviews.

Where next?

It has to be 'high value' businesses and services - outside the home. Even if only so Google's sales people have high-value sales targets. Financial advisers, lawyers, medical practitioners, estate agents, wealth managers, recruitment consultants.

Your strategy?

When Google roll this out, both geographically and by business sector, you must be prepared. Carry out a complete audit of your CPC strategy (do you think people will continue to respond to Ads when they have Eric Brand's smiling face and his great reviews front-and-centre in every search?). Get Dialogue motoring to ensure that you have great reviews to show in time for Google to introduce this for your business sector.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Google: one more GIANT step towards ranking your business

To borrow - and then mangle - a line from the Fab Four: 'Will they still need [our business] when we're [ranked at No 7 in our area]?'

This week Google imported its mobile display functionality into desktop; a search (on a desktop computer) that last week looked like this:

Now looks like this:


to appear 'above the fold' in a Google local search like this your business must either appear in the 3-pack or pay for CPC. Currently Google include businesses in the 3-pack based on SEO criteria. This will change to 'popularity' (the business's review score - just like TripAdvisor) as soon as Google have enough raw data (reviews).
With the full results - including reviews - just a click away:


What would encourage a click-through to the business's website - a great review score maybe?

So let's go back-to-basics and ask ourselves what we (as consumers) would like Google to do for us in an ideal world:
  1. Return accurate and relevant results: not just any old plumber, but a plumber who is close-by and great at their job
  2. Tailor those results to our personal tastes, needs and wants: love fish, hate meat
  3. Tell us which of the businesses returned is best-suited to our requirements: a vegetarian plumber? No, but seriously: the best plumber and the best seafood restaurant 
Now let's look at how important reviews are for both Google and the business in serving us those results:

Returning accurate and relevant results

Google monitors all our activity on the web - mostly in a good way! Especially if we allow them access to a) our location and b) our search history. They will give us a list of plumbers nearby and will serve the opinions of other G+ members, as an overall score and with individual reviews (but only if the business has them):

  Google know that most of us will choose the plumber with the star rating
Tailoring them to our personal tastes and needs

It can then serve relevant results (the most obvious being 'local'). Google is trying hard to learn about all our various online habits (shopping/viewing and so on) so it can personalise our search results. An obvious example: if we consistently use the search term 'vegetarian' Google may assume that it's safe to give vegetarian restaurants preference in our search. But most of the time we just want to see THE BEST!

  At the moment Google is showing us the businesses with the best SEO, soon it will be showing those with the best scores

Recommending the best

The next step is so obvious as to have been overlooked by most businesses: ask anyone 'Do you want to see...'
  • Ads first?
  • A random list?
  • The best at the top?
And you'll get the same answer ninety-nine times out of a hundred (OK, we know reviews are 'the subjective opinions of...' but they are far-and-away better than the alternatives: a random list or the richest business): it's THE BEST!

So what are Google bound to do?

It must now be a matter of months before Google begin to rank businesses (they have all the tools already). Whether that is one month or eighteen months we don't know (and maybe Google don't either - yet) but that is besides the point. The point is this:
  • Businesses with no reviews will be ranked at the bottom*
  • Businesses with bad reviews will be ranked low*
  • Businesses with great reviews will be ranked at the top

So - let's ask the question we started with again: 'Do you want your business to be ranked at No 7?'

If the answer is 'No' - call us NOW! 

* Important update: in January 2016 Google introduced their review filter, initially in mobile and for hotels and restaurants, other businesses are sure to follow. For full details read this.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Think no-one is looking at you (in a good way!)? Think again

We sometimes meet businesses who are unaware just how many people are looking at them online (and in how many ways). They have all the metrics for their website, but they are only a small part of the story. Let's take a look at an example:

This estate agency is a single office, part of a large national group: they know the number of visits to their own website (it runs into multiple hundreds of individual visits a month - and they're demonstrably not all other agents or idle browsers: these days that kind get all the information they need from a portal):

This information - and the number of views - is on every business's G+ page

But they were more surprised by just how many people were seeing the information Google was harvesting from their G+ page and showing in any relevant searches ('estate agent in [location]' etc.) and then looking at their own webpages:

This played a big part in their decision to adopt Dialogue™. It was crucial to them that they presented the best possible impression on both their own site and on Google

Tuesday 4 August 2015

HelpHound: your route to great reviews, always!

It is the question on the lips of every business that takes reviews seriously: how do we consistently get great reviews to the right place (when that 'right place' may change in future/have changed since we last focused on reviews)?

To arrive at the right answer we first have to define 'right place':
  • For every business the first 'right place' is their own website; partly because that's where their potential customers go to finally decide before they make their initial contact, partly because they want at least some form of control over what is being said about them on the web. This latter - control - is for all the right reasons. Few businesses would deny a customer the right to make a fair comment about them (indeed, if they tried, the customer would soon find somewhere to comment) but they do want to make sure they a) can correct errors of fact and b) have a chance to put things right before their reputation is irreparably harmed
  • The second 'right place' is where their potential customer is most likely to find them in search. This may be to Google (in the form of Google Reviews) or it may be through Google on an independent review website like TripAdvisor, Yelp or one of the thousands of small review sites that occasionally do really well with their SEO
 Now we understand the 'where' we must look at the 'how':
  1. Reviews to your own website: need to be harvested through an independent agency (like HelpHound!) so you can demonstrate that they are real opinions from real customers (otherwise they will simply be viewed as testimonials, better than nothing at all but not reviews)
  2. Reviews to the wider web: will then be invited from those who have written reviews on your own website
The two paragraphs above are numbered for a very good reason: to be effective, those two actions must be done in that order. If done the other way round (to the review website and then to your website, through whatever mechanism) you lose control over the crucial aspect of the whole process: the ability to correct and resolve negative posts pre-publication. You also needlessly donate your customer's very valuable reviews to that website - for ever.

That last point - giving your customer's reviews away - has to be done with extreme consideration. Let us explain by showing you an example:

A website - let's call it 'A' - is currently doing really well in Google search. It shows up every time one of your potential customers searches for 'your kind of business' in 'your area'. An obvious current example is TripAdvisor for 'hotel' in 'any area'. So you ask your customers to leave reviews there.

Two things then happen:
  • some of your customers leave less than completely complimentary comments, and
  • you begin to rely very heavily on that website for new business
At HelpHound the first point is dealt with by Resolution™. Do read this post to thoroughly reassure yourself that your business will reap the benefits of actively engaging with your less-than-happy customers.

Suppose that website 'A' then begins to suffer in Google search, so you want your reviews to show somewhere that's doing better. You have to start all over again and get customers to post to website 'B'! From scratch.
With HelpHound, you have invited the reviews to your website - they are your reviews - we just add credibility in the eyes of your potential customer (and Resolution™). If you want those reviews posted to another site it is simply a case of emailing your customers and, hey presto, you have great reviews there.

Our role

Once we have enabled you to get those great reviews to your website we focus on advising you where they would best be copied (by your customers) to achieve maximum impact. 

For many (if not most) of our clients, the answer to that is currently 'Google'. In the past it might have been any number of sites or just one specialist site and one day it may be again (But there is a very good reason independent review sites' shares have been under extreme pressure lately - read this). If it is, rest assured that our loyalty is to you, and we will advise you accordingly.