Friday 29 April 2016

Estate Agency clients - ensure you are up-to-date with our thinking

If you joined even a year ago - and certainly if you have been a member for longer - there will be some aspects of our thinking that have moved on. This article is designed as a checklist so you can be sure you are making the very best of Dialogue.


We never lose sight of the prime purpose of Dialogue: to drive business your way. With this in mind we speak to clients frequently to understand exactly how Dialogue is working for them. The following are almost all lessons learned by your fellow clients and relayed to us. 

First and foremost, understand the journey your potential client is making. It's covered in detail here, but its essence is simple:

"Looking great on Google drives them to your website, looking great on your own site drives them through your door."

If you read no further, and that is the only message you take away from this article, then we've achieved three-quarters of our objective.
Now: on to more detail...

  • Visibility: make your reviews as visible as possible - because they can only drive business if they are seen. Front and centre of your home page. If you bury them behind a tab or on a separate page they lose their impact. 

  • Add impact by describing why you adopted HelpHound: potential clients love openness and often mention how surprised - and then reassured - they are that our clients are so confident 
  • Test: test positioning. Place a module on the pages of your website that gets the most visits after your home page.

  • Feed reviews to the Portals: everyone knows that potential clients check out agencies on the main portals - so display your reviews there.

  • Display your reviews: Creative use of your reviews in your window display, your advertising and all your marketing literature attracts attention.
  • Always respond to reviews: wherever they are; on your Dialogue module or on Google. It takes a matter of minutes and it sends a very strong message: that you care. It is also certain that those tempted to post exaggerated negative comments are given pause if they see that you will respond.

Speak to us. Karen and her team are here for you, please use them.

Thursday 28 April 2016

What have Online Travel Agents got to hide?

This is from the parliamentary website:

 The newspapers took a less charitable view:

Quite a lot - according to the House of Lords. Accusations cover a wide range:
  • artificially inflating prices by denying the hotels the right to undercut their (the OTA's) quoted prices - rate parity clauses
  • using their financial firepower to dominate Google PPC - resulting in individual hotels being unable to afford to compete for their own names in search
  • using cookies to harvest price sensitive information about travelers in order to up-price offers
  • giving preference in search to hotels who pay the OTA the most commission
  • not committing significant resources in the battle to eliminate fake reviews
  • using misleading advertising to give the impression that the consumer would be financially better off booking through the OTA
The only thing that puzzles us at HelpHound about this sorry state of affairs is that the solution has been right there in the hands of the hospitality industry for years now. And it's so simple:
  1. Look great on Google and TripAdvisor: get great reviews there and have a mechanism for managing comments from less than thrilled guests direct - and offline
  2. Look great on your own websites: what does your prospective guests want to see there? Loads of high resolution images, lots more independently verified reviews and a 'best price promise'.
So let's look at an example: 

Why would this hotel be satisfied with ranking at 385 in London when, virtually at the flick of a switch, they could increase their positive guest reviews by at least a quarter and reduce the negatives by three-quarters?

Why would they allow their Google score to dwindle to within 0.2 of being filtered from mobile search?

And where are the reviews that their potential guests crave? And their price promise?

We have chosen the Cranley precisely because they are representative of good hotels in London. We are just surprised that these good hotels are content to leave their reputations in the hands of the OTAs when they so evidently do not reflect the guest experience and must be doing harm to the hotel.

The solution:

The hotel - and every other hotel - needs to engage with proactive and professional review management:
  • to minimise the amount of inaccurate and misleading negative reviews that are published about them - anywhere in the web
  • to give their guests an easy channel to enable them to write reviews - on the hotel's own website and to external sites that matter: Google, TripAdvisor and the rest
In a word; Dialogue™!

Tuesday 26 April 2016

"Leave reviews to Google"?

This was said recently by a web designer to a client - the question mark is ours.

We thought we ought to address this misconception. Here is our answer.

In an ideal world:
  • happy customers would write lots of great reviews to Google
  • Unhappy customers would contact the business to give them a chance to correct errors of fact before they posted any reviews to Google
  • All great businesses would look great on Google
  • There would be no inaccurate or misleading reviews on Google*
  • Less than great businesses would look just that
*The asterisk is important: there are those who would argue that the business may correct errors of fact in their response to the review on Google. This is correct; but the response does not negate the negative impact of the 1, 2 or 3* review on the business's Google score. We all use a business's Google score, consciously or unconsciously, as a shorthand way of eliminating businesses we don't want to engage with - a business's score dropping from 4.5 to 4.4 will alienate some customers. A business's score dropping below 4.0 will eliminate significant numbers. Not a big deal for a business with hundreds of reviews, but potentially harmful for SMEs with fewer reviews.

Their is often another misconception voiced alongside this misunderstanding of the interaction between the world of reviews and businesses: that any mechanism that gets in the way of a review being posted is inherently unhelpful. Experience has taught us that this is not the case. Resolution™ was not designed so businesses could bury negative reviews, it was designed so businesses could make sure that the very minimum of unfair or misleading - and therefore unhelpful for potential customers - reviews were posted. Remember:
  • We will always invite the reviewer to post a review at the end of the Resolution process; it is entirely up to them if they choose to do so
  • We invite - automatically - every reviewer who posts to our clients' Dialogue module to copy their review to Google

 This, of itself, does not prevent unfair, incorrect or misleading reviews being posted to Google - or anywhere else. What it does do is:
  • eliminate fake negative reviews: yes, we know it's illegal to post fake reviews, but just ask any hotelier whether they suspect that some of their negative reviews have been posted by competitors or disgruntled ex-staff. No fake negative review will make it through Resolution - if either we or the business suspect any aspect of the review to be malicious we will contact the reviewer for extra verification.
  • eliminate fake positive reviews: we know for certain - we keep an ever expanding file of evidence - that certain businesses encourage their staff, their staff's friends and others connected with the business to write reviews, contrary to Google - or any other respectable review website's - T&Cs. At HelpHound we are fully aware that our own reputation depends upon us being able to stand behind our client company's reviews, so we have a two strikes rule if we suspect that a positive review has been posted by a connection of the business's. First occurrence: a final warning; second occurrence: termination of the business's contract with HelpHound. While it is technically possible to write a positive 'fake' review to Dialogue, our moderators have years of experience and finely honed instincts (it's another reason for human - rather than software - moderation).
The third issue we should address is the 'real world' one:
  • if you, on behalf of your business, 'leave reviews to Google' and your competitors do not, you run the certain risk of looking poor by comparison - in every Google search

In summary:

Now, in 2016, engaging with reviews in general, and Google reviews in particular, is a must for any business. For those who do not run a significant risk of falling behind in a never-ending marathon where, once they have fallen behind, they will struggle to catch up. As our recent article said, if you haven't already: 'Just do it'.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Just do it!

This article is written for:
  • those considering adopting Dialogue™
  • new clients 
  • existing clients - in case they need a refresher
Here we aim to address all the main questions we are asked about adopting Dialogue and then getting it working to its very best effect.

We understand that review management is a relatively new discipline for almost all our clients, even if you have been deeply involved with the likes of Google, Yelp or TripAdvisor in the past, so please read on.

First: What is HelpHound?

We are professional review managers. We enable our clients, whatever their business or service, to do two things:
  • display independently verified reviews on their own websites
  • get a proportion of those reviews copied across to Google - or any other open site that matters     
...all designed to drive more business to and through your own website. We provide detailed tailored professional advice on all matters relating to reviews, including:
  • appealing negative reviews
  • responding to reviews - both positive and negative
  • making the most of reviews in your marketing and public relations   

What is HelpHound not? 

HelpHound is not a review website. We used to be back in the day – but we took what we learned – foremost amongst which was that independent review sites were not what businesses needed in the long term – and put it into This means that we have no bias for or against any external site – if appearing on one is the best advice for our client, that is the advice we will give.

And we are definitely not what has increasingly become known as ‘reputation management’: the dark art of burying bad news by flooding the web with spurious information. If you have bad customer relations, please mend them before contacting us. If, on the other hand, you work hard at doing your very best for your customers, we will make sure the world – and the web – know that.

Now - your questions answered:

Note: for simplicity's sake we have illustrated this article with examples from our estate agent clients, but the basic message - just do it! - applies to all businesses. 

Will we get great reviews?

  Here is a recent client - already they look great on both Google and their own website

Yes: if your are a great business - just do it! If you are aware of weaknesses in your CRM, address them and then call us.

Will we get any negative reviews?

Yes (no business is perfect): but if you are a great business almost all your reviews will be positive. Resolution enables you to make sure that unfair, misleading or or inaccurate reviews can be corrected before publication. Just do it!

Can we reply to reviews?

Yes - on Dialogue and on Google (see below); in fact we will prompt you to do so. Just do it!

Will we get great reviews to Google?

 Our clients consistently report that having reviews like this drives traffic to their websites

Yes: some of our clients get as many as half the reviews posted to their websites onto Google. Just do it!

Will reviews - on Google - drive business?

 Everyone who ever searches for this business - whether they be an existing or potential customer -  sees this. With 134 reviews and a score of 4.9, how could they fail to be favourably impressed? The three rich snippets add further weight to the message.

Yes: but the way they will do it is important to understand: in the majority of cases looking great on Google will drive traffic to your website; it's the great reviews there that will drive business. Just do it!

So: will having great reviews - on our own website - drive business?

 All the evidence shows that it is hosting verified reviews like this on your website that drives new business

Yes: Customer opinions always rank a close second to personal recommendations in the eyes of consumers. Hosting them on your website supports all of your marketing efforts. Just do it!

Is independent verification important?

Yes: without verification by an external body your reviews revert to the status of testimonials. If your customers' opinions are going to carry weight they must be independently verified. Just do it!

Why don't you advise us to use independent review sites? 

We do - and we have in the past - when we consider that to be the best advice. At the moment - and for the foreseeable future - Google dominates, so that's where we focus the majority of our - and your - efforts. Just do it! 

How do we make sure to get a consistent flow of reviews?

Warn your customer - from first contact - that they will be expected to write a review (and copy it to Google). Then email them asking for their review. Follow the email with an immediate phone call to reinforce the message that the review - and copying it to Google - is important to you. Just do it!

Do people resent being asked?

No: on the contrary: most people are flattered - and those that are more hard-headed completely understand why you need reviews in 2016. Just do it!

Do people copy their review to Google?

Yes. Nearly 17 million people in the UK can now write a Google review at the click of a button (without having  to register). On top of that our most successful clients have nearly half their Google reviews written by customers who had to sign up first. Just do it!

Will reviews help us appear in the Google 3-pack?

 Looking this good in the 3-pack must help!

Dialogue is not about SEO, but it's astonishing just how many of our clients do appear in the 3-pack within a year of joining. Just do it!

When will Google introduce their filter for businesses outside the hospitality industry?

We cannot tell (and Google is very unlikely to warn anyone before they do - just as they did not before launching the filter on 1 January this year). Our advice is to establish a rock-solid Google score of as near to the maximum (5.0) as you - and we - can, so, in the event that the filter is introduced for your type of business, you are not filtered out of search. Just do it!

When will Google introduce ranking in local search?

That is the $64,000 question. It is inevitable: which of us, as consumers, would not prefer search results that returned the best - in the opinion of their customers - businesses? Google are fully aware of this, so ranking must come. And one of our main jobs is to make sure that all our clients are fully prepared when it does. Just do it!

We already have great reviews on Google - do we need Dialogue?

This agency has just joined - they fully understood the value of having independently verified reviews on their own website

Yes. For two reasons: having independently verified reviews on your own website will drive business; second: Resolution will make sure no inaccurate or misleading reviews are posted to Google. If your staff are already used to getting reviews to Google, adopting Dialogue should be second-nature for them. Just do it!

We already have great reviews on an independent review site - do we need Dialogue?

We cannot repeat this enough: your customers are looking at Google and your own site. That's where your reviews need to be. Just do it!

Do we need reviews on all our branches? 

If you provide a service, the answer is generally 'yes'. Your potential client wants to know how good the personnel in your estate agency/osteopath/insurance brokerage in their location are. Even if your business is product based - your sell photographic equipment, for instance - your potential customers will want to know if you provide great service and advice in the location they are using. Just do it!

Can the design of your module be tailored?

Yes. As long as our logo and the words 'verified by HelpHound' are retained. Just do it! 
Can the questions we ask be tailored?

Yes. The only constant is 'Overall Opinion' - for obvious reasons. After that the questions are up to you. If you want to ask "Do you like our new shop design?" for a period, that's fine by us. Just do it!

Can HelpHound answer a question that's not included here?

Yes: call Karen Hutchings or Fiona Christie on 020 7100-2233 and they will answer it straight away. It will then be added to this article. Just do it!

And the last word? 

We will leave that to a recent client: