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'.

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