Friday 29 July 2016

Fantastic news - your review scores now show in organic search!

Google now show your reviews in organic (some call it 'natural') search.

Here is what a typical client looks like now - on desktop:

 Your HelpHound review score will now show underneath the link to your website - driving even more traffic. Your Google reviews remain prominently displayed, along with three rich snippets, in the box to the right. Double the pulling power!

On mobile:

 Want to stand out in mobile search? - here's just one of the ways HelpHound helps you make the most of your reviews

HelpHound now tick all the boxes for your business:
  • great reviews on your own website
  • those review scores showing in Google search, right next to your business or branch listing
  • great reviews to Google - to show in the 3-pack and on maps/mobile
 If you have any questions please speak to Karen Hutchings or Fiona Christie.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Your business has the best of all worlds with HelpHound!

One of the generic review sites is currently targeting estate agents who focus on Google reviews. Some must be getting confused by the number of people chasing your clients' reviews - AllAgents, RateAgent, TrustPilot, Feefo, Google, Yelp, the list goes on.

This highlights one of the major benefits of HelpHound: that, as review managers - not a review website - we provide the best of both worlds for our clients. 

Look at what one of the specialist review sites is saying - and showing - in their current advertisement:

 We are perplexed about some of the things being said in this advertisement. Point by point:
  1. Google reviews show for every search on any business - for whatever kind of search: desktop/mobile/map
  2. Since Google introduced their filter Google reviews and scores are fundamental for appearing in search
  3. It is easy to get Google reviews - if you approach your clients in the right way - see an example of an agency that has over 700 Google reviews across seven branches here
  4. If an independent site is the right advice, HelpHound - as review managers - will recommend it. Read this for more on our current take on independent review sites

And look at what their client - the exact one they are using to illustrate the benefits of using their system - looks like in search:

 This is a screen grab from the advertisement. Their client scores 4.8 next to the paid-for Google Ad and 3.8 from 90 reviews on Google. Which reviews are their potential clients going to a) read and b) believe? And: do you really want to be constantly paying Google to ensure that your reviews show?

First: local search 'estate agents Reading'

 Again: Google reviews and those from the independent site. Whose will be read and trusted?

Then: specific (branch) search - 'Romans Market Place Reading'

 Businesses need to choose one credible source of reviews and concentrate on that, and in 2016 - and for the foreseeable future - that source must be Google. Showing conflicting sources - and conflicting scores - in search only confuses consumers - and confused consumers rightly ask questions like "Which should I believe?"

You don't have to choose!

Our clients don't have to choose between Google reviews and reviews in natural search - they can have both!


The sharper-eyed will have noticed that there are two HelpHound clients showing for this search - one - Winkworth - in the Google 3-pack and another - Greene & Co - in organic search.

Specific (branch): 

Lessons to be learned

  • Reviews are vital. As more and more businesses adopt some form of strategy to manage customer reviews those that succeed will reap the reward of looking great, both stand-alone and against their competitors: more business will follow
  • Flexibility is key. Today's top review site may not be tomorrow's. Remember AllAgents when they showed on page 1 of Google search? RaterAgent? 
  • You need to own your own reviews. Not give them away to a review site. When you own your reviews you can display them on your own site exactly as you wish, and you can then get them to any other site that matters - and currently that site is Google

...and an important P.S.

Feefo say... "To leave Google Plus reviews users also need to be logged in via Gmail* which limits the amount of reviews you can collect. 

Most savvy estate agents are aware of this fact and instead of putting effort into something which isn't producing results are turning to Feefo to dominate search engine results pages."

*not strictly accurate. You actually need a G+ account, or one of its subsets.

...inferring that it is hard to get Google reviews. Have a look at this single branch of Greene & Co:

In less than two years

And this branch of Winkworth: less than six months

Not if you are properly advised and supported, it's not!

Monday 11 July 2016

Great reviews - just how quickly does the news travel?

Reviews are worthless - well, very nearly - if no-one but the business reads them. So are they read?

If you write a review on TripAdvisor they will let you know. This review was written by a HelpHound staffer exactly a week ago:

 Today they received an email from TripAdvisor that contained this:

52 readers in a week - do you think that helped the restaurant? 

At HelpHound we operate a slightly different system. We allow readers to vote a review 'helpful' and then we publish the votes. Here's an example for an estate agent client:

  Click to expand

You can see the number of helpful votes at the bottom. And we reckon that a review has perhaps 10 readers per helpful vote. 

So we think we've answered our question - reviews are read and news does travel - quickly.

Credibility is all: How can a little button mean so much?

One of the most common mantras we hear when discussing reviews and review management is "How can we/our customers believe them?"

 From this simple button flows everything that is credible about HelpHound's Dialogue™

And of course the questioner is right; if there is any doubt, ever, over the veracity of your reviews then credibility whistles out of the window. 


The testimonial 

In all honesty, shouldn't this read 'What our happy clients say about us? And isn't honesty at the top of the list of every prospective customer's criteria when choosing a business?

We are all familiar with good old-fashioned testimonials, but whenever did your read a negative one? Being contrarian for a moment, this is almost justifiable: you wouldn't expect a business to publish defamatory comments about itself on its own website, and nor do most consumers. But that's why they now look for reviews instead!

The 'invitation only' review

Often dressed up as a way of ensuring that 'the reviewer is a genuine customer', this mechanism has flaws:
  • It is sent just once - commonly immediately post-purchase, and what readers end up with is either a glowing review: 'The shoes are fab' or a review of the delivery service: 'the shoes arrived the next day' or, more important - and damaging -  for the business: 'the shoes arrived late - I therefore rate them 1*' Wouldn't it be more sensible if the reviewer could leave a review at any time? Or even multiple reviews: 'They were fab when they arrived, but I wore them twice and they fell to pieces, so ignore my last review.'? Google have a great solution to this: you can edit your review at any time. HelpHound allows your customers to post as many reviews as they like, whenever they like.
  • Is it in your business's interests to restrict the invitation to just one point-of-contact - usually the person for whom you have an email address? How much better to allow: all the diners in the party/ both people who stayed the night in your hotel room/ people you spent hours showing round properties (and were impressed by the quality of your service) but did not buy/rent, to post a review?
This last example bears more scrutiny: why should your business welcome reviews from those who either did not pay the bill or were never customers in the first place?

The easy one first: those 'not paying the bill'. You don't need to be the person paying to have a perfectly valid right to comment on a business. We see many reviews from spouses, business partners, wedding guests and so on. All perfectly valid - and helpful for both the business and their prospective clients.

'Never customers': here are two - real-life - examples which, we hope, will make this point for us:
  1. The next-door-neighbour driven to distraction by their neighbours' behaviour; they wrote a review on our estate agent client's website (because they could). You may say, with some justification, that they should have contacted the agent direct, but the fact is that they didn't (and many other like them every day don't); they took up the agent's open invitation - that sits on their website 24/7 - to write a review. If they had not taken that option they may, just may, have resorted, as so many people now do, to writing a negative review on Google, about something that was not strictly speaking the business's fault, out of sheer frustration. As it was, that agent was able to reassure the reviewer that their concerns were being addressed. When our system invited the reviewer to post a final review, they declined. Why wouldn't they? Their concern had been addressed. A happy 'non-customer' and a business's reputation unharmed.
  2. A wedding guest at a hotel had a bad experience with a member of staff. Not wishing to disrupt the happy couple's day, they wrote a review the next day on the hotel's website. The hotel contacted HelpHound to say that they had no record of any guest by that name, and HelpHound reverted to the reviewer to check their bona-fides. The reviewer provided the name of the bride's parents and the review was responded to by the hotel, in private, with an apology. No final review was posted - to the hotel's website, to Google or to any other 'open' site (TripAdvisor, for instance). Another 'non-customer's' complaint managed effectively, and the hotel's reputation unsullied.
That second example is interesting: some would say 'Why allow the business to answer that review before it was published?' Our answer is that it is in everyone's interest that good businesses look good on the web. In our book a good business is defined as a business that addresses customer issues when they make mistakes (instead of ignoring them, as some do). If the hotel had fallen into that latter category then the reviewer would doubtless have asked for their review to be published. Our system - known as Resolution™ - is fair to everyone concerned: the customer gets their issue addressed, the business is not dmamaged by a negative review and the potential customer ends up dealing with a business that puts thing right when they go amiss.
But aren't 'open' sites vulnerable to fake reviews?

 Every business needs a solution to reviews - almost all recognise that 'not engaging with reviews' is no longer an option - but engaging through the wrong channel or in the wrong way can do irreparable harm to your business. That - providing the reassurance that you are engaging in the right way, is a big part of what we do here at HelpHound: we future-proof your review management

Correct. Let us mine down into those fake reviews:
  • The fake positive: posted by owners or staff - or, in some cases, agencies - of the business in question. Sometimes emotionally justified by the business as a response to what it sees as 'unfair' negatives: 'We were just trying to rescue our reputation - the review (the unfair negative) was harming our business.' If you doubt the harm just one of these reviews can do you should read this awful tale (with a happy ending thanks to HelpHound). In about 50% of the businesses we look at we are easily able to identify fake positive reviews. Part of our role is to advise clients how to have these deleted.
  • The fake negative: posted by competitors, disgruntled (ex-)members of staff or 'trolls' (the story in the link above was prompted by a trolling review - here is a definition of trolling). TripAdvisor themselves admit that a meaningful percentage of their reviews are suspect. Google's system is better - because they require reviews to be linked to  G+ account - but not infallible. Last spring we alerted Google to a troll who had posted over 16,000 ratings of businesses, mostly estate agents, worldwide. Almost all 1* (and, as a result, very damaging).
At HelpHound our system deals with fake negative reviews very simply: we require the reviewer to verify their use of the business concerned. No verification - no published review. If the business decides to game Dialogue then they will fall foul of our 'two strikes' rule: the first time they are warned, the second instance results in termination of membership. 

The 'no anonymous reviews' sites

 From Yelp: This kind of social media detail is not every customer's/reviewer's cup of tea. In our experience the overwhelming majority of consumers simply want to communicate their opinion and leave it at that. They don't want to upload photos of themselves, or communicate directly with other reviewers. 

But sites can go too far in the other direction; Yelp, for instance, makes much of its 'reviews community' and in doing so risks alienating all but the young, who seem happy to expose their personal details for all to see (and critique). For all sorts of genuine reasons some people do not wish to expose their true identity when posting a review. Privacy is paramount for many people, but they also don't want to alienate business owners in their community. Businesses should welcome anonymous reviews - for often these tell the business far more about itself and its standards of service delivery than reviews from identifiable customers - who may moderate their comments.

  1. The reviewer has patronised a local restaurant for many years, but recently service standards have fallen. They don't want to stop using the restaurant, and they don't want to go head-to-head/face-to-face with the owner. How do they square this? By writing an anonymous review
  2. The reviewer is uncertain as to whether their comment - which may relate to a complex transaction (often the case with our estate agency clients) - is valid. They want to communicate with the business, but they don't want to make a fool of themselves. They submit an anonymous review, and, depending on the business's response, will then decide to pursue the matter by disclosing their identity
This is where HelpHound works, yet again, for the benefit of both reviewer and business. We act as mediators, allowing reviews to 'evolve' from anonymous to 'named' as each individual case progresses. All away from the glare of the web, allowing the business's reputation to be protected from inaccurate or misleading reviews whilst giving their customers a channel to have their opinions and comments heard.

The best of both worlds

HelpHound's system - Dialogue™ - gives businesses and their customers the best of all possible worlds.

The business:
  • can offer their customers a channel that is always open - whenever the customer chooses to use it
  • whilst being protected against unfair of inaccurate criticism
  • can ensure that reviews - on its own site and on important sites like Google - are accurate and credible
The customer:
  • can reward the business, publicly, by writing a great review
  • can give the business an opportunity to right wrongs, privately, before they go on to write a public review (or not, as they wish)
  • can believe the reviews they read
HelpHound: review management at its most professional - and therefore also at its most credible.

Thursday 7 July 2016

Warning! Think your business won't get reviewed? Think again!

Often we meet businesses that have 'flown under the reviews radar' - in other words they have few reviews - sometimes no reviews - on Google or any other sites.

Our advice, of course, is to become proactive, for all the positive reasons that regular readers will be familiar with. But there is now another reason:

  • Your customers are now being asked to write reviews - by Google and the review sites

An example:

One of our staff recently holidayed in Corfu. They did not research their hotel through TripAdvisor, they didn't book their hotel through TripAdvisor, they didn't even look up any hotels on Corfu on TripAdvisor. BUT they have the TripAdvisor app on their phone.

Three days after returning, they received an email from TripAdvisor inviting them to review hotels, restaurants and places of interest near where they had been staying.

How did TripAdvisor know? Simple - our staffer had 'location services' enabled on their iPhone - so the TripAdvisor cookies told them! It's the same with Google.

They also recently wrote a review of a restaurant in London - so Google asked them if they would like to review any nearby businesses.

This is the future of reviews. Your customers are going to be asked to review your business by Google, or one of the many independent reviews sites.


Here we come to the nub of the issue. Put yourself in the position of the recipient of these 'helpful' messages; how much more likely to respond would you be if your experience of the business in question was negative? You know the answer, and to make it crystal clear, estimates by those who make academic studies of reviewers' behaviour put the figure at roughly 15:1. To make that point again: a customer is fifteen times more likely to post a review if they have had a negative experience.

From now on there will be two kinds of business:
  • Passive businesses that allow, by default, their unhappy customers to dominate the impression their potential customers receive in search
  • Businesses that engage, proactively, with reviews - enabling their satisfied customers to create a great first impression in search

Looking like this in search - every search - is not just a matter of professional presentation, it drives business through your door, reinforces the sale ("Have you seen what our customers are saying on the web?") and enhances staff morale. There are three touch points in every business's Google Box: the score - 4.9 here, the number of reviews - 282 here, and the rich snippets: "Huge thank you to Suay...". together they combine to encourage your prospective customer to make the crucial decision to either visit your website - where they will see your more reviews (thanks to HelpHound) - or make direct contact

Our advice to businesses that have yet to engage...

Is to start now. We have seen so many examples of businesses who said to us, only a year ago "Oh, we'll wait and see."  And now? Those self-same businesses are on the phone: "We've suddenly got [pick a number between one and five] one star reviews on Google, and it's hurting, what should we do?" or "A competitor has suddenly started to look great."

The straight answer is 'Our advice has not changed'. Our tactful answer is 'Let's implement Dialogue now, and you will soon be able to stop losing sleep over the negatives and begin seeing just how much business positive reviews - on Google and on your own website - will attract.