Wednesday 7 December 2016

2016 - what a year for estate agency reviews!

2016 has been a dramatic year for reviews. Here we discuss why, and explain what action your business needs to take.

Google reviews come of age

Here is a selection of agencies from around the UK that illustrates the growth of Google reviews in the last 12 months:

Until this year Google reviews really had not gained traction. 2016 has seen all of that change - reviews written to Google are up by over five hundred per cent and counting. If your business has not yet adopted a review management strategy it should be very seriously considering doing so in 2017. But make absolutely sure you choose the right one. 

Independent review sites dwindle

Yelp has pulled out of the UK and Europe altogether. Some of the smaller independent review sites have been wound up. Why? Because Google now dominate the reviews space to such an extent that any focus on the independent sites is either time wasted or comes a very poor second.

Worse than that - as Google reviews gain traction, businesses focusing their review efforts on independent sites are now unconsciously driving negative comment to Google. Read this to understand why

Google introduce the Ratings Filter

Google understand consumers want the best businesses when they search. It didn't take a genius to predict the introduction of some kind of mechanism to achieve this (we did - intelligent forecasting is part of what you pay us for) and, lo-and-behold, on January 2, the first day back at work in 2016, there it was

Initially introduced for hospitality, and in main centres, the Filter continues to be rolled out both geographically and across different kinds of business. If your business and area are not subject to the filter yet, you will be soon.

     Seven estate agents in a row - all failing the Google Filter, many with no reviews at all
Read more about the Google filter as it relates to estate agency, here.

Google introduce 'Top Rated'

A logical extension of the Filter. Top Rated follows in the filter's slipstream, and does what it says on the tin - lists business by their Google score. To 'pass' the Google filter your business needs to have more than five Google reviews and score 4.0 out of 5. It is surprising just how many businesses don't (see above). If you want your business to show in the Google 3-pack (and what business does not?) you will need it to look like these:

The power of reviews - doubts are over now

Just look at the growth in trust in reviews:

 BrightLocal ask consumers this question year-on-year, just look at the fall in those that do not trust reviews since 2010 - from just under a third to just under one in ten. And the rise in those who do read reviews 'regularly' - from a third to a half in one year (we don't think that this is coincidental - it dovetails with the proliferation of Google reviews mentioned above).

In tandem with the rise in Google reviews we see daily evidence of the power of reviews - to both attract and deflect business. Consumers are reading them and acting on what they read. Great independently verified reviews on your own website and on Google drive business. No reviews on your website and no, few, or negative reviews on Google deflect business.

Here's another interesting chart:

At first glance the figures for hospitality look high and the figures for property look low. If you think how often people use those services then we submit the figures for hospitality are the low figure and property the high one - given the relative frequency of use of those services

Review denial is a thing of the past.

Selectively inviting clients to write a review - commonly known as cherry-picking - is a thing of the past

 This includes 'selection' - all your clients should be able to write a review - for more detail see this article

The Government - in the shape of the Competition and Markets Authority - is clamping down on doubtful practice in the reviews arena. This includes everything from businesses writing (or paying for) fake reviews and, importantly (because they are so prevalent), mechanisms which allow businesses to in any way 'select' which customers or reviews to show. 

This means that any business using a 'closed' reviews system - one that only allows a client to write a review by invitation -  will come under scrutiny. Going forwards it will be important to be able to demonstrate that all your clients can write a review whenever they like and that the review will be published if they so wish (for more on this subject see here).

It's not all about Google

If your prospective client comes to your website via any other marketing channel - advertising, referral, PR, local sponsorship, you will convert more visitors into enquiries if you host verified reviews there. If they come via Google then you need to look great there and on your own website.

To summarise

  You will see a button like this on every HelpHound clients' website
Your business needs a solution:
  • That enables it to invite and display reviews on its own site
  • from all its clients
  • at any time
  • and gets those reviews across to Google
  • whilst enabling you to manage inaccurate or potentially misleading comment pre-publication
And that's what we do here at HelpHound.

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