Monday 30 April 2018

Reviews sites on the rack at the BBC

Radio 5 Live Investigates devoted an hour to reviews sites on Sunday morning. While they initially focused on fake reviews and the commercial relationship between the reviews sites and their business customers, sites such as Trustpilot and TripAdvisor came in for serious criticism for some of their business practices.

The podcast is well worth investing an hour to listen to - not least because it reinforces what we have known for some time: that consumers rely on reviews - but our response cuts right through the whole argument: why use any other review mechanism in preference to Google? Google provide two free reviews solutions - one for products and one for services (the main Google reviews that you see when you search for any business).

We have been recommending Google to our clients for years now, and we are frankly amazed that businesses continue to use reviews sites when they have an option that is...

The only conclusion we can come to is that the USPs of the reviews sites, varying as they may from one to another, all offer businesses 'advantages' and, as much as the representatives of Trustpilot and TripAdvisor strove to make out that those 'advantages' were legitimate - and we are not for a moment suggesting that the reviews sites have cynically built in mechanisms that disadvantage dissatisfied consumers - there are businesses out there who are doing their level best to take advantage of weaknesses in their business models.

 It's always a good idea to read reviews written by the reviews site's sales staff on employment sites - they can be illuminating!

A listener called Laura called in about her experience with Trustpilot and their clients, the online estate agency PurpleBricks. She commented that whilst she had posted her two star review - and had that challenged almost immediately, with Trustpilot asking her for proof that she had been a bona fide client, which she had provided 'within an hour' - by the time her review was reinstated on the site it was 'many pages down the listing' and 'unlikely to be seen by all but the most persistent reader'. 

 Both sites interviewed by the BBC claimed to have algorithmic filters to spot fake reviews (The BBC bought their review on eBay). We tried that years ago - and it does not work. The only moderation that does work is human moderation. You cannot cut corners.

It is mechanisms like these that have us asking, time and again,'Why not use Google?' and there is a very clear answer: businesses are aware that unhappy consumers have massively more motivation to write reviews and unless they have some mechanism that allows them to question negative reviews they will have damage - often irreparable damage - done to their business's online reputation, and they look for someone to hold their hand. 

Unfortunately the current crop of 'hand holders' cannot compete with Google...

So how does HelpHound do it?

If you look at the screenshot above you will see two sources of reviews - the business's Google reviews (and score and star rating) in the knowledge panel on the right and the business's own reviews (and score and star rating) at the top of organic search.

It may surprise you to know that the business in this example had only two Google reviews when they joined - and none of their own. They, just like almost everyone else, had looked at all the alternatives and decided against them - the reviews sites because of lack of visibility and Google because of the aforementioned risk of looking bad.

HelpHound - because of our 'manual' moderation - were able to reassure Greene & Co that the risk of factually inaccurate or potentially misleading reviews appearing, on their website or on Google, would be minimised (but not eliminated - see below and a detailed description of our moderation process here). And if you mine down into the review in both places, that is exactly what has happened. 

HelpHound's moderation will not prevent a genuine negative review appearing, so the business must be on its toes where customer service is concerned, but it will mean that the content of the reviews will accurately reflect the business - and that benefits the consumer just as much as the business (arguably even more so).

So, back to our central theme: business's don't need a reviews site - all they need is good review management and Google. Simple really. 

And one final point: as every businessperson knows, you get what you pay for in life. Helphound may be fractionally more expensive than the reviews sites (those moderators don't, unfortunately, work for nothing, after all) and we don't offer 'free trials', but we do offer a solution that works, producing concrete results the like of which you see illustrated above and throughout this blog - today, and as far as can possibly be predicted: for the future as well.

Further reading...

Friday 27 April 2018

The vital importance of having a medium-to-long-term reviews strategy

It seems obvious, doesn't it? After all, nearly all our business planning takes account of our medium-to-long-term objectives. But, for reasons we will examine in this article, all those sensible plans can fly right out of the window when it comes to reviews.

What happens?

So often we come across businesses that have a pre-existing reviews strategy that is broken in some way - already - and takes very little account of what may happen in the future. 


Strategies can be 'broken' in so many ways; the most common being non-compliance with the UK Competition & Markets Authority's regulations. There is one way in which the UK leads in new media and that is in its regulation of the world of reviews. 

Why would a reviews site be non-compliant? It surprises us too and the conclusion we have come to is twofold: either the reviews site is based outside the UK and is unaware that it is in breach of UK regulations or it is aware (being UK or overseas based) and is flouting those regulations as a matter of commercial necessity and hoping the CMA will either not notice or somehow modify its regulations to allow their practices to continue.

Commercial necessity? Reviews sites were in business long before Google got into reviews. As Google has become more and more dominant in the reviews arena the reviews sites have been backed into a corner - their core offering: displaying reviews in search, simply cannot compete with Google - so they now offer businesses 'advantages' that Google doesn't. Unfortunately for the reviews sites - and their business customers - both the most superficially attractive 'advantages' being offered are non-compliant...

  • closing their sites to everyone except those expressly invited by the business
  • allowing paying businesses to manipulate their moderation mechanisms to deter negative reviews

Both these contravene the CMA's core regulations relating to reviews. You can read about them in detail here, but in a nutshell they state that any reviews solution must allow any customer to write a review at a time of their choosing.

And why are these strategies broken?

There are many factors at play here...
  • Pressure from competitors: how often do we hear businesses say "We had to adopt [name of reviews site] because [name of competitor] was making us look bad by comparison."
  • The reviews sites' own sales tactics: many of the reviews sites have significant financial backing and large sales-forces, and those salespeople have targets to meet. The advent of Google made the sale significantly harder (we would say 'impossible') and so some have resorted to over-selling (you only have to look at what their sales staff are saying about them on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed and even their own competitor reviews sites to understand that).

  One reviews site's fifty-nine reviews on another reviews site...

...and that site's four hundred reviews on another. Whatever is happening here, it does not reflect well on any of the reviews sites concerned

  • Unintentionally misguided advice from professional advisers: we see this so often - the business's web designer/PR/advertising agency has recommended the reviews site. Almost always there was no intent to mislead, it is simply born out of a misunderstanding of the complex issues at play in the world of reviews - and not realising that there is a better way.

The upshot...

 An example (left) of a business that has invested heavily, in every way, in the wrong reviews solution and the impact on their image in Google reviews (right). No prizes for guessing our advice: they need to bite the bullet and refocus their review management efforts.

We see businesses every day that have committed time, money and energy in getting reviews to the wrong place. They are understandably reluctant to write off all of that, but that is exactly what they need to do. They need to implement a strategy that...
  1. Gives them ownership of their own reviews; this enables them to display them on their own website and then get them across to whatever external site will be most effective in the long term (Google - unsurprisingly - for almost every business on the planet, but any other site that matters in the future as well)
  2. Get reviews to Google - where else can compete in 2018, and where else is likely to compete in the foreseeable future?
  3. Get those reviews to Google safely by adopting a mechanism that allows them to manage potentially misleading or factually inaccurate reviews pre-publication, without allowing the business to deflect honestly held negative comments
  4. Has the flexibility to adapt to changes in the reviews market - by getting reviews to external sites that do matter - Facebook, for instance
...and that's a review management solution.

The proof of the pudding... 

If you - be you a business or an adviser - look at any HelpHound client, they have long-term review management strategies in place: they look great on their own websites...

...and great on Google...

...and great on any other sites that matter...

...but most important of all, they have adopted a strategy - and a legally compliant strategy at that - that will serve their business and their customers in the long term.

Further reading...

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Why break the rules - when there's no need?

The whole point of reviews is that they provide a reliable guide for consumers, but to see what some businesses do with them you would think that they were expressly designed to be manipulated so businesses could 'fool all of the people...'.

Without credibility these are worth less than nothing - they actually harm a business's brand.

We have written about this before - here, amongst others. But we have found more glaring breaches since that article. We are writing again because what started out as a gentle trickle has now morphed into an epidemic. Almost every business we look at is manipulating reviews, either intentionally or unintentionally - and always in breach of the Competition & Markets Authority's regulations.

Let us pose a question...

  • Do businesses think that they have a right to manipulate reviews? Because if they don't, then there are far too many out there doing just that.
For example...
  • The business (UK-wide, multiple locations) that thinks it is fine that their management and staff post Google reviews - how do we know? Because they have done it using their real names; not only have they posted five star reviews, they have responded to those reviews, thanking the 'reviewer'!
  • The business - a Plc - that thinks it is a good idea to get their customers to write reviews to an obscure reviews site and then have their staff cherrypick the five star reviews and call up the authors and encourage them to copy their reviews to Google
  • The business - another Plc - that thinks its a great idea (presumably for the business) to use a reviews site that does not allow its customers to write a review unless invited by the business. Let's make it plain - the business a) chooses which customers to invite and then b) chooses the timing of that invitation
  • The business that thinks it is a good idea to offer incentives for customers to write a review. This would probably be questionable under any circumstances, but in this case the reward is conditional upon a positive review. How do we know - because one of their customers thanked them in the body of their review and another complained about not receiving their reward, again, in their review
  • The business that uses a (multi-national) reviews site that allows them to have negative reviews suspended 
  • The business - with branches across London - that employs a member of staff to write its own reviews

Then there are the 'unwitting' ones (businesses that claim they didn't know that what they were doing was in breach of the CMA regulations)...

  • The cherry-pickers: choosing which customers you invite to write reviews, whether to Google or a reviews site, is in breach - of course it is. Just think for a minute - if you were the regulator - would you condone this? Of course not.
  • The users of 'closed sites' - where the customer can only invite a review if they are expressly invited to by the business. Again - of course this is a breach, because the regulations explicitly state that a customer must be able to write a review at a time of their own choosing. Do you want to know if a brand new pair of shoes is fit-for-purpose? Yes. But might you also want to know if that pair of shoes is still in one piece six months after purchase? 
  • The 'incentivisers': businesses that reward customers for writing positive reviews - we have seen Amazon vouchers, M&S vouchers and just plain ordinary cash

And then there are the reviews sites themselves...

These sites had a nice little earner all to themselves until Google entered the fray - they were the only way a business could get reviews onto the web. With the advent of Google reviews these sites found themselves in a pickle - what had they to offer that Google did not - for free? The answer is 'virtually nothing' - especially since Google introduced their free product reviews widget. So they now face an uphill struggle to add value, and, in doing so, some of them are crossing over the regulatory line. This gives businesses an added problem - they cannot take it for granted that a commercially available reviews solution complies with the CMA rules. We see examples of the following...

  • Sites that offer 'invitation only' solutions
  • Sites that offer the business the right to challenge - and even suspend - any negative reviews
  • Sites that allow businesses to attribute star ratings gained in one product or service area to another product or service
  • Sites that allow reviews and ratings gained in one location to be attributed to another location

None of these is compliant, and the onus for compliance lands fairly-and-squarely at the door of the business using the reviews site - it is they, the business, that will be on the receiving end of any disciplinary action.

Why break the rules?

There's one simple answer to that, and it goes something like this (we know, because so many businesses like this have told us)...

  • "We have to have reviews - because we know that without them we will lose business to our competitors. But we are afraid to ask [all] our [genuine] customers to write them because, human nature being what it is, we know our happy customers won't and our unhappy customers will"

So these businesses willingly put their reputations in harms way. They know that people know they are 'up to no good' and they know that there's a significant risk that one day, sooner or later, a (ex)member of staff will blow the whistle and the game will be up. but still, such are the potential rewards, they continue to do it - because they fear giving up the short-term rewards of looking great in reviews.

There are many reasons that we publish on this subject again. To warn businesses that they have far more to worry about than the odd whistle-blower. They need to know that the CMA is actively taking an interest in just the very practices that we have outlined above. We also need businesses to know that there is another way.

Another way?

This all pre-supposes that the business in question is committed to high levels of customer care. Given that, then the only thing such a business would require is access to a mechanism that would ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, that reviews containing inaccuracies - of fact or opinion - could be addressed before publication.

Such a mechanism - as HelpHound clients already know - does exist. And its name is Resolution™. Resolution enables our clients to look just as good as they are. It does not prevent a reviewer from publishing an inaccurate or misleading review (and it certainly does not prevent a reviewer from writing a negative review) but it does mean that such a reviewer will know, pre-publication, that their review - if potentially misleading or factually inaccurate - will be subject to challenge by the business if it is published. 

There's no need - there is another way - and it's called HelpHound.

Further reading...

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Congratulations to Greene & Co!

Two branches of HelpHound clients Greene & Co have won Gold and Silver at the 2018 ESTAS...

...but regular readers won't surprised to hear that. With Greene & Co's commitment to customer service and reviews we are mildly surprised they did not win more!

Here's Gold winner Maida Vale on Google...

...and in organic search - with their HelpHound score, number of reviews and star rating...

...and Silver winner West Hampstead...

...and in organic search - with their HelpHound score, number of reviews and star rating...

Congratulations to Greene & Co, we are proud of what you have achieved since you joined HelpHound (here's the 'before'!). A business can make itself look good with handfuls of reviews, even dozens, but to look this good with hundreds the business has to seriously deliver.


Remember that Greene and Co have this invitation to write a review on every branch website...

...and that everyone who has a review published there is automatically invited to copy their review to Google.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Stars in search - the holy grail of reviews?

 Could these cars be named 'Yelp', 'Tripadvisor', 'Trustpilot', 'Yell' and 'Feefo'?

Or the 'go faster stripes'?

As with everything we do here at HelpHound we look, as far as possible, for concrete proof before advising our clients.

And the only proof we have seen so far? It looks like this... 

...and sometimes even like this...

Our conclusion... that, currently*, our clients' overwhelming focus should be on Google. Get stars there...

...and business will flow. Anywhere else (including 'Reviews from the web' above, and organic search, below)... a bonus (but look at mobile search - used by over 70% of all your potential customers)...

..see any reference to anything but Google reviews here? No - but two ways of accessing Google reviews at a click (and the score and star rating immediately visible)

 ...and, until we see hard evidence to the contrary*, that is the advice we will give.

The Google schema

For those of a technical bent, here is Google's own definition. For mere mortals: the Google schema is a piece of code that can be attached to reviews that aggregates scores and star ratings and then displays them in [some] searches.

The Google schema is sold very hard by those sites that compete with Google in the reviews sphere; of course it is, it's virtually 100% of their off-site offering. It also gets Google off the hook when reviews sites complain about their monopoly position in reviews: 'Oh, but they can implement the schema for their customers, isn't that fair?'. Unfortunately (for that argument from Google and for the independent reviews sites), as much as some businesses - quite understandably - like to see their name in stars in as many places as possible, we have yet to see proof positive that they provide any meaningful competition for Google ratings and scores. They are a 'nice bonus', but that is all.

Our clients, where their websites have the capability, use the schema to good effect - stars show in local search (as they do for Greene & Co above), but no business should buy a reviews solution simply on the basis of the schema - in that context it is 'go faster stripes'.

*as most of our clients know, we are not backwards in coming forwards with advice - you only have to read the million plus words on this blog to know that, or, if you are not a client yet, speak to one (it also provides a written record of that advice - for instance, you could go back four years and see when we first started advocating Google as the best home for your reviews). Rest assured, if the situation changes, we will let you know - and advise accordingly.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Reviews - pity the consumer!

Let's get back to basics. Why do reviews exist? Answer: to help consumers choose the right product or service. And if you are a business? To encourage consumers to use your business.

So lets look at the reviews of just one business that is representative of so many - and see if they achieve that simple objective.


YOPA are currently spending big-time on advertising - you may have seen this one featuring Mo Farah on TV...

...and what do they expect their target market (home sellers) to do next? Given that Yopa has no offices to drop in to we're guessing the answer to that one is 'go online'. Go online where? Well, given that consumers in this situation are looking at what is possibly their biggest ever financial transaction it's fair to guess that a significant proportion will be looking for reviews.

So what happens next? Well, this happens next...

Please bear with us (if you are already beginning to lose the will...just put yourself in the position of the home seller)...and we will walk you through the minefield...

Once past the PPC advertisements we can see four sources of reviews (and star ratings), so, being concerned and responsible home-sellers we take each in turn, starting at the top with a site called AllAgents (after all, it is headed 'YOPA reviews...'). And what do we see?

 Thirty-five reviews, ten of which rate the business's service at one star, and make pretty disturbing reading

Next comes Trustpilot - Yopa's contracted reviews site...

 ...where they look great, at least until you read any of the one-in-twenty negative reviews...

 ...and there are over a hundred of these.

After them:

 ...that helpfully tells you that only one-in-three of Yopa's customers would recommend them (not only that, it also 'helpfully' promotes a business - PurpleBricks - that we are guessing is Yopa's No.1 competitor - although their reviews on are even worse!).

Last, but definitely not least: Google...

Hoorah! for a name every consumer recognises (a recent survey by Rightmove found that 8% of consumers recognised Trustpilot, ahead of the 2% who recognised Feefo)... and a respectable score, but still an increasing volume of worrying - for both business and consumer - negative reviews, not all of which accurately reflect the true position.

What to do? That's the key question that every business needs to ask itself if its review management is not to undermine its marketing, and the answer for the consumer feeds directly from the answer for the business. Here it is...

  1. Own your own reviews: display them on your own website and get the resulting score and star rating displayed in Google search
  2. Employ a professional review manager, like HelpHound, to make as sure as you possibly can that none of your reviews have malicious, misleading or factually incorrect content
  3. Focus all your efforts on the one reviews solution that matters, and the one reviews solution that has both credibility and visibility: Google

Then the consumer will see...
  1. Real reviews
  2. Factually correct reviews
  3. Reviews with credibility
...and the business will see:
  1. Its reputation enhanced
  2. More business flowing through the web
  3. Less dependency on reviews sites
At the end of the day we have been confidently predicting Google's dominance - total dominance - in the reviews space for over four years now (and advising our clients accordingly). We are glad that we have - and so are our clients

There are only two things preventing any business taking the correct course of action (reviews on their own site and reviews to Google) are...
  • fear - of attracting (more) negative reviews that will deflect business
  • sales tactics - by the independent reviews sites*
If you are concerned about inviting unfair negative reviews - as you should be - read this article. If you want to understand the consequences of using an independent reviews site instead of Google - read this.

*Let us tell you a true story. Once upon a time (in 2012, as it happens) the world's biggest independent reviews site opened its London office and began actively marketing itself to UK businesses. Those businesses that are convinced by the review site's sales pitch invest significant resources, in both cash and time - not to mention their brand's credibility - in building their presence on that site. The site's name? Yelp. And what did Yelp do, four years later, after all those resources and effort had been committed by those businesses? It left the UK

We have said it once already in this article (and many times over the years): own your own reviews - and then get them where they will have the most influence: Google.

And to make it even more plain: HelpHound, as review managers, stand or fall on the quality of the advice we give to our clients, of which this blog is part of an extensive written record. We have no inherent bias against the independent reviews sites and if and when they deliver results we will be the first to recommend them to our clients. We are not remunerated a single penny by Google, either directly or indirectly (not many independent reviews sites can say that) and include them in our recommendations as a matter of 'best advice'.

Further reading:

...and finally...

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Web designers - we'll guide you, and your clients, through the reviews minefield

We are going to start from the basic premise that you have built - or are currently building - a website for your client business. Your role is to implement all your client's multitude of requirements, among which, these days, will inevitably be some kind of reviews solution. But here's the catch - just exactly which reviews solution?

So much choice - so little information 

There are now upwards of two hundred separate and distinct reviews sites with English as their host language - some, like Yelp, are generalist (anyone can review any business) and others - TripAdvisor is a good example - are specific (to a type of business, in this case hospitality: hotels, restaurants and leisure businesses). 

On top of this, some are compliant with US law, some are compliant with EU law, and some (only 'some' you may be surprised to hear) are complaint with UK law.

Sometimes it seems that the choice is made for your client, and therefore for you - after all what hotel does not want to feature on TripAdvisor? But then what about, Trivago and, to name but three more?

The answer to the 'choice' issue is really quite simple, at least at first: It has to be to get the business's customers to write those reviews to the business, so the business owns those reviews. Not to some external reviews site, however attractive the blandishments and promises made by the representatives of those sites. why? because reviews sites come and go (Yelp - the biggest of them all, left the UK nearly two years ago), and wax and wane in popularity, so you don't want to put your client in a position where they have accumulated hundreds of reviews on a particular site and then lose them all when that site is no longer flavour of the month with Google because they are owned by the site, not your client. For anyone doubting the importance of this, we have seen more than one business that has chopped and changed reviews solutions more than five times.

Next? To get those reviews to the sites that matter to those businesses and their customers. This, again, requires an objective judgement on behalf of the business and that is why HelpHound exists, to help those businesses and their advisers - you, their web designers - to decide what solution is going to work best in their long-term interests. No-one can predict the future, but that does not mean we should not (or are not able to) make rational decisions based on a highly educated guess: and that means, for the overwhelming majority of businesses: Google. 

The reason we see so many businesses fighting against Google reviews is simple: because Google came so late to the reviews game, after many reviews sites had established themselves and those businesses are now seeing their markets being eroded by Google. That may not be fair, but we live in a free market and harsh commercial realities dictate that businesses should choose what is best for them, and to do that they should not find themselves, wittingly or unwittingly, adopting a solution that is against their own long-term best interests.

This advertisement was published last week and we repeat it here, analysed paragraph by paragraph, so you can make your own judgement.

This is an intriguing headline. We - and we are sure some of you - have been advising our clients to make considerable efforts to gain Google reviews from day one. Why might they be 'limited' by them? We read on with interest...

The advertisement is directed towards estate agents (it was published in the Property Industry Eye), but we presume that the contentions contained in it would apply to any service business. So let's examine it line by line...

  • Google reviews 'are a pain to collect'
It is estimated that two out of three adult consumers in the UK are currently able to leave a Google review by simply clicking on 'Rate and review' on any device, having simply searched for the business in question. They don't have to find out which reviews site is most appropriate or, indeed, which reviews site the business in question has contracted to 'manage' their reviews.
  • 'Users must be logged in via Gmail to leave a review'
Not quite. Most consumers who have any type of Google account (and there are many, from Gmail to YouTube to Google Plus) are permanently logged in on all their devices. Again: it's simply a matter or 'click and post'. Just see any business in any search - the likelihood of finding a business as yet un-reviewed on Google is becoming remoter all the time. And something is also more certain by the day: that Google is the review mechanism of choice for those whose experience of a business is less than satisfactory.
  • 'Google+ reviews are often removed (and also manipulated)'
Stories of reviews being 'manipulated' are to be found across the web (and have been for as long as reviews have existed, but interestingly, almost always confined to the independent reviews sites, not Google). Yelp? Yes. TripAdvisor? The Times has even created a fake hotel to demonstrate how easily manipulated it can be. The key with Google - nowadays - is that every review is attached to a Google+ account which is, in turn, attached to a person (or a business). We have been in the review arena for over a decade and we can honestly say that Google reviews are the least manipulated of all (and therefore the most credible).

'Removed'? We are unsure what Feefo mean by this. We have seen little or no evidence of Google reviews being 'removed' whereas some of the independent sites - not Feefo - appear to bend over backwards to 'suspend' or otherwise hide reviews that their business clients find objectionable.

There is also another issue with the reviews sites, many (but not all) of which originate in the USA or Europe, and that is that some of them fail to comply with UK government regulations (see 'Important P.S.' at the end of this article), often not in minor ways, but at the core of their business models. They are 'business friendly' - they sometimes offer benefits to their business customers such as the ability to challenge negative reviews or choose the time the customer is invited to write the review (both of these 'benefits' contravene the core CMA regulations).

There are more 'creative' ways of 'manipulating' reviews - one of the main ones being the timing of the invitation (and the control of the actual ability to write the review - what we christened 'closed' sites some years ago).

The last phrase we might question is 'authentic ratings and reviews'. Quite what may be 'inauthentic' about Google review by comparison with any others we are not sure.


  • 'Google Licenced (sic) Content': It is a benefit - if it works (see below). On the other hand, your clients don't have to pay - Google will show their own reviews score as a star rating in organic search and in their Google knowledge panel under 'Reviews from the web'
  • 'Real and authentic' - covered above
  • 'Promotes trust and transparency' - reviews certainly give a voice to your clients' customers and provide them with valuable feedback
  • 'Highly scored reviews assist with lead generation' - we have no argument with this contention, indeed we would go further: 'a properly structured review management policy will drive business and this can be proved by referring to each business's Google My Business report (for an example of one of our client's reports, illustrating the uplift in calls and website visits within weeks of joining, see here)
  • 'Old Habits/New Habits' - we assume this graphic is meant to mean that 'old habits' are Google reviews and 'new habits' are the independent reviews site. We strongly recommend that any business that has got into the 'habit' of inviting Google reviews stick with that habit - it is sure to reward them in the short, medium and long term.


At the end of the day, whatever strategy a business adopts it must all come down to results. And by 'results' we don't mean star ratings or scores (although these are all useful 'extras' - you can see them in the screenshots of our client's Google searches below) and are especially good for staff morale - who doesn't like to see their employer's name lit up in stars?) or numbers of reviews (although, again, a business scoring 4.7 on Google with reviews in three figures will always attract more business than one with a lower score and a lower amount of reviews), we mean financial results.

Every one of your clients is sent a Google My Business report every month, like this one for one of our clients. It is a fantastic way for them - and you - to measure the success of any new marketing venture, including review management

Let us be plain about this: professional review management should be measured by the cash it encourages to flow through the doors of your client's business. And if they cannot attribute the precise £p they should at least be able to measure the uplift in indicators that lead directly to that cash flow, such as phone calls, emails and visits to their website (all, with the exception of emails - which they can identify themselves - measured by their Google My Business (GMB) report.

Needless to say, we have not seen the GMB reports for these businesses. But we can see exactly what they look like in search. Here they are...

Failing the Google Filter (as any score below 4.0 will) with no star rating for the branch searched for (although a nearby branch does feature). Another reviews site - RaterAgent - showing in 'Reviews from the web' in the Google knowledge panel

With 81 reviews on Google and just ten on the reviews site, we are taking an educated guess that this branch is asking their customers to post their reviews direct to Google - especially as their score is so much better there as well.

 Again: a low Google score leading to a Google Filter fail (and a nasty rich snippet). No reference to independent reviews/star ratings in either organic search listings or 'Reviews from the web'.

 And again: a Google score well shy of the Filter and no sign of any independent reviews in either organic search or 'Reviews from the web' in the knowledge panel

To put this in context: 

Here is a HelpHound client's simple search (on their business name)...

  96 reviews on their own site showing in organic search with a star rating as well as in 'Reviews from the web' in the knowledge panel. Three great rich snippets. And a great Google score with 48 reviews there as well.

And the same client's local search...

Not a bad position in the Google 3-pack (we can't take all the credit for that!) and reviews and star rating in organic search as well. 

To sum up...

You are looking for a reviews solution for your clients that you can recommend in the knowledge that it incorporates flexibility and some element of future-proofing. That is going to produce results, from day one and for the foreseeable future - in short: a solution that your clients will be grateful that you recommended. 

The only thing we have not touched on - intentionally - is tech. Suffice to say that we will give you the tools to deliver these results on any kind of platform. They may not have some of the clever 'knobs and whistles' that the reviews sites incorporate, but they will deliver the core results your clients need - we promise that. And we are always pleased to put you in touch with them so they can personally confirm that is the case - just ask.

A very important P.S.

All this along with compliance with the CMA regulations. We know that you, as web designers, are not directly responsible for your client business's compliance with those regulations, but we are sure you will feel happier knowing you are implementing a compliant solution. 

There is much more detail about this here, but in short: your client must be able to demonstrate that they allow all their customers to write a review at a time of their own choosing. Any reviews mechanism that does not allow these two simple things is, by definition, in breach and so is any company that adopts it.