Tuesday 3 July 2018

Mid-year update

What a first half of the year it has been - and so much to report to you all. 

2018 is going to go down in web history as the year...

  • Google finally replaced the independent reviews sites - totally and utterly
  • Businesses that failed to understand this began to suffer - on their own and against their competitors
  • The impact of reviews on a business's online reputation began to be really understood (Falling to 4, Review fatigue)
  • Results finally became measurable (Google My Business reports)
  • Businesses began to take compliance seriously - realising that the regulator - the CMA - has teeth and will use them

Lets look at these one at a time...

1.  Google replaces reviews sites

The independent reviews sites are dying. It's not their fault, Google has simply done what it has done to so many other areas of search: Google reviews are completely dominant now (and Google now offer a very effective 'product' review platform for free).

What do you see when you look up a business on your phone nowadays (and bear in mid that nearly 80% of all searches are conducted on mobile)?...

...you see this - with two tabs at the top, just two: the 'OVERVIEW' and 'REVIEWS'. And where does the 'REVIEWS' tab take your potential customer?

Here, that's where. Not to an independent reviews site (although that might show under 'Reviews from the web' - in this case what shows is our client's own reviews - 282 of them).

Take any two similar businesses - one that has adopted a reviews site and the other has focussed on Google: the latter will swamp the former in any search.

2.  Businesses that don't embrace Google reviews suffer

Businesses are understandably wary of Google reviews - after all, everybody sees them all the time (and that, of course, is their strength!) - and we would never suggest anyone adopts a proactive Google reviews strategy without a professional review manager to ensure that the image they create by so doing is a fair representation of their business - and compliant to boot.

But businesses that shy away from Google reviews will suffer - either because they do nothing or because they adopt one of the reviews solutions mentioned under point 1 above.

This is what an 'engaged' client of HelpHound's looks like in a local search...

...scoring at (or close to) the perfect 5 out of 5 with so many reviews that even the most cynical potential customer will accept that they are great at what they do - in this case 76 reviews on Google and 160 on their own site. Then, right under the Google 3-pack ('map search') leading the way in the organic listings with their star rating, score and number of reviews.

3.  The impact unmoderated review management is being felt

It matters not what solution a business chooses - direct to Google or one of the reviews sites, or even one of the review aggregators - we now know what the results will be: a score of around 4 out of 5*. And we now know that's not enough. High-value service businesses need to score consistently upwards of 4.5 to be sure to attract custom, and that's only possible one of two ways...
  • by breaking the law, and only inviting 'happy' customers to write reviews or...
  • by breaking the law and restricting its customers' ability to write a review at a time of their own choosing (by using an 'invitation only' reviews system, for instance)
  • or... by adopting a moderated reviews system like HelpHound that enables them to engage with factually incorrect or potentially misleading reviews pre-publication
*and often considerably less. This is caused by two factors (for more detail see 'Falling to Four' under 'Further reading' below): the fact that dissatisfied customers have so much more motivation to write a damaging, and often inaccurate or misleading, review and a relatively recent phenomenon: happy customers going to write a review and seeing that there are already 'so many that I needn't bother'.

4.  Results are finally measurable

At last! Google now send you a monthly report that tells you exactly how effective your activity is - in terms of hard numbers or both calls and visits to your website. It looks like this...

 ...well, it does if you have joined HelpHound!

5.  Businesses are now taking compliance seriously

For a long time it was 'Oh, we will carry on cherry-picking/using a non-compliant reviews site' and then this year, whether the fact that the Competition & Markets Authority have begun fining businesses or simply because their message is finally hitting home, businesses have begun putting compliance at the top of their requirements for a reviews solution...

...which is great for HelpHound, because our solution is one of the very few that is compliant!

In summary

This is a much shorter six-monthly briefing than regular readers are used to - and that's because review management just got a whole lot simpler. The choices a business has have narrowed considerably since the back-end of 2017, thanks in part to Google and in part to the evolution of our understanding of just how consumers use the web (no one searches for reviews any more - because Google provide them without being asked - is just one example of this).

The divergence between online retail - 'product' - reviews and 'service' reviews is now so marked: consumers will buy a product that score 4 out of 5, but when they come to choose a service, especially a high-value service - financial advice, medical, legal, estate agency, any professional advice - they will look for a business that scores as close to the 'perfect 5' as possible.

There is only one viable solution to reviews now, and that is using a moderated, compliant, professional review management solution that works with your business and Google.

Further reading...

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