Saturday 28 July 2018

The demise of the reviews sites - and an important warning

Here we go again. But bear with us, this is an important warning for unsuspecting businesses. 

The gloves come off...

It is high time we spoke even more frankly about reviews sites - so businesses relying on HelpHound for advice understand the position (even more!) clearly.

Reviews sites, through no fault of their own, have been made redundant - by Google. Not maybe. Not perhaps. Redundant - full stop. 

Ten years ago, around the time most reviews sites were founded, Google was yet to enter the reviews market; a market they now dominate as they do so many others. Let's look at this in more detail...

Reviews sites mainly break down into two distinct categories:
But Google now cover both those - for free. 

And you - the consumer - want reviews of a - any - business? You google it. 

And when you do that - guess what you see? Google reviews. 

That is, if the business has any (it staggers us just how many businesses persist with reviews sites - when the evidence is there every single time they search. Just take 20 seconds and search for your business - on your mobile, because that's where your potential customers are looking, at least 70% of them).

Does your business look like this...

What do you see - and all consumers see - lit up in lights in these searches? Google reviews, of course

Or, like so many who are still inviting their customers to post to a reviews site, like this...

   The reviews sites are here, if you look carefully enough (under 'Reviews from the web') - but how many of your prospective customers are going to take the trouble to search them out?

And products? Google has well-and-truly stolen a march on product reviews sites, by launching its free offering in January of this year...

 We're betting the reviews site's salespeople are keeping very quiet about this.

This has inevitably driven the review sites - whose bread and butter was online retail until Google gazumped that - to divert at least some of their sales efforts towards service businesses. 

So what are the reviews sites offering to such businesses? The easiest way to answer that is to look at their most recent marketing. This advertisement appeared last week (aimed at estate agents, but it could just have well been targeting any other kind of service-based business)...

Interestingly enough not the site that contacted our clients - but it could easily have been.

...point by point...

1.  'Gain valuable insight' - Google reviews will do that.

2.  'Influence customer behaviour' - agreed. But Google v. reviews sites? Rightmove answered that in their survey - recognition of Trustpilot was at 11% and Feefo at 2% - Google - has anyone not heard of them?

3.  'Generate more sales' - agreed, again. But again - whose reviews are more likely to influence purchasers? And just as important: whose reviews are more visible in search?

4.  'Improve customer service': there's no doubt that taking account of reviews helps businesses and their staff improve the service they are delivering, but it's not an argument for a reviews site over Google reviews.

5.  'Build brand credibility': Now they're losing us - how does using a reviews site (with very low consumer recognition - see point 2 above) over Google 'build brand credibility' - except, possibly, for the reviews site?

6.  'Improve you SEO' - we are glad they qualified this claim with 'can' as we monitor Google very closely and we have seen little, if any, hard evidence of SEO benefits accruing from employing a reviews site.

7.  'Increase conversion rates' - accompanied by a very precise number - 13.5% (we'd love to see the source of this). We have no argument with the contention that showing reviews on your website 'increases conversion', but we are just as concerned with getting consumers to your website in the first place - and that means Google reviews.

To sum up...

No business needs a reviews site in 2018. Those employing them should save their money and choose the free Google alternatives (which, apart from their functionality, must have more credibility as well - they certainly have more brand recognition!).

So what is HelpHound's role in all of this?

Service businesses do need someone to add value to Google - and that's why HelpHound exists. To give business's the confidence to engage with Google reviews without fear of risking their reputations - or contravening the CMA regulations. To provide support and advice all the way along the journey and to ensure our clients always have the best advice - in the strictest sense of that phrase - when they join and ever afterwards.

And to enable the business to show their own independently verified reviews on the business's own website, of course!

Our advertisement?

Let's try something like this...

'Want to generate more business? - HelpHound will ensure...
  • great reviews on your own website - safely (all your reviews will be moderated, to ensure accuracy and, as far as is possible, authenticity)
  • great reviews on Google
  • stars and ratings in organic search
  • stars and ratings in local search
  • stars and ratings in 'Reviews from the web'
Your business will, in short, look great everywhere, by working in concert with Google, not competing with it. And proof? Google will provide that, month-in month-out, via your Google My Business report...

Every business receives their Google My Business report every month. Thank you to Curchods for allowing us to share theirs with our readers.

...and we wouldn't want to crow, but these figures are unarguable and, we would humbly suggest, just a little better than 13.5%.

HelpHound - all the advantages of a reviews site and all the advantages of Google rolled into one, with none of the disadvantages.

Further reading...

  • 'Aggregator' sites - such as and Trustist - also lack these vital mechanisms to protect high-value service businesses - and you don't want to be importing inaccurate and potentially misleading reviews into your own website.
  • The CMA regulations - you need a reviews solution that will allow every one of your customers to write a review whenever they choose - only then will you be compliant with the CMA regulations.
  • Results - you've seen the Curchods' Google My Business report in the screenshot above - now read the whole story.

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