Tuesday 25 June 2019

5 days in California - HelpHound returns with 5 crucial nuggets for your business - a 'must read'

There is no substitute for contact with people who work in, around and with Google; if the flight were less than twenty-two hours return we would do it more often!

Here are the five nuggets we gleaned:

The 'REVIEWS' tab - front-and centre of every Google search

  1. Google values reviews more every day; as a stand-alone resource for its users and as an SEO 'credit' 
  2. Google will continue to reward businesses that host their own reviews on their own websites
  3. Businesses must start planning - now! - for the day that Google returns businesses in search based on their reviews: their scores, the absolute number of reviews they have and the flow of those reviews
  4. Google sees independent reviews sites - from Tripadvisor and Yelp to Trustpilot and Feefo - reducing in significance in search in the near future (in the UK we have already seen both Trustpilot and Feefo pull back from service reviews recently)
  5. Google is determined to continue to add value through reviews - by refining ways in which it can identify fake or fraudulent reviews, for example (see our note on compliance at the end of this article) and by encouraging quality reviews, initially through its Local Guides

Other more general - but equally important - themes emerged:
  • Businesses should take reviews seriously - more seriously than most do currently
  • Businesses should make every effort to score as near as 5.0 as possible (4.0 out of 5 will simply not cut it in the new era)
  • Businesses should be looking to accrue reviews in their thousands (as opposed to the tens and hundreds as is common at present)
  • Businesses should be making a significant investment in training staff, from senior management through to sales and customer support, in order that they do not fall behind or have their online reputations negatively impacted
  • Review management must be viewed as a stand-alone discipline - complementing feedback and analytics, but not secondary or subordinate to them

And just one point - alluded to above - on our old friend compliance:
  • Google will be introducing more ways of its own, independent of national regulatory bodies, to establish whether or not businesses are cherry-picking or gating and it will be expanding its current range of sanctions

Sunday 16 June 2019

Ask not what your reviews can do for you...

If you are interested, the relevant words can be found at minute 14.

Some readers will be old enough to remember John F Kennedy's inauguration speech, back in January 1961, in which he implored his 'fellow-Americans' to look into their hearts and 'ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.'

In our headline we paraphrased the first part of this famous quotation. In this article we want to go on to emphasise just how important reviews are for consumers - the 'ask what your reviews can do for your potential customers' part.

First: Understand how reviews are consumed

This is the first - and essential - step. Online reviews break down into two distinct categories:

  • product reviews: reviews of toasters and T-shirts, cameras and and cordless drills. We are not concerned with these, simply because they add so little value. People buy shirts because they like the look of them - a review that says 'this shirt only lasted three years' will be ignored by 99% of prospective purchasers (and the purchaser can always send it back if they doesn't like the colour or fit). If there is a 'thirst' for such reviews it is easily satisfied by the online reviews sites, publications such as Which? and plenty of online expert reviews.
  • service reviews: these we are concerned with. For two reasons: firstly because the overwhelming majority of consumers now trust their fellows when it comes to such reviews, secondly because such decisions (as to exactly which service to choose) have much more far reaching - and often irreversible - implications if we get them wrong. Let us examine some of the categories under this heading:
    • health: medical and all areas of wellbeing, from physiotherapy to care homes
    • finance: from mortgages and loans to wealth management and insurance 
    • education: from schools to further education, from tutors to adult courses
    • legal: from conveyancing to divorce, will writing to commercial law
    • property: estate agency and surveying, building and allied trades

We would suggest you choose just one of the five above and ask yourself, bearing in mind recent experience, how much you would have valued reviews of such a business as an aid, assuming you had urgent need and none of your friends or colleagues were able to recommend a solution, like this home-seller:

Second: understand the value of reliable reviews

Imagine just how valuable such reviews would be. We include an example for each of the above categories here, doing so somehow makes the concept so much more 'real':
  • health - gynaecology

  • finance - mortgages

  • education - independent school 

  • legal - leasehold dispute

  • property - flat sale

Taking that last example, this review by Lucie Noble is of Winkworth in Kennington. We are sure that all but the most hardened cynics will agree that it is pretty powerful on its own. But accompanied by 119 more?

On the most visible platform there is? Showing in local search like this?

As opposed to two categories of business that have not engaged? The first being those with no reviews at all...

And a common sub-category: those that have not engaged but have ended up with these less than helpful 'ratings':

The above is the result of a combination of factors: unhelpful Google 'local guides' rating the business (of which they almost certainly have no direct experience) in order to gain points and boost their individual scores combined with 'helpful' staff, giving their employer a boost. It is also a sign of a business that has not engaged with reviews. How do we know that? Because we know what a business that has engaged with reviews looks like. It looks like Winkworth (see above) and here:

And here (in map and mobile search):

These reviews are genuine, thoughtful and - on the whole - written with an eye to helping the reviewers' fellow consumers make an informed decision. But they did not happen by accident. This is what the business in question did...

  1. It researched the whole market, including the independent reviews sites and the option of 'doing it itself'.
  2. The reviews sites were discounted for two main reasons: first because it had become obvious that Google had become consumers' 'go to' resource for reviews, and second because they lacked any form of moderation pre-publication (it may be fine for someone to publish a glaring error about a pair of shoes costing £100 and for the business to then correct that error in their response, but where transactions that have the potential to be life-changing are the subject of the review it is essential for all parties concerned, not least the reviewer, that these errors are corrected pre-publication).
  3. Do-it-yourself was, likewise, discounted for two reasons: it was considered that an independent moderator would carry far more credibility (moderation is the function of reading reviews to ensure, as far as is possible, the review contains no errors of fact or statements likely to mislead a reader - read more about this vital function here) and because Google values businesses that publish their own reviews on their websites for SEO purposes (look at Winkworth's position in both the Google 3-pack and organic search above - the stars and score in organic search are drawn from their own reviews).
  4. It chose HelpHound to work along side all its stakeholders (tech, web designers, management and franchisees, not to mention staff in-branch) to deliver on all their objectives.
By delivering on 'ask what your reviews can do for your potential customers' - providing a credible and effective reviews system for all their customers - existing and potential - to use, whenever they choose...

Just one click here - to read as many of the 179 reviews as you want or write one yourself

...and wherever they are looking (on Google or on the business's own website - above).

So by asking the question - 'what your reviews can do for your potential customers' - you will be helping not only those potential customers but your own business; because businesses that adopt proper professional review management do so much better by comparison with their competitors - see this case history for a great example - it's a complete win/win: your potential customers win and the business wins.

Further reading...
  • There are nearly 1,000 articles here, all of which cover a subject that is relevant to the world of reviews and review management. You can interrogate the blog (there's a box on the right) but here is an index of the handful of articles that will put you in the picture before you contact us to see what we - and you - can do for your business and your customers.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

A business wins an award - and loses

As regular readers will know, we are not great fans of the 'chunks of perspex in the window' school of marketing. Why? Because it causes businesses to take their eye off the prize. That prize? A great Google score and looking unrivalled in search. Yesterday just such an email found its way into our inbox. Let's take a look:

A winner!

But are they? Suppose we check on Google. First a search on the business itself:

Here are two out of three of their Google rich snippets:

A look at the reviews Google judge to be the 'most relevant'

How about a search on 'estate agents hull':

When - and if - a potential client makes it past these Google searches (bear in mind that they are bound to do at last one of them, if only to find the business's phone number) they will see this:

And our take on that? Read this article from exactly a year ago.

Tuesday 4 June 2019

Reviews - a basic guide

We recently updated this memo; it has proved popular - and helpful - so we have reproduced it here for the benefit of all.

And here is a link to an index of some of the most popular articles on this blog. For more information simply call or email us.