Thursday 31 October 2019

Victim of a fake or malicious review? HelpHound can help

Negative reviews harm businesses. Fake or malicious reviews harm businesses more - simply because they are written expressly to do harm. Neither of those two statements is contentious any more - if in doubt just speak to a business that has been on the receiving end: the phone can literally stop ringing.

Take this review for example:

It was written about a client business three weeks ago - and the allegations it makes are totally false. We sprang into action and followed the Google procedures that we know so well. One flagging and two formal appeals to Google - drafted by us on our client's behalf - and the review is no longer. Can you imagine how relieved the client is? Here is what they had to say...

"...such a review would have been damaging and detrimental to the reputation of the clinic and destructive for our business had it not been taken down. The damage from a financial and personal point of view could have destroyed us, not to mention deflecting patients away that would have benefited from seeing us."

As well as...

"Without the expertise of HelpHound and their specialist knowledge when it comes to framing and wording such appeals we would have had zero chance of succeeding in this vital appeal."

If your business has been the victim of such a review...

Contact us. There is no guarantee of success, but the more information you can provide, the greater the likelihood of a successful appeal.

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Google's going to invite your customers to review your business - are you ready?

Many of you will have noticed this invitation popping up after you have visited a restaurant or hotel...

...and it is a very short step for Google to begin inviting your customers to write reviews of your business. The technology - location finding - already exists, and if Google can spot that someone has visited the King John Inn, they can do the same for any business with a physical address.

Action you should be taking

These reviews, by their very nature, will be unmoderated. So you should be proactively inviting reviews yourselves - to Google. Through a (legal) moderated system. Why moderated? Because unmoderated reviews often contain factual inaccuracies or misleading statements that would be picked up and addressed in the moderation process, making your reviews more helpful for you and more helpful for your potential customers.

Why the word 'legal' in brackets in the paragraph above? Because most businesses' first reaction is to invite carefully handpicked happy customers to write reviews, and that is illegal under UK law. The CMA rules - bear with us regular readers - specifically forbid this; they call it 'cherry-picking'. For more information on the regulations read this article.

Further reading...

Monday 7 October 2019

Google adds 'key snippets' to your reviews

In order to give searchers an even faster shortcut to key information about a business, Google has added 'key snippets' (our name - we'll let you know what Google is calling them as soon as they decide) on top of the search.

What do they look like? see just under the headline score... can see the chosen 'key snippet' (in this case: 'patient') displayed in bold in each of the relevant reviews.

Google is still at the 'tinkering' stage - these appear and disappear and then appear again at the moment - but the message is clear: Google knows that users respond to key snippets like these, otherwise they wouldn't be doing this.

Implications for businesses? Now, more than ever, it is important that you supply the raw material. If a business looks like this...

...then it will have one more reason - on top of the score and the negative reviews themselves - to wonder why the phone is not ringing.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Why bother to obey the law when it comes to reviews?

These are posts in an online forum from staff that claim they have been asked - and in some cases incentivised - to encourage a certain class of customers to post favourable reviews of a business, in this case an estate agency. Almost every activity mentioned in these posts, on the business's side and on that of the reviews site, if it were true, would be in breach of one or more of the CMA regulations.

You may - or you may not! - be surprised just how often we are asked this question. Even those of you that are surprised that the question is asked might be surprised if you knew which businesses are asking the question! In this article we will make the case for obeying the law, not because we believe that those currently breaking the law are about to have their collars felt (although that may well be the case - the CMA do not give specific warning of action, but they have been active in making noises about non-compliance where reviews are concerned for a while now) but because there are other implications other than being arrested and fined that flow from non-compliance.

First, let's recap on the main breaches we see:
  1. Cherry-picking: the practice of only inviting reviews from satisfied customers. Illegal.
  2. Gating: the practice of systematically identifying happy customers before the business invites them to write a review, often done by sending a customer survey to identify those most likely to write a five-star review. Illegal.
In the context of the rules, both of these are serious breaches - and therefore illegal. why? Because they are designed expressly to tilt the impression given to any potential customer in favour of the business. That's fine in the context of testimonials - because these, by their very nature, are understood to be selected positive comments. But with reviews - absolutely not. The rules are clear...
  • if a business invites reviews at all, it must enable all of its customers to write a review
  • the timing of such a review must not be controlled by the business, it must be at a time of the customer's own choosing
So - back to the question in the title of this article: why bother to obey the law? The simple answer would be to say 'for the same reason you obey any other law' but, at the moment we are hearing far too many businesses say 'but the law is not being enforced' and they are right. No business has - yet - been prosecuted for manipulating reviews, so back to the question. Here's our answer: 'because your competitors will use your non-compliance against you'.

How so? Nowadays not a day goes by when the press doesn't run an article about reviews being manipulated in some way, so consumers are aware that playing fast-and-lose with reviews happens. It only takes a nudge from business A to say 'do you know how business B has so many great reviews?' to sow the seeds of doubt in the mind of a savvy consumer.

An example

This innocuous little button is key to compliance for all HelpHound clients

We have a client in South London, an estate agent. They had two Google reviews when they joined HelpHound, they now have well over two hundred reviews on their own website and over a hundred on Google. They know...

  • any of their customers, indeed anyone at all, can write a review to their website at a time of their - the customer's - own choosing. Why? Because there is a button on their website inviting them to do just that.
  • everyone who has a review published on their website is invited to copy their review to Google, automatically
  • they are, therefore: complaint with the CMA regulations
But their competitors? They mostly decided they could do without such complaince. They also started with a small handful of reviews (sometimes none), but - to remain competitive with our client - they decided to break the law. How? By cherry-picking or gating (see above), sometimes both. How do we know? Because, surprising as it may seem, staff move jobs, and when they do, they tell staff at their new employers just how their previous employer managed to look so good. And that information in the hands of a competitor? 

"Yes, Mr & Mrs X, ABC estates' reviews do look very good indeed (but are you aware that they only invite their happy customers to write reviews)?"

That simple sentence will be enough to unsettle most potential clients, especially when ABC estates' cannot positively demonstrate compliance.

The lesson to draw

Your business needs to be compliant, not simply to stay on the right side of the CMA but also to defend itself against this kind of perfectly valid attack on its probity.

Further reading...