Friday, 21 August 2020

Inviting customers to write reviews direct to Google is unwise

Unwise? More like positively suicidal from a business point-of-view. Here's a case history. 

What did the business do (wrong)?

The business in question knew that inviting selected customers to write a review is illegal so they took what they thought was the next logical - and most cost-effective - step: they put a button on their website inviting anyone to post a review direct to Google. Like this...

What is the impact of adopting this strategy?

1.  It made the business compliant with UK law - which states that if a business invites reviews at all it must enable all of its customers to do so at a time of their own choosing. This is important, not just because a business doing otherwise risks a fine and other sanctions, but because the knowledge that a business is flouting the law is extremely effective in the hands of its competitors.

But that's just about the end of the positive outcomes. Now for the negatives:

2.  Very few of the business's satisfied customers used this avenue: a much higher proportion of unhappy customers made the effort to either a) find the link on the business's website or b) simply go straight to Google and write their - one-star - review there.

3.  As a direct result of adopting this solution: the business's Google score immediately began to fall. In the last two months the business has received the following Google reviews:

Five-star:    6

Four-star:   1

Three-star: 1

Two-star:    0

One-star:    14

That, in percentage terms, means sixty-eight percent of their reviews posted to Google since implementing the 'direct' policy now rate the business as one star. Any continuation of this trend - which will be inevitable without independent moderation (see this article) - will see the business's Google score fall until it is failing the filter. 

Just as damaging (maybe even more so): this strategy increases the likelihood of one or more negative reviews leading the business's reviews - and negative reviews dominating overall:

A hard-won online reputation tarnished in a matter of weeks - down from the Holy Grail of 5.0 to 4.7 and with the direction of future travel obvious to anyone with the slimmest grasp of review management and basic maths. 


Reviews are important. Google reviews - and scores - are hugely influential. Negative reviews are extremely damaging. Very few businesses continue to deny these three self-evident facts in 2020.

Independent moderation is not just 'nice to have', it's vital.

The $64,000 question* is, as always, what does it cost to 'insure' your business's online reputation these days? If we told you 'between £30 and £100 per location, per month' what would your reaction be? Comment below or call us.

Further reading

  • Moderation: the only legal mechanism that will save your business from unfair, inaccurate and misleading reviews.

*Sometimes we meet businesses that think they have the answer: they plan to financially motivate their staff to invite reviews from customers (understanding that rewarding customers direct contravenes Google's T&Cs). 

Our answer: we have extensive experience of this, and it's certainly one route that we would advise some businesses to explore (certainly, in this case history, whatever the business has done since they began inviting customers to post direct to Google, it hasn't resulted in many positive reviews), but surely, if you are going to be paying your staff to get reviews - and the going rate for sustaining such motivation would appear to be around £20 a review - then paying a review manager such as HelpHound the rates quoted, given all the other benefits (regulatory advice, software, training, reviews hosted on your own site and, above all, moderation) pales into insignificance?

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