Thursday 11 May 2023

Purplebricks - and what its experience with reviews can teach us


If ever there was any doubt as to the credibility of review sites, especially when compared with Google reviews, the sorry Purplebricks saga has put an end to it. Here is a link to this article.

From their inception, review sites have been a major plank of Purplebricks' marketing, as they are for many businesses. The crucial question is 'Should they - review sites, as opposed to Google - be?' or is there a better alternative? Let's see...

Here they are, today, on their own website...

Here on Feefo...

And on Trustpilot...

Why would Purplebricks - or any other business - use a review site?

The answer, we are afraid, is simple: it allows the business a degree of control over the following...

  • who is allowed to/invited to write a review: in order to write a review on Feefo you must receive a unique invitation from the business to be reviewed with an embedded link, for Trustpilot just the invitation (it is possible to visit Trustpilot to leave a review, and some people do, but most that don't receive that invitation and want their voices heard head straight to Google)
  • the date of that invitation
So: your business cares - quite rightly - about its online reputation. You look at the 'advantages' listed above and your first reaction? 'Great, we can control who writes reviews.' Unfortunately, that has two far-reaching consequences...

  1. It is illegal - it is in direct contravention of the UK's CMA's regulations which specifically state that 'a business that actively invites reviews must allow all of its customers to write a review' and that 'the business must not control the timing of the writing of that review.'
  2. It results in what - back in 2018 - we christened 'deflection'. It drives uninvited dissatisfied customers to write their reviews direct to Google.

So what does Purplebricks look like on Google?

It is also an unfortunate truth for businesses that employ review sites that Google reviews, in over 98 percent of cases, feature far more prominently in searches. They are shown front and centre for just about every business search.

Just look at this - or search for your own business...

What does the searcher see? Trustpilot reviews? No. Feefo reviews? No. Google reviews? You bet!

'But...' - we hear you say (and it is a big 'But') 'We have no control over who writes a Google review, and no recourse once a Google review, however unfair it may be, is written.' 

Funnily enough, this is where HelpHound comes in. Our core offering is moderation. 

What, exactly is moderation? It means first inviting the review to the business - via its website; this enables the independent moderator - Helphound, in this instance, - to check the review for factual errors or statements likely to mislead future readers. Far less than five percent of the reviews we see require moderation, but when they do it is often crucial: misunderstandings over billing, blaming the business when a third party was actually at fault, and so on. Reviews that, if published - either on the business's website or on Google (and we ask reviewers to do both - and about 50% do) can do untold harm, both to the business and to the consumer that may be put off using a business that is ideally suited to their needs.        

How do we enable businesses to comply with the CMA regulations and look good at the same time? The simplest answer is that we only work for great businesses, but even great businesses need moderation - because customer/client/patient misunderstandings will always arise. If you look at this example you will see what we mean: here's the business - a client of ours...

...and we know them well. They are a very experienced and dedicated team. But just once in a while, even they get a review that our moderators have cause to query - and in every case since they joined five years ago the review has either been re-written by the client before it was published or withdrawn. 

Once reviews are published on their website (498 there to date) the reviewer is automatically asked - by HelpHound - to copy their review to Google. As you can see 284 have done so. The combination of the business's professionalism and our moderation has them listed as the top business in their sector in local search (also helped, no doubt, by the SEO kicker provided by hosting their own reviews on their website). 

Most important of all, our moderation gives them the added confidence to invite reviews in the first place, in the certain knowledge that factually incorrect or potentially misleading (and, ultimately, potentially damaging) reviews will be challenged and - for the most part - corrected. 

And, by having the standing invitation on their website - see above - they comply with the law. They don't have to proactively ask 'Mr Angry' to write a review, but he can click and post one if he wants. That way at least they - and he - will benefit from moderation (you might be surprised to see just how many messages we see coming back from the reviewer - in private - saying things like 'Thanks for putting me straight' and 'I'm glad I had the opportunity to understand [X] before my review was published').


We are not suggesting that Purplebricks would have thrived as a business if it had focussed on Google reviews, just that it would at least have had reviews from those with a positive experience there for consumers to see. Moderation cannot magically make reviews from consumers who have had a negative experience go away, and nor should it, but, as we have said above, it does give the business the confidence to invite its customers to post reviews to Google.

The core message is that if reviews are important to your business, and if you are in the service sector: financial, legal, medical, marketing, recruitment and so on, they will be, we provide the most up-to-date, proven (see 'Results' below) and effective review management platform available today. And it won't cost your business the earth - almost certainly less than an equivalent business would be paying Feefo or Trustpilot.

Further reading...

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