Tuesday 24 October 2023

Avoid being forced to play 'Splat the Rat'

Look at so many successful businesses, and what do you see? A great Google score backed by lots of reviews. Are we right?

Of course we are. But underlying so many of those scores, especially with businesses that have hundreds - even thousands - of Google reviews, are far more negative - 1* - reviews than necessary.

Look at these two real-life examples (we're not going to name names for obvious reasons, but we can tell you they are both legal firms)...

Now, they both have what most untrained observers would consider to be respectable scores, one eminently so. But here the good news ends, for them both. 

When a consumer conducts the most popular second search move - clicking on 'Lowest' - what do they find? 16 one-star reviews of the business rated 4.9 and 61 one-star reviews for the business rated 4.3. In both instances, that's a lot of people saying, effectively, 'Don't use this business'.

And even if they just read the feed Google supplies they will almost certainly come across one or more damaging 1* reviews.

The impact of those one-star reviews? They get read, and the ones that are carefully written and credible are believed and acted upon. Consumers trust reviews (why else would businesses put so much effort into getting them?) both positive and negative. If a negative review doesn't drive business (and we've never met anyone who thinks it does) then, it stands to reason, that it has to have the opposite effect. Not always and not all the time, but enough to make a significant impact on contacts, inbounds and lead flows as time goes by.

So both these businesses have adopted the only course of action they believed to be open to them (given that the likelihood of an appeal to Google** to have any of the reviews removed succeeding is vanishingly slim): they have played 'Splat the Rat'. In other words, every time they have received a 1* review they have made every effort to invite reviews from happy customers in order to drive the 1* review down and, hopefully, out of sight. Apart from the questionable legality of such a strategy - the CMA expressly forbids such activity by businesses unless they provide consumers with an open conduit whereby they can submit reviews at a time of their choosing - it leaves the 1* reviews to be found by anyone considering using the business, forever.

**If you have a review that you consider infringes Google's Terms and Conditions please speak to us, we have over ten years' experience of conducting Google appeals.

But surely, we hear some of you say, the law also states that consumers' opinions are sacrosanct? Indeed they are. But the law also allows for moderation should the review contain an error of fact or a statement likely to mislead readers (future customers to a man or woman - who else is going to be reading reviews of a law firm?). Here's a great example from amongst the 1* reviews of one of the two firms...

This review - and its annotation/correction by the reviewer - illustrate exactly why HelpHound exists: with our moderation the interaction that has taken place would have happened in private, before the review was ever posted to Google. And almost certainly - 97.3% certainly - before the review was even posted to the business's own website. The business will also have to contact the reviewer - assuming they have posted under their real name (in the case above they will struggle to identify the reviewer!) - in order to ask them to correct their star rating, which will have impacted their overall Google score, again unnecessary with moderation.

The bottom line

Our moderation process applies to every single review written to a client business's website, whether rating the business 5* or 1* or somewhere in between, and addresses everything from incorrect use of English through factually inaccurate or potentially misleading wording to reviews written by people who have not used the business under review - fake reviews or reviews by competitors, for two examples. With a moderated review management system your business can relax in the knowledge that it will no longer need to watch your reviews every second of the day in case an unfair negative appears. 

This link: 'Write a review' performs two functions, it allows anyone to write a review whenever they wish which ensures the review goes through HelpHound moderation (with all the attendant benefits for both business and reviewer) and it means the business is fully complaint with the CMA's regulations (the law)

The business can also be confident in being proactive in inviting reviews from customers through whatever channel may seem most appropriate, the obvious ones being inviting reviews by emailing customers direct with the appropriate links and the passive invitation that will be embedded into your website (see screenshot above).

And some real-world results? See here.

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