Friday 5 January 2024

Education - the one professional sector lagging behind with reviews


In the metaphorical 'race to succeed with reviews' education is the runner in white at the top of this photo finish. Luckily the analogy is flawed: in the world of reviews the race is never-ending. The white-shirted runner (who is actually a lap behind the rest in 2024) can still catch the field, and even win the race.

But first, let us examine why entering and then running in the race is so important: according to a recent article entitled 'How to choose the right school for your child' in Independent School Parent magazine (note: this post relates to all types of educational establishments, not simply independent schools) the first thing any parent should do is 'Research your options'. 

And what is almost every parent's first 'research' move? Often even before speaking to friends, before looking at individual schools' websites, before consulting Ofsted, even if looking for a specific school? A Google search of course.

But what do they currently find? 

An almost universal lack of engagement. From zero reviews to very few, few schools have yet to find a way to successfully harness the opinions of their stakeholders and turn them into a credible presence online.

How is this?

It is simple really: they have not found a safe way to do so. Safe? Exactly. Simply inviting stakeholders to post a review directly to Google can be a high-risk strategy: no educator needs us to tell them how often misunderstandings arise and having those misunderstandings aired for evermore, for everyone to see, in a Google review, can risk unfair - and difficult to repair - damage to any organisation's long-term reputation (if any readers doubt the harm a single online review can cause we would suggest reading what happened to this firm of solicitors).

HelpHound to the rescue

Of course, we have a solution - actually, the only solution - why else would we be writing this article? For over ten years now we have operated our moderated review management system on behalf of clients in the professional services sector. The key word is 'moderation': we define moderation, in the context of reviews, as the practice of engaging with the review and the reviewer pre-publication. 

At least eighty per cent of reviews are what we term 'clean'; in other words, they are the genuinely held opinion of the reviewer (client/customer/patient/parent) and they 'pass' moderation straight away and are published on the business's website and the reviewer is invited to copy their review to Google. 

Of the remaining reviews - still in moderation - some will simply be written in English that is poor enough to mislead a reader. Our moderator will correct them with the reviewer's permission. Others, more seriously for the business and unhelpfully for readers, will contain errors of fact or statements with the potential to mislead those who in future may come to rely on the review. 

In these cases, a three-way dialogue will often ensue, between the reviewer, the business (in the context of this article: the school or other educational establishment) and our moderator. The object of this dialogue is solely to ensure that the final published review is as factually accurate as possible and to allow the business and the reviewer to understand each other's position to that end.


When we first introduced moderation we held our corporate breath. Would reviewers allow us to engage with them and would they be happy to engage with the business under review? The answer, to our relief and that of our client businesses, was a resounding 'Yes'. That is except for two categories of reviewer: the troll (to use current internet parlance) - someone who was simply airing an unfounded opinion of a business of which they had no first-hand experience, and the 'five-thumbed typist' who had reviewed the business in error (company names can be very similar).

Everyone else, with very few exceptions, reacts positively: from grudging acceptance - 'OK, I exaggerated...' - to sheer relief - 'I hadn't realised I was wrong in what I had written, thank goodness you stepped in.' 

There you have it: a safe way to engage with Google reviews, guaranteed. With the added bonus of independently verified reviews to host on your own website.

A note for 'perfect' establishments

We sometimes encounter businesses, of all kinds, that say 'We are so great at what we do we won't need moderation, we'll simply invite our stakeholders to post reviews direct to Google.' Those businesses should remember that they may be perfect, or as close as makes no difference, but it's their customers and other stakeholders that may not be quite as 100% on the ball. Moderation is expressly designed for great businesses - under the CMA regulations we cannot aid or abet any filtering or deflecting of any genuinely held negative opinions - but one misconceived negative review has the potential to do untold harm, and it is just that review that moderation is expressly designed to address. We refer you to the case history already mentioned above.


Educational establishments have nothing to lose and everything to gain...
  • shining in every Google search
  • wonderful content for their websites and social media
  • savings - in both time and money - on all other forms of marketingnt
...from engaging in professional moderated review management. At the time of publication, HelpHound is the only channel currently providing this, not to mention our 10+ years of experience in doing so. We look forward to helping your educational establishment achieve all of the above - to A* level!

Further reading

  • Compliance is key - so many businesses flout the CMA regulations that expressly forbid cherry-picking known satisfied customers to write reviews
  • Results: all of our clients see positive results - Google scores of 4.8+ from hundreds of reviews and consistent uplifts in contacts and enquiries. This article puts numbers to those promises
  • The hotel that was very nearly unfairly shut down by a single 1* Google review

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