Wednesday 6 March 2024

New to HelpHound? Try this 2 minute quiz

Score 100% and you won't need us. Score less and we will guarantee to positively impact your earnings. This may appear, at first sight, to be a slightly light-hearted approach to what is, for all professional and service businesses, a serious enterprise. After all, adopting the wrong solution will - not 'can' - have serious long-term deleterious effects on all a business's other marketing.


Question 1

Does your business host independently verified reviews on its website?


Question 2

Are those reviews moderated before publication?

Question 3

Are those moderated reviews copied to Google?

Question 4

Does your business respond to all its reviews?

Question 5

Is your business compliant with the CMA regulations with regard to cherry-picking and/or gating?

That's the 'Quiz' done. Now let us expand on these five questions.

Hosting independently verified reviews

By definition - and by law - a 'review' must be independently verified, if it is not it is defined as a testimonial. It can be fed to the business by a review site (Yelp/Trustpilot/Doctify/Feefo and so on) or from Google. These days consumers, especially consumers of professional services, demand reviews; if they don't find reviews on the business's own website they know they will be able to find them on Google. From the business's point-of-view, especially if it has expended resources on attracting the consumer to its website the very last thing it wants is the potential customer to revert to Google and see its competitors listed under 'People also search for'...

And just before we move on to Q.2 we ought to deal with a question we still hear (albeit less and less): 'Do people read/reference reviews on businesses' websites?' Look at this review (it's only 4 months old):

Already 12 people have taken the trouble to 'vote' it 'helpful'. The number that have seen/read the review will be far higher.

Are all the business's reviews moderated before publication?

There is a reason that most HelpHound clients' reviews, whether hosted on their own websites or on Google, are overwhelmingly well-written and factually accurate: they have been moderated pre-publication. Our moderators correct spelling and grammar and query statements of fact that may be proved to be incorrect or misleading for readers (always with the permission of the reviewer)

Is the business maximising the number of reviews it gets to Google?

Every time a review is posted on one of our clients' websites the reviewer is automatically invited to copy that review to Google. Not only does this mean that virtually all the business's Google reviews are factually accurate (for more on moderation see here and read on below) and therefore reliable and trustworthy for consumers, it also means that our clients have a constant flow of up-to-date reviews there. Great for driving business and great for SEO.

Does the business respond to all its reviews?

This is the kind of generic response that we see all the time. It fails to address any of the issues raised in the original review and equally fails to impress a potential customer. Below is a response to a Google review drafted on behalf of one of our clients.

Surprisingly few businesses get this right - at the last count nearly 9 out of 10 businesses don't respond to any reviews. It is vital to respond to every review, both positive and especially negative. The response must be unemotional, address the issues raised (without compromising confidentiality) and aim to impress anyone reading it. Even responses to negative reviews can be turned into positive messages if drafted correctly. We are on hand to advise clients on these vital responses and it is a very popular part of our service.

Is the business compliant?

Businesses that we meet for the first time break down into the following four categories...

  • unwittingly cherry-picking - defined in the regulations as 'Not allowing everyone the equal opportunity to write a review'
  • unwittingly gating - defined in the regulations - and in Google's own ToS - as 'using any method to pre-qualify customer opinions so as to ensure that less than satisfied customers are not invited to post a review'
and in a minority:
  • wilfully cherry-picking - selecting customers to invite to write a review
  • wilfully gating - sending out a questionnaire and then only inviting positive respondents to write a review
The only businesses we see, with very few exceptions, that are compliant with the CMA regulations* - the law in the UK - are those that are not inviting customers to post reviews, 

*A note on compliance: there is a fairly widespread feeling in some sectors of the marketplace that 'We won't be the first to be fined/sanctioned by the CMA'. This is to miss some fundamental points: non-compliant businesses are very easy to pinpoint, for competitors as well as regulators, they also leave an indelible paper trail of that non-compliance: emails selectively inviting reviews and so on. Always remember that a competitor's best friend is that ex-member of staff who left knowing exactly how the business glowed so brightly in reviews. 

We get it, we really do. If we had a pound for every time a prospective client said 'What? Does the CMA expect us to invite every customer to write a review? Are they crazy?' we would be very well off indeed.

There is a solution that ensures compliance and enables businesses to survive in the world of reviews, and it is called 'moderation'. Let us walk you through it...

The business does not have to proactively invite all of its customers to write a review. What it does have to do is have a publicly visible mechanism that allows any of its customers to write a review at a time of their choosing. The key word here is 'allows'. Look at this website...

That 'Write a review' button ensures that the business is compliant. It also leads directly to one of our moderators. As soon as the review is written... is checked for any factual inaccuracies and/or potentially misleading content. In 97% of cases the review is what we term 'clean' and is immediately published on the business's website (with any obvious typos, spelling or grammatical errors corrected). In the other 3% a conversation - by email - takes place between our moderator, the reviewer and - if necessary - the business under review**.

**A note on moderation and moderators: first, all reviews are read by a person. We are fully aware of some review sites where much is made of algorithmic moderation - 'our software can spot anomalies in reviews' - well, particularly with the advent of AI, we would beg to differ, it takes a well-trained human moderator to a) pick up on both the tone and the content of a review and b) then conduct a 3-way conversation with the parties involved. Interestingly, reviewers are almost always very pleased when a moderator becomes involved. Few people want what the law allows them to want - to have a factually inaccurate or misleading review published for all to see (often under their real name).


By now you will have realised that being able to answer 'Yes' to the 5 questions will put any business in a very strong position from a purely marketing point of view: 'Yes, we display independently verified reviews prominently on our website; yes, we have all those reviews moderated to ensure they are accurate and won't mislead those that need to rely on them; yes, we get as many of those reviews as possible copied to Google; yes, we respond professionally to all our reviews, wherever they may be and yes, we obey the law in doing all the above.'

We look forward to welcoming you to HelpHound!

Further reading
  • This article shows exactly how dramatic the impact of professional review management can impact a business, both in terms of footfall and in terms of the marked increase in quality of each piece of business transacted

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