Regular readers will be familiar with us constantly – and consistently, we hope! – banging the drum for professional review management and we would like to use this article to re-define it yet again.
What is ‘professional review management’?
It’s about doing the very best for our clients. and that means having your interests and our interests exactly aligned: it means acting as professional advisers, just like your accountants and lawyers – without any bias whatsoever.
So how does that translate into results?
We recommend the best solution for each and every client, no matter what business they are in; and that always means:
- having – and showing – reviews on your own website
Your reviews, not ours. Our role is simple and it’s twofold: it is to enable your business to:
- reassure those reading your reviews that they are 100% genuine, and to
- enable you to manage misleading or unfair comments pre-publication
And then to:
- make sure a significant number of those reviews appear elsewhere on the web where they will do your business the most good
It helps to understand some history of reviews on the web. They were born out of early internet technology which, for the first time, allowed two-way conversations. The first manifestation of this was internet forums. Out of those forums were born sites like TripAdvisor, soon to be followed by ‘pure’ review sites like Yelp. Internet reviews as we now understand them were born.
Then something quite fundamental happened: Google, which until around 2010 had simply been a search engine – a gateway to the web, and therefore a gateway to all kinds of review sites, some specialist (like TripAdvisor for hotels or AllAgents for estate agents), some generalist (like Yelp and AngiesList) – quietly launched Google Places.
Google places, at first hidden away in Google Maps, began to invite Google users to post reviews of businesses – any business.
HelpHound and Google reviews
We recognised, way back in 2011, what Google were planning. They had decided to transform themselves from ‘gateway’ to ‘gatekeeper’.
Google as Gatekeeper
This was a move that was to revolutionise Google’s role. No longer would Google simply provide straightforward search results, based on all kinds of SEO based criteria. They would now allow any business’s customers to influence search…
- by publishing their opinions as reviews
At HelpHound we saw the impact of this move on the independent review sites. TripAdvisor and Yelp were huge (Yelp had a market capitalisation of over $5bn), but alongside Google they were mere minnows. The smaller – often specialist – sites became plankton alongside the minnows.
Our advice changed
As a direct result we began advising our clients to focus away from the independent sites and towards Google reviews. HelpHound’s own role remained the same, only now we were focusing on our clients’ own sites and Google, rather than their own sites and a range of independent review sites.
That’s one huge advantage!
By being flexible – and able to give the best advice all the time – in an ever changing world, we are able to retain our clients, and our clients are able to relax in the certain knowledge that they are always being advised to do the right thing. By being a client of HelpHound you are effectively future-proofing your business in the context of reviews.
How have the independent sites reacted?
They have been forced to adopt strategies to add value – for their users and their shareholders. TripAdvisor has effectively morphed into an online travel agency (OTA). Yelp has appealed to the US Senate – on the basis that Google is taking unfair advantage of its virtual monopoly position (unsuccessfully). The smaller specialist sites have had to adopt an ‘if you cant beat them…’ strategy in an attempt to claw back some value for their clients, often involving become a Google Partner.
Google Partnering is a programme that Google introduced to allow ‘partners” review scores to show in Google ads and Google search. It has effectively allowed Google to say to people – like the US Senate mentioned above – that they are not taking advantage of their position as gatekeeper, whilst maximising revenue from Google ads. But it is a very weak solution when compared to playing Google at their own game and looking great in Google reviews.
Here are two examples; the first business has reviews on an independent review site (a Google Partner), the second has reviews on their own site and on Google:
HelpHound has no bias
It is important to understand that HelpHound has no bias against independent review sites. We have recommended them to our clients in the past, and we will recommend them again, if and when using them becomes the right advice for our clients.
But we want our clients to look like the second of these screengrabs – and so they do! We also want our clients to understand the journey their potential customers make on their way to making that crucial first contact:
- Google search – be impressed by Google reviews
- Visit website – be further impressed by independently verified reviews
- Make contact
It is as simple as 1 – 2 – 3. And that is just how we make it. To see just how quickly your business can go from zero to hero on your own site and on Google, read this case history.
Then take a screenshot of your own Google search result and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will tell you just how professional review management will work for your business.
It’s the results that count!