Today your business received an email* like this from Google…
*to the registered user on your Google My Business account.
…and one click away is this…
…which contains all your Google housekeeping in one place. Need to change your office hours? Click top left. Need to create a new Google Post? Bottom left. But most important of all, from our point-of-view: responding to reviews at top right.
After all, this looks good…
…but this says so much more…
We always advise clients to respond to every review they receive. It not only impresses potential customers in myriad ways (you care, you look professional, you look as if you understand modern marketing) it also gives you a great opportunity to highlight aspects of your products or services as well as giving fair warning to anyone tempted to unfairly criticise (that they will be challenged).
Yesterday Google introduced Google My Business performance statistics. Sent to each business in an email they look like this…
Curchods went live with HelpHound this summer – this, for just one of their branches, was sent to us today by their marketing director (and shared with permission). Calls up 18% and website visits up a massive 27% – and the only difference? HelpHound (and for a month – August – where they would normally expect falls)
There is a strong message from Google here – following right on from last week’s surge in searches for ‘best’ – and that is that looking great in reviews is vitally important if you are to maximise returns from search.
Look like this…
…with your own reviews, gathered with HelpHound, showing the star rating, score and number (top left) and with a direct link from ‘Reviews from the web’ to your website in the Google Knowledge Panel; then your Google reviews and rich snippets (bottom right), all working in concert to produce the uplift in calls and visits reported by Google in the top screenshot.
The knowledge panel (above) and organic search (below) are so important for businesses now – the days of embedding relevant key words into your site and hoping for the best are well behind us, and with the day when Google serves the ‘best‘ businesses in search fast approaching, any business that does not take its review management seriously is bound to suffer…
…a glimpse into the future…
…no photoshop! The ‘best’ business at the top of the google 3-pack and first in organic search
We think the message is now even clearer – that professional review management pays dividends – we hope, like Curchods, your business will see the benefits too. One thing is for sure: you will know within weeks of joining because Google will tell you!
And please note: While the business in this example is an estate agency – and just one of twenty branches of that agency – the principle will apply to any business from accountancy to zoos.
An index to the most relevant articles on this blog
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Firstly:you can ignore the word ‘Advertiser’ in the title; it for everyone, regardless of whether you are currently engaged in PPC. This is an active member’s community and forum. Frequented by users and Google staffers alike. As with any forum, you should not act on any advice unless you can verify the source (again – speak to us if in any doubt).
Covering important topics such as:
Basics for Business Owners
Claiming your GMB page
Getting your business verified
We hope this helps. But it is only intended as a brief guide. Karen and her team at HelpHound client services are always there to provide you with specific advice.
As if we needed yet another reason to ensure you all look great on Google – now Google will be serving reviews in ads:
Great for our clients, but not so great for any business that looks less than wonderful (we reckon ‘good’ on Google is 4.0 plus and ‘wonderful’ is 4.5 and over). And woeful news for third-party review suppliers and their clients.
This is the first article in a new format; when we consider a subject is important enough to warrant detailed comment we will break the post into two. Part 1 will go straight for the jugular and you should be able to read it in less than a minute, Part 2 will contain more detail, should you wish to explore the subject further.
The Future – Part 1
Google is going to cripple some businesses, and it won’t be Google’s fault. We are not exaggerating, and the blame will lie fairly and squarely at the door of each failing business’s managers.
All because their business will look poor by comparison with its direct competitors in every Google search.
Google wants businesses to encourage their customers to write reviews. Why does Google want those reviews (and give them such prominence)? Because it knows – for certain – that its users (your potential customers) want them.
But many businesses are ignoring Google’s appeal. Look at this search for ‘estate agents’ in ‘Winchester’…
Five reviews and Google gives your business a star rating
One business is giving Google (and its potential clients) what it (and they) want. Just one business. Do some business people seriously think that today, in 2015, consumers are not influenced by what they see on Google?
A click away there are four reviews of three other businesses – Here’s just one of those reviews:
Four more like this and the business is looking at being rated 1.0 out of 5.0 by Google
Does the business think potential customers are not making that click? Well, here is a screenshot of an important part of the business in question’s G+ page:
The figure on the right is the number of times the information contained in the page has been shown in searches. What information? The business’s name, address and phone number and any reviews.
While three out of the four reviews for the other businesses are similar ‘one stars’, one is a glowing ‘five stars’. Written five years ago, did it not occur to that business to ask some more of their customers to post a review?
One answer has to be that businesses are afraid to ask their customers to review them in case the review is negative. Well, Dialogue solves that one – it helps you ‘manage out the fear’. Now let’s get the reviews in!
If you have not already read Part 1 of this article, you may like to go here.
The world of reviews is in its infancy, and there’s a long way to go. More, millions more, are being written every day; Google loves them and gives them massive prominence in search, lighting them up with star ratings (once they have 5, that is).
Hotels, accountants, zoos – Google treats all businesses the same
Individual review sites have prospered: Yelp has moved from 20 million reviews four years ago to 71 million by the end of Q4 2014. That’s at least a quarter of a million reviews being added every week. TripAdvisor claims four times as many (that’s nearly 150,000 reviews a day). But to get to any of those sites your customers have to search on Google, which is hosting its own reviews of your business.
Some businesses (often just the kind where consumers would really benefit from helpful reviews) still have none.
So: reviews 5 years hence…
Those numbers will only carry on growing. Just about every business on the planet will have been reviewed by at least one customer (take note all those in ‘review denial‘) and most by many.
So what will the reviews landscape look like in five years’ time?
First, let’s look at current coverage; hotels are front-and-centre (TripAdvisor, Google and dozens of other sites) the smallest bed & breakfast has fifty reviews. Restaurants follow hard on their heels. But there are many areas as yet only touched on, and these areas are arguably those where the consumers need is greatest:
Financial services: A lump sum to invest or advice needed on a pension provider?
Legal services: Picking the right lawyer can be crucial
Estate agency: Buying or selling a house, as we are constantly told, is the biggest financial transaction most of us will make in our entire lives. How are we to choose the right agent/mortgage broker/surveyor/architect?
Medical services: Choosing an oncologist? How valuable would accurate reviews be?
Insurance: currently insurance companies are able to compete on price alone; that’s because (with one or two notable exceptions) there is little information on their claims records. In the future the key information will be available through reviews: ‘Will they pay out when I claim?’
The divide between those businesses which engage with reviews and those that don’t will become ever wider – and ever more obvious to their potential customers. Long experience has taught us that reviews are not easy to come by, especially great reviews (some disgruntled customers/clients/patients will always take the time and make the effort to write negative reviews).
So businesses must build reviews into the core of their day-today strategies.*
Now for a glimpse into the future: we have taken today’s search for ‘insurance brokers’ in ‘Brighton’:
…and put it into our Tardis and taken it five years down the track to 2020. Here’s what the same search may look like then**…
Great businesses – that have actively engaged (Preston and Reason, in this example) – will look great
Great businesses – that have not engaged (Medical Insurance, perhaps?) – will punch well below their weight, and even look shoddy (because most of their reviews will be written by their unhappy customers)
Bad businesses will look terrible – and they will have no hiding place
Small businesses will need to work especially hard – if they are not to look insignificant (like R T Williams)
Very few businesses will be able to fly under the radar (like Westminster) and those that do take the risk are more than likely to end up looking like R T Williams and Medical Insurance.
The bottom line…
Businesses that actively engage with reviews (and review management) today will see that strategy pay increasing dividends in years to come – and we are prepared to guarantee that, by offering you a no contact trial and a money back guarantee.
* Building reviews into your business’s core strategy:
means telling your customers that reviews are part-and-parcel of the
way you operate your business; that they will be invited to write a
review and you should stress just how much value you place on that review.
** For those that may be sceptical about the numbers (of reviews) shown here; we would remind them that the 583 reviews shown next to Brighton Insurance represent less than two reviews a week over the period in question. More than that – the star ratings and numbers are taken from real business’s Google listings – today!
Or: What will happen when A, B, C, D, E, F and G become 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th?
As business people we all know about medium to long term planning. And to enable us to do that we need a combination of hard research and common sense. Such is this prediction.
That Google will replace the current (almost random, SEO driven) seven local businesses in organic search with the ‘top’ seven in each area.
To establish how Google will choose the top seven (and to make sure you’re right there), let’s first look at how they are currently selected. It’s mainly geographic: post code and any address details from Google Maps and G+. Key words in the business’s G+ page also help.
And this is where Google is looking for reviews. It’s one thing to return a plumber in your area, it’s quite another to return the best plumbers – and the only way Google can do that is with reviews.
But they can (and will) get them, every day tens of thousands of new Google reviews are written, and businesses are struggling to understand how to manage them.
The issue at hand
Businesses should be engaging proactively with Google reviews, so why don’t they? Why do most Google searches look like this:
These seven businesses are not averaging just one Google review each because they don’t think great Google reviews (and the great score that goes with them) won’t drive business – on the contrary, they know they will. But they just haven’t found a mechanism which will enable them to confidently invite reviews without running the risk that an unhappy customer will use that opportunity to vent and do them harm.
And what will search results like this look like soon?
In this example – a snapshot of the future – Google have ranked the businesses according to their scores (note the numbers in the stars). The top four businesses have engaged: they have a significant number of reviews, most of them great, and have good scores whereas the bottom three have not (we call it Google denial – there’s a specific article about that here) and as a result they don’t look great at all.
Also, bear in mind that there are many more estate agents in Southampton who do not even feature in the top seven.
Play by Google’s rules
Get reviews with Dialogue*
*This is important: a big part of Dialogue is Resolution™, the function whereby negative reviews are first channeled to the business for response. At first clients may be tempted to bypass this and invite reviews direct to Google, but they soon understand why Resolution is essential when they are criticised (in private) by that client they were 100% sure was 100% happy!
So let’s give them the reviews they crave. And remember, we’re talking reviews here, not testimonials. Let’s display them prominently on our website, and let’s get them where our prospective customers are looking for us: onto the web (Google in the main). 2. Consumers rely on reviews
As above. Denying potential customers the reviews they instinctively look for has the effect of making your business look as if it were established yesterday.
3. Reviews drive business
So let’s show them where they will drive business the most – on our home page and on Google.
4. Bad reviews deflect business
So let’s do our best to resolve any issues our customers have before they feel the need to write a negative review.
5. Google reviews are first to be seen
And now often the only reviews to be seen. So let’s employ a mechanism which will get great reviews to Google.
6. Other reviews are read
So, after we have got great reviews to Google, let’s focus on the less prominent sites.
Now: what Dialogue will do to address the points above…
Dialogue will enable you to invite reviews – effectively and professionally, to your own website and to Google
Dialogue will display those reviews for you – with credibility – on your own website
Resolution – a key process within Dialogue – will enable you to manage any issues or complaints your customers may have before anything is posted publicly
Dialogue will get reviews to Google
Dialogue will get reviews to other sites that matter
Professional review management
Overarching all of this you will be a HelpHound client. We will advise on strategy and keep you up to date on changes at the search engines and major review sites. We will be proactive in contacting you when we consider a change is necessary and will always be on hand to help you make the very best of Dialogue.
This article is about a new phenomenon: Google denial. If it takes root it will cause businesses considerable harm.
Google denial usually takes one of the following forms:
Google reviews do not matter (to our business)
The business has no (or less than five) Google reviews. So no star rating is showing. Therefore Google is not influencing your potential customers, so it does not matter.
Other review sites matter more (to our business)
There are some very influential review sites out there; Yelp, with nearly 200 million reviews; TripAdvisor and Booking.com dominant in hotels, FourSquare for restaurants. Smaller sites in niches for every business under the sun.
And currently your business may feature more (or only) on these sites.
The answer to both these ‘denials’ is:
Google matters – even if you currently have less than the five reviews that get you a star rating
Google matters more – because Google’s reviews are the first your potential customer sees – always
Let us first look at a real life example (we’ve chosen ‘estate agent’ in ‘Southampton’, but this example applies across the board for any search on any type of business):
Three agents have reviews, four do not. None have sufficient reviews for the all-important star rating. The seven reviews break down as follows: 3 one star, one 2 star, one 4 star and two 5 star. An average of 2.7 stars.
Here’s what this search result will look like at some stage in the future:
First (and incontrovertibly): there will be more reviews; second: some businesses will have more than others, some none at all (for the moment); third: some businesses will look better than others. The point is that there will be a pattern emerging.
Then, further down the line:
All businesses will have reviews, some more than others, some better than others. How will not really matter (to Google or the consumer). What we do know for sure is that the businesses with lots of great reviews (and scores) will prosper and those with few reviews and poor scores (or no score at all) will suffer.
Review management will have a significant role to play, providing professional advice to businesses and in terms of the mechanics of ensuring a regular and steady flow of reviews that accurately reflect the levels of service provided by those businesses to their customers.
Delay will be costly, and not just in terms of lagging the competition: there is significant evidence available already that shows that once a pattern of reviews is set (both positive and negative) subsequent reviews tend to conform to that pattern. If the initial pattern is negative (deserved or not) that pattern will work against the business.
The message must be: don’t delay. Don’t leave the first (and often only) impression created in the mind of your potential customer to chance. Engage with review management today.
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