You may have noticed it with your own business, and you will almost certainly have noticed it when searching online for other businesses. We estimate that Google reviews are accelerating at a factor of between 1.5 and 3 a year.
As many of you know, we carry out audits on every business we meet – simply to understand their current exposure to – and engagement with – reviews. Just this week we have encountered two businesses, one in recruitment and one in estate agency, where the number of Google reviews has gone – in the last 12 months – from 91 to 263 and 29 to 86 respectively.
What is driving this growth?
A number of factors, many of which we alluded to in this article almost exactly a year ago. Let’s list them and highlight some that are new…
- more people can physically write a review – Google just has millions more people signed up to one of more of their services (G+, Gmail, Youtube and so on)
- more people have ‘broken their duck’ – once they’ve written one review they are far more likely to go on and write more
- peer approval – writing reviews is becoming the norm. A common response to the complaint ‘I’ve experienced bad service’ these days is: ‘Then write a review’
- review site fatigue – it’s the name we’ve given to a syndrome that we reckon is becoming more common by the day: people cannot be bothered to register with multiple review sites, one for a hotel, another for a plumber, yet another for their estate agent – now they just go to Google
- credibility – ever since Google began insisting that a review is attached to a Google account (you will still see old ‘A Google user’ reviews, but they can no longer be written) credibility has made a quantum leap. Google understands that consumers want credible reviews from real consumers and is determined to deliver them
- businesses are driven to proactivity by a negative review – there’s nothing like receiving a really well-crafted negative review to bounce a business into action – most often the wrong type of action (the major errors we see are invariably infractions of the CMA code)
- NEW! The Google Filter – enabling consumers to filter businesses that score less than 4.0 out of searches – has undoubtedly prompted some businesses to act to increase the flow of reviews
- NEW! Google Guides: Google prompts its Local Guides to write reviews – it knows where they have been…
Add to this the propensity for consumers to write negative reviews – the motivation is just so much greater…
Then we begin to see that businesses need to find a proactive strategy with regard to reviews.
Today a business with twenty reviews looks good (as long as the reviews and resulting score are positive, of course).
But soon a business with numbers like these will become the norm:
client of ours – but it will minimise the chances of harmful inaccurate or
misleading reviews being posted
And then there will be some real heart-searching in marketing departments across the world. Why? Because Google scores (and therefore the Google Filter) operate on a purely mathematical average. The impact of this is to make it increasingly an uphill struggle to ‘correct’ a bad score. Look at the numbers…
A business currently has a score of 3.0 from 10 reviews. How many five star reviews to get that score up to 4.0 (and therefore pass the filter)? Answer: 10 (and no 4, 3, 2 or 1 stars meanwhile!).
But a score of 3.0 from 100 reviews? The business will need a hundred five star reviews. And so on upwards. And that’s only to get to 4.0; to really impress consumers your business should look to be scoring at least 4.5. You do the maths.
One day your business is going to have this many reviews – and only proactive review management is going to ensure that your score is a fair and accurate representation of the service you provide.
Engage – and engage before your business finds that it is failing the Filter or, worse still – and we have seen this on more than one occasion – the phone stops ringing.