We read ‘Think with Google‘ so our clients don’t have to (not about reviews, at least) – here is the full text of this week’s article
…and the implications are far-reaching.
Let’s look at this in more detail:
consumers – self-evidently – want the ‘best’ in any search – the ‘best’ restaurant or the ‘best’ lawyer, in fact ‘the ‘best’ of everything
Google is actually pretty bad at delivering ‘best’ – so that uplift in the use of ‘best’ as a search term is not really delivering. Look at these examples…
Top result? A hotel rated 3.8 – it just so happens to have the word ‘best’ in its name, but the Seraphine at 3.9?
‘Best’ estate agent…
Well, you cannot argue that they are not all ‘Best’, but possibly not in the way searchers want or need
One at 2.8?
And our favourite… ‘best’ financial advisors…
…currently serving a 150 year sentence in a Federal jail!
What this illustrates is the conflict of interest that is at the core of Google’s business model – and they have the key to solving that conflict, the only question is: when will they decide to use that key.
Reviews, of course.
One day soon, hopefully for those using ‘best’ as a search term, Google will base the answer on review scores. It already has them – and if it does not it is up to the business concerned to remedy that situation – and it is certainly possible to deliver, from a technical point-of-view, by implementing a simple algorithm. After all, Google is already doing something very similar with its filter and ‘Top rated’ (more on that here).
What does your business need to do?
At the core of Google’s research is the – unsurprising – finding that their users want to find great businesses, not just businesses with massive advertising budgets, but businesses who deliver great products and services – so just take some of your PPC budget and apply it to getting great reviews.
Businesses like this – this business had two Google reviews when it became a HelpHound client – already look great in search, and they can relax in the knowledge that they will rank at or near the top when Google gets round to delivering the ‘best’ in search
Strive to ‘be the best’ reviewed business in your marketplace, so when Google get around to ranking businesses yours appears at – or at least somewhere near – the top of the list.
One of the prime concerns we hear from every single potential client is “What can we do about negative reviews?”
And often we sense that the immediate response they would most welcome would be something along the lines of “we have a mechanism that will prevent them being published, either on your own website or anywhere else.”
But that’s not our response. Our response is guided by two things:
sensible business practice
the CMA regulations governing reviews
Let’s look at both of these:
Sensible business practice
Just let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, we did have a system that magically filtered out negative reviews; what would the real-world impact of such a system be?
We don’t have to look far for our answer, as there are plenty of independent review sites that operate systems that favour the business, either by denying the reviewer the right to post a review unless specifically invited or by having a mechanism that allows the business to impose conditions on the publication of negative reviews.
Both these systems have the same medium to long-term effect. They drive dissatisfied customers to post to Google – the one site a business needs to look at its very best on. We see examples all the time. Here is just one…
The same business – on an independent review site (L) and on Google (R). An increasingly common disconnect, almost always caused by the business inviting ‘happy’ customers to post to the reviews site, leaving ‘unhappy’ customers no option but to post to an open site – Google being the obvious choice
Sensible business practice dictates that whatever system a business adopts it must positively welcome all kinds of reviews from everyone and anyone. After all, Google does.
What happens next is important. At HelpHound we value our own reputation as a force for good in the somewhat murky world of reviews, and to maintain that reputation means treating both sides of the review equation equally – we have to be seen to be fair and credible to both business and consumer, and we need to be seen to be adding value in both directions. That means that the business should be fairly and accurately represented through its reviews and that the consumer should be able to rely on those reviews as an aid to their purchasing decision.
Inaccurate reviews – in this case pricing – help neither business nor consumer
Fake reviews, of any kind, help no-one. Inaccurate or misleading reviews ditto.
HelpHound’s Resolution™ to the rescue – for both parties
The full process is detailed in this article. To summarise, Resolution™ is designed to minimise the chances of fake, inaccurate or misleading reviews being published, as none of these benefits anyone.
Here’s an example. This review was posted recently:
Under the terms of Resolution™ – understood by both business and their customer – the review is first submitted to the business for comment. In this case there had been misunderstandings between the two parties concerned, as well as miscommunication (there were language issues). Resolution™ allowed for private communication between both parties and, again, as of right, the customer is invited to post a review after that communication (which can be their original review, but seldom is). This is what they did post:
Some might say that it would be helpful for both reviews to be published (and there is nothing to stop the reviewer doing so) but that would be to assume we inhabit a perfect world in which everyone communicates in both directions every time. Far too often a consumer will post an inaccurate or misleading review – often straight to Google – leaving the business nothing to do but post its own response. But that harms the business’s reputation unfairly, especially through Google’s scoring system – an unfair or misleading 1* review, even responded to by the business, remains to impact the business’s score – a shorthand guideline increasingly used by consumers to winnow out a shortlist (and by Google itself through its filter).
The CMA regulations
A full analysis can be found here. Two of the core principles of the CMA regulations (which have the force of law in the UK) are:
that the reviewer should be able to write a review at any time of their own choosing
that the business must do nothing to prevent that review being published
At HelpHound our clients incorporate a button like this on their websites so absolutely anyone* may write a review at any time…
And we promise to publish any genuine review. And this means that the reviewer can have an inaccurate or misleading review published. The fact that they seldom do is down to Resolution™.
And one final point: always remember that, whatever review system you employ, your competitors will often attempt to undermine it. If it favours the business at the expense of the consumer, or if it is seen to be non-compliant, that hands a significant weapon to them.
*This surprises some businesses t first, until it is pointed out to them that they often have many more stakeholders than they have customer email addresses: husband/wife/partner/neighbour/employee/potential customer/’friend’ of customer/professional advisor of customer and so on…any of whom can write a review of the business to Google at the click of a mouse, and often do – unless they are given a more attractive alternative.
So much has happened in the world of reviews recently that we felt it only right not to wait until the end of the year before bringing you one of our regular reports.
Google, so dominant in search – 68% worldwide – is introducing changes at such a rate that the contrast between search on 1 January this year and now is as marked as any full year previously.
So – how does this affect our world, the world of professional review management?
The Big One…
Is the demise of review websites. They’re not quite dead yet, but they are dying. Don’t look at their metrics, look at their share prices: Yelp down from $85 to $25, TripAdvisordown from $95 to $70, Angie’s Listdown from $9 to $5. And the only reason TripAdvisor and Angie’s List have not quite taken the hit that Yelp has is their fractionally smaller reliance on Google (for now).
This is so simple: because Google has ramped up its own review offering. Search for any kind of business and who do you see? Trustpilot reviews? No – Google reviews. Yelp reviews? No – Google reviews.
You own a business and you’d like your Yelp reviews to show in your Google ads? They did last year (with a nice star rating). This year? Google reviews.
Reviews may be small beer for Google, but with the number of Google users and their positioning in search it will be Googlers, not Yelpers, who dictate inward business flows for you from now on.
The impact for your business
If you have committed resources (effort and/or funds) to getting reviews to any specialist review site you should be examining strategies for redirecting that energy. For the forseeable future the there are only two places you are going to need reviews:
On your own website
Just imagine that you accumulate a hundred great reviews on Google and your competitor has only five, ten or fifteen, how great will you feel? And what if that position were reversed?
While we’re on that topic (reviews on your own website)…
Retailers were quick to recognise the value of reviews on their own sites; they understood, early on, that consumers would buy with more confidence if they were given credible (independently verified) reviews.
Retailers like John Lewis have been quick to recognise the power of reviews, service providers and the professions less so. This is, in part, due to the understandable ‘fear factor’: the realisation the power one single negative review may have to deflect business. For more about how HelpHound reduces this ‘fear factor’ read on here.
But service providers and the professions have been much slower to climb aboard: the old fashioned ‘testimonial’ still pervades. It is important for businesses to understand that independently verified reviews, hosted on the business’s own website, are just as important in driving new business for estate agents, solicitors and financial advisers as they are for electricals and white goods retailers.
With the current dearth of businesses like these hosting independently verified reviews, the opportunity for those in these sectors to steal a march on their competitors is still massive.
Lose the fear: and stop treating reviews as an add-on and integrate them into your core marketing plan. Get a professional review manager like HelpHound to work alongside you (you will need them for the crucial independence, if for nothing else).
Make sure that they can cover both bases for you: reviews on your own websiteand reviews to Google.
Then sit back and watch the results roll in – guaranteed!
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