Positive Review Are Great – Until You Get Caught

Reviews make a huge difference in today’s world. Customers and prospects are consistently checking for reviews of products, services, and even individual service providers. You can’t do a Google search for a company without seeing their average review rating. Amazon items are constantly sorted by people’s opinion of them in a simplistic 5-star organization.

Basically, good reviews will really help your business, and bad reviews will really, really hurt it. Because so many companies know this, many engage in practices to post fake online reviews on multiple sites. It sounds like a great plan to pay someone to get you a bunch of fake goodwill – until one of you gets caught.

Just yesterday, 19 companies came to an agreement with the state of New York to pay a collective $350,000 in fines for posting fake reviews online for other companies. 4 years ago in an unrelated case, Lifestyle Lift was forced to pay a $300,000 fine for posting fake online reviews on various sites across the Internet.

Beyond the legal ramifications, Google, Yelp, and others are cracking down on reviews like never before. It’s no longer good enough to tell someone to sign up for a Google account and post a review – it’s almost 100% unlikely that it will get through their parsing systems. Most legitimate reviews actually get blocked on Yelp – we have a client whom Yelp suddenly dropped 15 legitimate reviews overnight for no good reason.

However, there are several actions you can take to get positive reviews that are within he law and the parameters of review sites:

Encourage customers to post reviews – both negative and positive

Make a point to display which sites you want the review on and make it easy to get there – with a QR code for example. Make it clear that both positive and negative reviews are desired. “Bribing” customers with gift cards or incentives to post reviews is on the edge of legality and it’s what got some of the companies in New York in trouble – so keep that in mind.

Respond to all reviews – negative + positive

Simple responding to all reviews is very, very helpful. You can do serious damage control by simply offering an olive branch on a site – even if it means swallowing your pride. 80% of viewers are likely to discount a negative review if the owner has responded in a calm and peaceful manner. So, respond, respond, respond. Just take a breath before you hit the submit button.

Pay attention to the indicators of a bad review

These are the indicators of bad reviews that Yelp uses and Google uses similar parameters:

  • Are from someone who has only written 1 review
  • Are from someone who has no profile info (profile photo, additional info, link to Facebook, etc.)
  • Are strongly slanted both positively and negatively
  • Short and lacking details
  • From a location other than where the business is located

So, encourage people to post reviews while in your shop and be specific. You can’t control how many review they have or how much profile info they have, but try and court people who meet those specs by offering a Yelp deal or event.

There are a lot of ways to get more reviews on your site – just be very careful in how you do it. It’s likely going to be a while before these crackdowns make it out to Colorado – but you don’t want ot caught in the crosshairs when they do.