I am not sure why anyone would think it was a good idea to hire people to write fake reviews for their businesses.
- If they are not found out, they know they are fraudulently representing their business. Who wants to run that kind of a business?
- If they are found out, they are seen by consumers as not only a bad place to visit but also as fundamentally untrustworthy.
A good reputation is still one of the best things a business can be built upon. I would rather have no reviews than a fake review.
At least when you overreact to negative reviews people know it is most likely because you care and are personally invested in your business. When you lie about your business to get people in the door, it seems like a betrayal of the customer.
But, there is now another reason to avoid hiring or incentivizing good reviews….Sites like Yelp, Google, and Amazon are starting to fight back.
Defenses Are Being Built
What value is having a review site if nobody can trust the content of its reviews? Not much, that is why sites are starting to fight back.
Sites that sell the reliability of their posted reviews (like Yelp, Google, and Amazon) are starting to write powerful algorithms designed to ferret out suspicious reviews. Each of these sites have teams of people who follow up on the leads that the algorithms generate.
Yelp, for instance, is starting to call out companies that post or induce fake reviews on their site. When they find a questionable review, they put a box over the review that says “Consumer Alert” suggesting that the review is of questionable quality. When a Yelper digs deeper, they can click a button that will show them screenshots of the evidence Yelp’s team uncovers of the review being fraudulent.
I can only imagine that a potential customer is even less likely to visit a business that feels like it has to basically bribe people to say good things about them. Research has shown that people take negative reviews very seriously, I can only imagine that seeing evidence of fraud is even worse than seeing a bad review.
I also imagine that it would be worse to not claim your businesses review page than it would be for your business to be forever immortalized for a fraudulent review.
How to Avoid Being Review-Shamed
The best way to get good reviews is to build a great experience for your customers. Nothing inspires a great review like an amazing experience with a business.
There is nothing wrong with asking for customers to support you on Yelp or Google if they liked your service. It is even encouraged by some review sites.
However, you want to avoid:
- Engaging in offering benefits for good reviews. You should not offer anything (coupons, discounts, or quid pro quo’s) for good reviews from customers (or anyone else).
- Engaging in hiring people to write you good reviews.
- Writing good reviews for yourself
Every review site has a set of guidelines they want business owners to follow. You should familiarize yourself with these guidelines before moving forward.
If you are frustrated by negative reviews, it might seem smart to try to overwhelm them with fake good reviews. If you are suffering from a spate of bad reviews, I would recommend:
- Collecting them and parsing them like you would in an audit. Figure out what you are doing wrong and fix it. Make sure your customer experience is awesome. It might be painful to look in the mirror and see what is wrong, but reviews are invaluable and cheap customer research.
- Responding to each bad review, even ones that make you angry, with grace and a willingness to make each customer happy. Show everyone that you are the kind of business that cares more about making customers happy than about ego.
By using reviews as customer research and showing how much you care about customer experiences with your brand, you will get more support and better reviews. Great experiences generate great reviews.
The bottom line is that the best way to avoid penalties or public shaming from review sites is to get reviews the old fashioned way – earn them.