William R Collier Jr- Some SEO firms sell “Google Reviews” which both help with SEO and increase trust for your company. People have long complained about these fake reviews and Google’s seeming reticence to rein them in.
Fake reviews undermine the entire concept of reviews. This works for both the fake positive reviews and the fake negative reviews. I myself so mistrust reviews that, more and more, I virtually ignore them or give them little weight. I have found that my experience can often be the exact opposite of what the reviews say.
Leaving that aside and the issue of negative reviews, fake positive reviews are in fact a fraud upon the public. Any business owner should realize the risk of posting fake positive reviews has serious potential downsides. First, once the public gets wind that they have been gaming the system their public reputation could never recover. Second, it could be seen, and prosecuted, under the law or you could get sued.
What happens to your reputation if the public catches wind of your fake reviews can be an existential threat to your business. But how would the public know? There are two very big ways they could know: an unhappy customer whose post on social media goes viral or a reporter who is looking for a scoop. In fact, imagine you are a local reporter looking for something sensational to do a report on. Knowing how often fake reviews are done, they will doubtless occasionally check random businesses to see if they can spot fakes, then maybe reach out to your customers and soon enough you are on the news.
It is said that all press, even bad press, is good for you. But when the news is all about your fake reviews, bad press is just bad, there is no upside.
On the legal front, knowingly publishing, or paying others to publish, fraudulent information about your products and services violates the law. There are both Federal and State consumer protection and deceptive trade practice laws that forbid this kind of behavior. And even if you do not get charged, you can be sued by your customers, or even by your competitors. Think about it like this: your competitors are likely to analyze your reviews and if they look suspicious, that competitor could resort to contacting the authorities. A customer who used those reviews but who has a bad experience may actually sue you for false advertising. And, finally, if your business is large enough, hungry attorneys love to investigate these reviews to find potential class action lawsuits waiting to happen.
Is there an ethical way to buy reviews or to get real reviews?
Let’s start with getting real reviews. In advertising I often note the biggest flaw is to forget the ask. You have to be direct and ask for exactly what you want the reader or viewer to do. If you are not collecting customer email addresses and sending them a newsletter with offers and deals, then you are still stuck in the 20th century. Likewise if you don’t have social media accounts that you grow and cultivate. You need to use these resources and literally ask for your real customers to give you real reviews. Of course, let’s be honest, you aren’t going to ask a customer who was unhappy to write a review.
Aside from using your social media and your emails to customers, you should be asking for reviews of your customers at the counter, especially after you ask “how was your meal” or whatever and they say it was great. Simply train your people to ask “would you give is a review on…(whatever platform you want reviews on).”
An ethical way to buy reviews is to provide a special deal for would-be reviewers, asking them to give an honest review, and them when they do their reviews, have them note that they were offered a sample or discount in exchange for an honest review. While these are not as effective as organic reviews, they can be useful, and, for SEO, if they are good reviews, they can be useful. Just make sure you do a good job serving someone you offer this deal to.
There is no good reason to buy reviews. Anyone who says they offer real reviews for pay is lying straight away. A real review is this and only this: a customer of yours wrote a review after purchasing a product of service from you and deciding on their own to write a review. Alternatively, a customer was given am incentive to write an honest review and they have disclosed that in the review.
When or if Google gets wind that you are using fake reviews it is likely your website will get blacklisted. The local DA may decide to make you a notch in their belt. A hungry attorney may decide you are their meal ticket. An angry customer may seek revenge. And the list of very bad scenarios goes on.
The bottom line is, ask for real reviews from your customers or offer incentives for honest reviews which disclose that they received something in return for doing an honest review.
You may be thinking, “I don’t rely on the internet in my business, so I don’t care about reviews.” I like to say “you may not care about the internet, but the internet cares about you.”
One downside to the opportunity to reach the world through the internet is that the world can reach you through the internet, even if you have no involvement in the internet. Businesses today have to be online not just to cultivate a positive public image but to proactively protect it as well. If you do not both know what your web presence is, and you likely have a web presence even if YOU haven’t posted anything online about your business, then you are literally a sitting duck. So, you have to care about and be on the internet, you really don’t have a choice.
If you need help developing a plan to engage your customers so you can get real reviews, I offer an analysis and blueprint which will give you everything you need to start getting real reviews. The whole plan costs $350 and can be ready for your implementation within 10 days. Just call Regal Blue Media at 1 (717) 503-1645.
You can get real reviews. You should never, ever, use fake reviews, and any review not done by your actual customer without incentive or with a fully disclosed inventive is a fake review.