Risky Review Practices to Avoid and Why

Risky Review Practices to Avoid and Why

Don’t ever doubt the power of online reviews. According to this recent infographic, 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family. Consumers are also more likely to spend more on products with excellent reviews.

Knowing how important online reviews are, it can be tempting to take a few shortcuts. Unfortunately, many of these shortcuts can end up hurting your online presence – and you may not be able to recover.

Four Risky Review Practices to Avoid

Here are four risky review moves that you don’t want to make, and what can happen if you do.

1. Review Contests

Review contests are popular – but they are illegal. The idea behind a review contest is that the reviewer will be entered to win a prize if they leave a review. The reason why review contests are illegal is because they violate Google’s Terms of Service.

According to Google’s TOS, businesses cannot give money, products or services to customers in exchange for a positive review. Also, they cannot offer gifts in exchange for a person writing a negative review for a competitor. If Google finds out that a business is doing this, they will usually send a letter asking them to stop the contest.

Bottom line: Don’t ask for reviews in exchange for a gift or money. Google feels this results in fabricated reviews instead of genuine ones. (And, we’d have to agree.)

2. Review Swaps

Another practice you want to avoid is review swapping. Review swaps are when one business writes a review for another business, and vice versa. Again, this goes against Google’s TOS because the reviews are not genuine.

The person reviewing the business has not received a service from that location and is instead writing the review to manipulate the ratings. If Google sees that you’ve been a part of a review swap, they’ll delete the reviews.

3. Asking Friends and Family

Just as review swaps are posted to manipulate ratings, so are ratings from friends and family. A telltale sign that relatives have posted reviews for a business is having a number of reviews from one specific time period and none posted after.

Potential customers want to see reviews that are fresh, relevant and spread out over a period of time. Signs of a reputable business include at least 10 reviews, with the majority of them being within the last three months.

4. Review-gating

Review-gating occurs when a customer fills out a survey and is chosen to write a review based on how high they scored the business. So, if a customer rates the business highly, the business may ask them to write a review. If the customer rates the business poorly, they’ll be asked to provide private feedback.

If Google receives a report of review-gating, they will delete all of the business’ reviews, not just the ones that are in violation. Plus, if you engage in this practice, Google can ding your Google My Business listing. Do you really want all of your reviews to be erased and Google gets to keep your money? We didn’t think so.

Why You Can’t be Afraid of Negative Reviews

As a business, it can be worrisome to get a negative review. That said, you can’t operate in fear of receiving negative feedback. Even if you try to stop bad reviews from being posted, people will find someplace to post them. After all, you can’t stop a person from sharing what they think.

If you do receive a poor review, use it as an opportunity to show customers how you handle this type of feedback. Respond in a polite, timely manner and find a way to make things right. And, if you receive a lot of reviews that share the same frustrations, take this as an opportunity to improve your product or service. When you do, let your customers know that you’ve heard them and are working to make things better. This goes much further than trying to manipulate your ratings.

How to Encourage Authentic Customer Reviews

As a business, you have to take the good with the bad. Hopefully, there is much more good than bad! We’ll give you a few tips for encouraging positive reviews that represent your brand in the best light possible.

  • Ask for reviews. Most people leave a review when they really like or really dislike something. The silent majority is who you want to tap into. These customers are mostly satisfied but don’t take the time to leave a review. Encourage these customers to leave feedback by placing a short note on the bottom of a receipt or email order form.
  • Make it easy. Give customers plenty of ways to leave you a review. Allow them to leave feedback on sites like Facebook, Google and Yelp. The easier it is to write a review, the more likely a customer is to leave one. Avoid asking lots of questions, requesting private information (name, phone number) and requiring an account to be set up (some review sites do this).
  • Offer incentives. While it’s not acceptable to offer something for free in exchange for a review, you can offer incentives (this is not bribing). The key is to ask customers to leave a genuine review, whether that review is good, bad or in between.
  • Give a survey. Sometimes, people don’t care to fill out a review. Offer an interactive research survey instead. Let the user know how much time it will take to fill out the review and also thank them for their time. Popular survey platforms include SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo and Zoho Survey.

The Best Reviews are Genuine

Reviews are an important part of managing your online presence. By encouraging genuine reviews and responding to customers in a timely manner, you can facilitate a well-rounded idea of the business you are and the products and services you provide. Most importantly, don’t take shortcuts or engage in risky review schemes to get ahead. It may work for a short time, but it will end up hurting you in the long run.

WSI Net Advantage is a digital marketing agency that can help you manage your online presence. For personalized internet marketing solutions that support your marketing initiatives, contact us today at 510-687-9737 or contact us here.

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