Building an online reputation is not merely registering your business on Google and Yelp. If you’re just starting out, you need online reviews.
Reviews are how consumers check the quality of your business. People often look to those independent reviews more than they do personal recommendations.
Getting reviews is challenging. Readers assume reviews are independent and not solicited in any way. To add to the challenge, consumers often don’t take the time to leave online feedback unless they are dissatisfied.
Many companies give in and outsource fake reviews to improve their ratings. This may seem like an effective strategy. But that eventually backfires and leaves a negative mark or your business rather than a positive one.
This article focuses less on how to get reviews and more on how not to solicit fake reviews.
Fake Reviews Online Destroys Trust
Many companies make money by selling fake reviews online. Review writing is outsourced overseas, where labourers work for low wages. They generate thousands of reviews daily.
Fake Reviews Lack Quality
Given that rapid production, you can imagine the lack of quality in the review. Also, many labourers have only rudimentary English.
And, none of this passes muster with potential customers, who can spot fake reviews right away. People will lose trust without ever becoming customers.
Special Risks for SEO Companies
Companies that provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services that support this practice are taking extra risks with their reputation. Their services revolve around building an online presence for clients.
If they are caught faking their online reputation, customers will rightfully question their ability to deliver results for them.
Google Can Cause Your Local Search Traffic to Drop
Google bases its business on data. They track and predict trends with amazing proficiency. They will penalize you if they discover fake reviews on Google.
Once Google realized you’re getting online reviews for your business that are not legitimate, they will not rank your site for relevant local search terms.
The consequence is reduced traffic to your website. You’ll likely experience a sharp drop in revenue as a result. If you don’t know how to get reviews, take some time to learn instead of turning to fake reviews.
You’ll Make your Company Look Too Good to Be True
Even if your reviews manage to stay under Google’s radar, you still run the risk of looking phoney. If all you have are sparkling, over-the-top reviews, you’ll appear too good to be true. And rightfully so.
Any business will have some negative comments somewhere. Between the law of averages and the rules of human behaviour, no product line will have spotless reviews.
Special Risks for Small Business Owners
Small business owners who publish false reviews can expect a backlash in the form of negative reviews. These come in the form of a different kind of false review: the negative one.
Companies who do this could find themselves barraged with their own negative reviews. The text of those reviews calls out the company for intentionally posting fake reviews.
Such an onslaught floods their product sites with negative feedback. It can erode consumer trust completely. This can be catastrophic for a small business.
Legal Repercussions of Fake Reviews
So far, we have discussed how using fake reviews can backfire. You could end up with more negative reviews than positive. You’ll erode consumer trust rather than build it. There are financial and legal ramifications as well.
Regulators Can Fine You for Fake Reviews Online
Regulators used to ignore fake reviews online. With the rise of digital marketing, though, consumers trust these reviews more. As a result, regulators now pay closer attention, acting as fake review checker.
They have the authority to fine you for unethical or deceptive marketing actions. That includes fake reviews.
In Canada, the Competition Bureau identifies fake reviews as “misleading advertising and labelling.” The Bureau handles this under Section 74.02 of the Competition Act.
Under this law, a person can pay a penalty of up to $750,000 for the first occurrence. A corporation can pay up to $10,000,000 for the same offence.
For subsequent violations, the penalties increase. An individual can be fined up to $1,000,000, A corporation can be fined up $15,000,000.
You Could Face a Lawsuit
Lawsuits are yet another repercussion of fake reviews. Local governments as well as the Competition Bureau, can fine you. That is painful enough. But your competitors may file a lawsuit.
Attorneys may see this violation of consumer protection guidelines and solicit a lawsuit based on deceptive trade practices.
How to Get Reviews the Right Way
Each country has its own set of directory sites that feature local businesses. Canadian business owners who want better Google rankings, as well as more local customers, should ask existing customers to write reviews.
Not everyone in your customer base will respond. That means you want the reviews you get to count. Ask customers to review on websites that are part of your local network and that feed to other sites in your country.
Facebook, Yelp and weblocal.ca are the largest.
What If You’re Not the One Posting the Fake Reviews?
What if you discover fake reviews popping up on your Facebook or Google My Business Page? The unfortunate truth is that malicious, fake reviews are becoming more common — we know because it has happened to us too! Here is something to keep in mind.
Every site that hosts reviews has Terms of Service (TOS). You can usually find a link to the TOS at the bottom of the website homepage. The TOS lists the type of content that users are allowed to post in their reviews.
Any reputable site will stipulate they can remove any reviews that that are personal attacks on an employee. They can also remove any derogatory remarks about a person based on race, religion, disability, or ethnicity.
If you see such a review about your business or one of your employees, contact the site owner or follow the process outlined to flag or report an inappropriate review. Usually, the company will remove the post without issue, even if it does take some time.
Alternately, you can reply to the negative review online. In your reply state that you are concerned that this may have been a wrongful review as they are not identified as a customer of yours and request to have it removed directly from the reviewer.
If reporting the fake review isn’t enough, you can decide whether you want to take formal legal action.
Take the High Road
Getting reviews for business isn’t always easy. You may have a great product or service. Though, without the reviews as testimony, growing your business will take more time.
Despite the temptation, it’s best to avoid the easy way of generating fake reviews to get the ball rolling.
If you have any questions about how to get reviews for your business, make sure to contact us.