With more and more consumers researching businesses online before making a purchase, you’ll have a hard time inspiring trust if you have too many negative reviews (or even not enough total reviews).
To improve their online reputation, some business owners are resorting to tactics like hiring people to write fake reviews or offering customers rewards in exchange for positive reviews—especially on the top online review platform, Google.
However, buying fake Google reviews is a bad idea for the following reasons.
1. The FTC will fine you
One of the best reasons not to buy reviews is that fake reviews are illegal under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45).
The FTC considers fake reviews and testimonials to be false or deceptive advertising, which is against the law for several reasons.
- The reviews aren’t based on actual customer experiences.
- They mislead consumers because the content of the review is false.
- They encourage people to buy something they otherwise wouldn’t, which financially defrauds the customer.
Incentivized reviews are also illegal unless the company or individual giving the review or testimonial clearly states that he or she has received compensation or another form of incentive for the review and that his or her statement is true and accurate.
The FTC is serious about allegations of consumer fraud. If the organization catches you buying or incentivizing reviews, you could end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. In 2019, it fined a business $12.8 million for purchasing fake reviews.
2. Reviewers might mention your incentive in their reviews
Incentivizing people to write positive reviews is a form of bribery. As such, the last thing you want is for a reviewer to accidentally reveal what you are doing.
This evidence of your actions will not only destroy any hope you have of gaining consumer trust, but it will also notify Google that you’ve been violating its rules and possibly draw the attention of the FTC.
Of course, you can always ask your customers to keep your review incentive a secret. However, there is always the chance that someone will slip up and mention it anyway.
3. People will notice your reviews are fake
More than 80% of people reported reading a fake review in 2019. This means that consumers know how to spot a fake review.
Some dead giveaways include:
- Reviewer isn’t active on Google Maps
- Vast majority of the person’s reviews are negative
- Reviewer focuses on a single industry (because he or she is targeting competitors)
- Reviewer posts multiple reviews at the same time
- Duplicate reviews from different accounts
- Reviews contain few or no concrete details
There are also several apps online shoppers can use to identify fake reviews. These tools look for common red flags (like the ones mentioned above) that don’t often appear in authentic reviews.
Another problem with stacking the deck with positive reviews is that doing so makes all your reviews look suspicious. In fact, 95% of people suspect your reviews are fake or that you’re censoring bad reviews if they don’t see any bad ratings.
Because your attempt to skew your ratings will be obvious to potential customers, you are much better off avoiding fake reviews. Showcasing all your reviews—the bad alongside the good—proves that you aren’t hiding anything or trying to deceive anyone.
4. You will lose valuable feedback about your business
One often-overlooked consequence of spamming your business profile with fake reviews is not getting to read your customers’ honest feedback. For example, your business might have problems that you aren’t aware of—but you’ll never learn about them if you discourage negative reviews.
Think of negative reviews as free usability testing for your business processes. How will you know what’s working and what’s not if you don’t solicit negative reviews along with the positive?
Imagine this scenario: your company has garnered nine negative reviews in the past quarter, and six of them describe your website as being hard to navigate. After reading the reviews, you have solid data about how to fix a problem that is turning away customers.
5. Google will delete your reviews
Google’s content policy specifically prohibits fake reviews.
“Your content should reflect your genuine experience at the location and should not be posted just to manipulate a place’s ratings. Don’t post fake content, don’t post the same content multiple times, and don’t post content for the same place from multiple accounts.”
Moreover, Google states that if your business profile features fake reviews, it will remove them from your profile.
“Reviews are automatically processed to detect inappropriate content like fake reviews and spam. We may take down reviews that are flagged in order to comply with Google policies or legal obligations.”
An example of Google doing so is when it removed all but one of a Kentucky law firm’s reviews for offering family zoo passes in exchange for reviews.
The right way to earn more Google reviews
- Ask for feedback immediately after a transaction—Nearly 80% of people will leave a review when asked. So, don’t be shy about asking, whether you are interacting online or face to face.
- Make it easy for people to review you—Be sure to use the Google Review Link Generator to get your custom link. This way, customers don’t have to track down your Google business listing to leave a review. You can post this link on your social media accounts, your website, and on signs in your store, if you run a brick-and-mortar business. You could also enclose a note or sticker asking for a Google review when you ship your product.
- Automate the process—A smart way to ensure you’re reaching out to all your customers is to automate the process. Our online reviews solution, for example, sends out review requests via email, text message, or a special iOS/Android kiosk.
- Respond to all your reviews—Responding to all reviews is a great opportunity to engage with your customers. Doing so shows that you care what your customers think, which encourages others to write reviews.
- Address customer pain points —Of course, the best way to garner more positive reviews is to thoroughly wow customers in every interaction they have with your business. To do so, you need to identify and solve their issues and make customer satisfaction part of your company’s culture.
If you have any questions about how to get more positive reviews for your business, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are happy to offer free consultations.