Online reviews hold incredible power for business because they can change consumers opinions at the very moment they are ready to make a decision. Should we go to this restaurant? A quick check of the reviews and hmmm, maybe not. Their vital importance is forcing business owners to spend more time monitoring and managing them. However, when reviews appear to be biased or unfair every business owner wants justice and will look for ways to fight back. This will often lead to more frustration as those same people who feel victimized by fake reviews seek quick fixes.
The reality is any business that has been operating for more than a few years, particularly in the food or service industries, will have a collection of good and bad reviews. But despite the best efforts of Google and other sites, Â bogus reviews make their way online too. These ruin the experience for users who will get a false picture of your business, and they undermine the credibility of review sites. To combat abuses, Google continually updates their algorithms to weed out review spam. Unfortunately, the quick fixes that business owners employ to manage reviews can also be caught by these algorithmic updates resulting in accurate reviews from real people being deleted along with the spam.
To avoid some of the pitfalls that will prevent your customers’ reviews from getting posted, make sure you and your staff are not using any of the following techniques that can raise a red flag to Google’s filters.
- Reputation Management Companies Canâ€™t Remove Bad Reviews – Business owners are hounded by online solicitations with bogus offers by companies that claim to have the magical power to remove bad reviews. Donâ€™t believe them. Google has said publicly that they do not work with any third-party reputation management companies and that they do not remove reviews unless they violate their guidelines.
- Artificial Reviews Fail – Be wary of SEO or reputation management services that promise to generate reviews for your business. They typically add an array of glowing reviews under false identities that are easy for Google to spot and take down.
- Don’t Let Customers Create Reviews on a Computer at Your Business Location– It’s tempting to set up a computer or tablet in your business for customers to leave reviews. Don’t do it. While it seems like a legitimate approach that will result in real people making real reviews, Google’s policies will flag them. The problem is the Internet protocol (I.P.) address. If Google spots dozens of reviews coming from the same I.P. address, it will assume they are fraudulent. The best way to get reviews from Â recent visitors and avoid the filters is by sending a follow-up Â e-mail to customers with a link to your review sites. Itâ€™s a great way to build up your email database and Â customers can review when it’s convenient for them.
- No Reviews by Business Owners or Current Employees – Even if your employees are legitimate consumers of your products and or services their reviews will get deleted. The review approach employed by Â Google and others is built around creating profiles of people to make sure they are real. Data posted to sites like Â LinkedIn or Facebook is picked up and added Â into your profile that can then be used to determine associations like employment. Google’s assumption is that reviews by current employees or owners will be skewed, so they donâ€™t allow them. Unfortunately, they have not publicly addressed whether this holds true with former employees. Some of the most vocal complaints about fraudulent reviews are those that are posted by disgruntled former employees.
- No Free Gifts or Discounts for Leaving Reviews – This is clearly out of bounds. It is unknown how this penalty is enforced but it will be assigned as a ding against the business in search and other factors and could even result in the removal of your Local Account Listing.
- Donâ€™t Try to Convert Offline Reviews to Online Reviews – If you accept comment cards or have received written letters praising your business it might be tempting to collect them and â€œdigitizeâ€ them by posting the reviews on Google+ Local. Don’t do it. This is also an inconvenience that is being imposed because of fraudulent behavior. In reality, it is a legitimate retasking of actual experiences from real people but the digital footprint it will leave will trip the filters. Googleâ€™s experts said in a recent post on the subject,â€We ask that all reviews come from first-hand experience and do not allow posting reviews on behalf of others.â€ So as in the previous example build systems into your business that encourage people to post reviews on their own.
The psychological aspects of consumer behavior are stacked against businesses when it comes to reviews. Angry or dissatisfied Â customers are much more likely to post a negative review than those who had a positive experience. This can lead to inaccurate portrayals of businesses online. Â It Â falls on business owners to create ways to make it easy for happy customers to add their opinions to ensure that there is a fair and balanced mix. So if you find yourself looking at your reviews on Google + and are frustrated by what you see, use legitimate methods to encourage reviews like email marketing and social media.
However, if these all sound like good ideas but you know it will be a challenge to implement them, we can Â help. At SynaVista we develop systems to promote your business that includes easy connections to review sites that will help your customers share their great experiences. Our approach ties in with your other marketing efforts to create efficiency and value for the best overall results. Contact us to discuss how we can help your business manage online reviews and integrate them into your marketing strategy.
The importance of reviews cannot be overlooked so whatever approach you decide to employ, keep a watchful eye on local accounts on Google and Yelp. People are talking about you…