Consumer reviews are the lifeblood of your social proof. They can go a long, long way towards establishing your brand’s credibility to prospective customers and can help to build a sense of trust and value in your brand.
Let’s be honest here. It doesn’t matter how articulately you explain why your brand is great, or how well you can wax lyrical about the virtues of your products, or how clearly you can delineate the reasons why you outmatch your competitors in every way.
The simple truth is that consumers are always going to take anything brands say about themselves with a pinch of salt.
And why shouldn’t they?
This is, after all, the digital age where consumers are better informed than ever and rely on credible information to back up their consumer choices.
Sure, this can make them more fickle, but it also means that if you can earn their loyalty, there’s a good chance that you can retain it.
Consumer reviews go a long way towards earning that trust… But the process of review gating, while it may seem beneficial at first glance, can actually undermine that trust.
Here we’ll take a close look at review gating and why we take a strong stand against it.
What is Review Gating?
Review gating is, in its simplest terms, a means by which businesses can selectively dictate which reviews are displayed proudly in the digital realm for all to see… and which reviews get quashed, never to see the light of day.
Businesses or third party review companies reach out to consumers for feedback. If it’s positive, the consumer is then encouraged to post a review publicly. If it’s negative, the feedback is submitted privately.
Essentially, review gating gives businesses a means by which they can block bad reviews and only let positive reviews be displayed.
A lot of review companies use Review Gating… But not us. Here’s why!
While we understand why businesses may feel sensitive about bad reviews, we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to Review gating. We don’t believe that it benefits businesses, brands, customers or new prospects.
Review gating risks a rose-tinted depiction of your business being displayed to the public, and while all brands want to appear in the best possible light, we don’t believe that review gating is the way to achieve it.
Here are just some of the reasons why we’re so firmly against the practice…
It’s against Google’s MyBusiness Guidelines
Google is the giant of the search engine world, and we believe that it’s a giant whom businesses cross at their peril. Last year a lot of business blogs wrote about how Google was taking a stand against review gating in their My Business guidelines.
However, the truth is that while review gating was officially stated to be against review gating in their MyBusiness guidelines as of April last year, the company has been against these guidelines for quite some time.
Companies who have been caught review gating have been forced to remove ads found to have come from gated sources going back as far as two years. This implies that Google has always had a problem with this practice and want to rid the internet of it, root and stem!
Seeing years’ worth of reviews disappear from Google is not a great look for any business and could seriously undermine consumer trust in you.
It’s one thing to be penalized by Google. It’s another thing entirely to be penalized by your core consumer base.
It’s dishonest… And your brand needs to be transparent
When businesses own their mistakes and make reparations to their consumer, those consumers tend to be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
But if there’s one thing that consumers hate, it’s being lied to.
There was a time when businesses large and small could keep their customers in the dark when it came to less than flattering operational practices. Today, however, consumers have the means by which to find answers for themselves.
And if they discover that they’re being duped by brands to which they had been loyal they will see this as a betrayal of their trust… As well they should.
Businesses in the 21st century need to be transparent in the way that they operate. They owe it to their customers and themselves to ensure that their closet doors are wide open so that consumers can see that they’re skeleton-free.
And no, a bad review is not a skeleton in your closet. In fact, bad reviews are beneficial to your business, and in quashing them enterprises hurt only themselves.
Which brings us to…
It robs your business of an important opportunity
Business owners can have a strong emotional reaction to bad reviews. They can take bad reviews of their business personally and this can impair their judgment.
It allows you to show consumers that you accept, acknowledge and embrace criticism and use it to improve your business and provide a better service to the customer.
It shows that you have a proactive approach to conflict resolution and don’t simply bury your head in the sand. It shows that you care about all of your customers, not just the ones who can be coerced into giving you 5-star reviews.
What’s that? Some negative reviews are unreasonable and possibly even personal? Good! That’s all the more reason to leave them on there.
Reasonably minded consumers will be able to see that the bad review is unreasonable and better still that you responded to it in a measured, amiable and reasonable way. That’s a huge net win for your brand’s image.
We focus on generating reviews that build genuine trust and value in businesses and their brands. That’s why we’re against Review Gating!
To learn more about generating reviews for your business, and easily managing and tracking what comes in, click here.
Have you noticed that your business is receiving negative reviews from customers? It’s possible that you have spotted plenty of negative reviews on common resources such as Google or even social media like Facebook recommendations. Upon closer inspection, however, you might discover that these aren’t negative customer reviews at all.
Instead, they could be coming from a competing business, keen to take down your company and bring your brand to its knees. This is a clever and underhanded way to hurt a competitor and unfortunately, it’s becoming more common.
Business owners know that reviews are trusted by potential customers online. A couple of well placed poor reviews online might be all it takes to make sure that customers favor their business over yours.
As such, you need to be aware of how to handle this situation and ideally how to get those fake negative reviews removed as quickly as possible.
Engage And Gain Loyalty
The first step is a preventative measure that you can put in place as soon as your business begins to sell on the market. You just need to make sure that you are encouraging customers of your company to leave reviews. This will build up a team of loyal followers who will recognize and defend you from negative reviews that may be suspicious and even false. With positive reviewers defending you and contradicting an out of place negative review, they become far less believable.
Make Yourself Unique
A lot of the time you will find that businesses are leaving you negative reviews because they feel like you are too similar to them and they don’t like this. As such, what you need to do here is make sure your business has something unique that nobody else has to make yourself completely separate. By doing this, nobody can say that your company is copying anyone else’s and they are less likely to leave you a negative review to take you down.
You will find that this is harder to do when you are an established company on the market and it is a new business who is doing this to you. In this case, making yourself unique can be quite a challenge as your customers expect certain things from you having been your customers for years. In this situation, you should try talking to the new business on the market, and discuss the different markets that you are each targeting. By doing this, they will no longer feel threatened by you, and will stop leaving your negative business reviews.
You should always aim to stay calm and respond to negative reviews in a friendly and professional manner. Simply say thank you for leaving the review, but that your records do not indicate that they ever used your service, but if they would like to provide you with more details, your business would be more than happy to rectify the situation. This way, you have not risen to the negative review by the other business, and people online will see that you handle complaints professionally and without lashing out at customers.
The good thing about doing this is that even if you are wrong and the review has been left by a customer experiencing issues with your service, you are going to be able to make things right with them. Once you have done this, they are likely to review their comment and change it to a positive one.
Challenge The Review
Of course, your main course of action is always going to be to attempt to get the negative comments removed. To do this, you need to look at the individual procedures of the resource where the review has been posted.
An example of this would be Google. With Google reviews, it’s a matter of first recognizing that a review is in fact fake. Once you have done this, you can then move through a number of steps to get it removed. First, make sure that you do take a screenshot. By doing this, you can ensure that the reviewer in question does not change their post to make it look less severe or extreme. Provide as much information as possible about the review and it will be taken down quickly.
One of the key details is often showing evidence that the negative review is from a competitor. You should check reviews of other businesses similar to yours. Chances are that the same reviewer is posting negative reviews for multiple businesses and leaving one out. If they are, then the business left alone is likely the source of the attack. Showing this will make it far more likely that all the negative reviews are removed.
That’s why it’s important to make sure that you are joining forces with other businesses online. Remember, you are likely not going to be the only one that has been targeted by these negative reviews from a competitor. They will have deemed others a threat as well and taken action against these business owners. Contact the businesses and address the issue head-on. You’ll find it’s far easier to handle if you do have strength in numbers.
Leave The Company Alone
It is certainly going to be tempting to retaliate against a business who is pushing negative reviews towards your company. You might feel the urge to get even but this is always going to be a mistake. Posting negative reviews could get yours removed while theirs remain and continue to hurt your brand. If you are going to complain to get negative reviews removed, then your hands must remain completely clean.
Similarly, you don’t want to make the issue public. Do not try and push your customers into taking action. As we have said they will do this without any push from you regardless. By taking it into the public spotlight, you could be left in a situation where you seem like the brand in the wrong.
We hope this helps you tackle competitors leaving bad reviews and gets your business reputation back on track.
Online reviews play an integral role in brand perception, rankings, and overall marketing success. If you’ve Googled yourself or your company lately, you may have been surprised to find negative results about yourself. This isn’t a detail to be taken lightly, as our world (and especially our reputation!) is defined by our digital footprints.
While this list of online review statistics is by no means comprehensive, it may provide some insight into the power of online reviews.
Online Review Purchase Impact
More often than not, people select products based on the number of reviews they have rather than the average rating of that review. Therefore, quantity over quality is key in seeking out new reviews. Psychological Science (2017)
36% of consumers state that the most important factors to consider when making a purchasing decision are reviews on third-party sites, local search engine rankings, and Google reviews. Review Trackers
Of all consumers who responded to surveys, 67% were influenced in some way by online reviews. Moz (2015)
Customers who read reviews on a mobile device are one 127 times more likely to make a purchase decision on that product than those who read via a desktop. Vendasta (2019)
Reviews of more than fifty per product can result in a 4.6 increase in conversation rates for that product. Vendasta (2019)
The relationship between review rankings and product quality is weak, but the correlation is stronger for products with a large number of reviews. The takeaway? Just because you have a good product doesn’t mean you will have a high number of reviews. Colorado.edu (2016)
64% of consumers read online reviews when trying to research a potential technology purchase. Vendasta (2019)
Consumers have widely varying expectations depending on the industry – consumers are more likely to leave positive insurance reviews, whereas they are less likely to leave positive reviews in areas like education and housing. Review Trackers
Since 2010, the average review length has shrunk by 400 characters. Review Trackers
User-generated content and reviews influence consumer decisions more than any other factor, including product quality and search engine results. TurnTo (2017)
88% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends, family members, or colleagues. Bright Local (2014)
The age of the review is more relevant than practically any other factor. 44% of consumers won’t consider a review as reputable if it was written over a month ago. This varies depending on the industry and the specific product but underscores the importance of constantly seeking out fresh reviews. Bright Local (2015)
Interestingly, the number of stars your business has matters, but a five-star ranking is not necessary to attract a majority of consumers. While 94% of consumers will consider a business with a four-star rating, less than 60% will consider one with only three stars. Bright Local (2015)
The age of the consumer also matters when it comes to marketing success. The 18-29 age demographic “always” or “almost always” checks reviews – about 53% of the time. Even an older audience is critical, with only 34% of adults over the age of 50 failing to check reviews on a consistent basis. Pew Research Center (2016)
Since 2010, reviews have become more positive, growing in good vibes by about 12%. Review Trackers
Before choosing to frequent a business, over 90% of all consumers read online reviews. Bright Local (2018)
Online reviews impact nearly 70% of all purchasing decisions. Moz (2015)
Online reviews are more important for potential apartment rentals than referrals. Kingsley (2014)
Almost 70% of shoppers say that over 50% of their searches lead to their frequenting of a local business. Think With Google (2014)
Regardless of the industry, online reviews are important. Auto repair companies see the most substantial impact from online reviews, with primary care physicians and auto dealers following as close seconds. Review Trackers
97% of all consumers will read online reviews before making a buying decision, with 54% of them using the Internet each month to research local businesses. Review Trackers
40% of consumers read online reviews and form an opinion after reading just one to three. Vendasta (2019)
Online Reviews and SEO
Online reviews, especially keywords used within those online reviews, influences local search engine rankings more than anything else. Local SEO Guide (2017)
30,000 businesses discovered that, upon adding user reviews to their sites, the companies saw a lift in search engine traffic from 5,500 to 8,000 visits on average. There is a powerful relationship between search engine optimization and reviews. Yopto (2016)
93% of Internet searches never progress past the first page, with most consumers using only the first 10 results to make a decision. Advanced Web Ranking (2014)
Adding reviews can boost conversion rates by nearly 270%, with higher priced items seeing improvements up to 380%. Spiegel Research Center
Nearly 70% of all consumers use rating filters to enhance their searches – this figure has more than doubled within the last year. Review Trackers
Including star ratings in a search engine results page can increase follow-up click-through rates by 25%. It can also boost your SEO. Bright Local
53% of consumers expect businesses to respond to their online review within a week or less. Review Trackers
How you handle reviews, regardless of their tone, is important. 78% of consumers like to see a business respond to online reviews, as this indicates a higher level of commitment to customer satisfaction. Search Engine Journal (2017)
68% of all consumers left reviews for local businesses -but only when they were asked. Bryan Caplan (2018)
Consumers read, on average, a whopping 7 reviews before deciding to trust or select a business. Bryan Caplan (2018)
Restaurants have the highest amount of applicable views, with 60% of all restaurant reviews read by consumers. This is followed up by hospitality, medical services, clothing vendors, and grocery stores. Bryan Caplan (2018)
The Power of Negative Reviews
Customers spend 5 times as long on a site if they are able to interact with negative- yet trustworthy – reviews. In all, they tend to convert 85% more often. While this seems contradictory, it goes to show that having only flawless reviews doesn’t necessarily help your business, and it’s better to allow for a diversity of reviews. Reevoo
100% of customers who report annual salaries of $150,000 or higher claim to leave reviews related to negative customer service experiences. Vendasta (2019)
A third of consumers assume that online reviews are fabricated if there is an absence of negative reviews. Vendasta (2019)
Businesses can lose 22% of their new business when customers find a single negative article on the first page of their search results, but those with 2 negative results lose twice that amount. If you have 4 or more negative articles, you can expect to lose up to 70% of new potential customers. Moz (2015)
Over 40% of all consumers will avoid doing business with a local company if they have received a single negative review. While the number of overall reviews factors in, this statistic has interesting implications for small business owners. Bright Local (2018)
Negative reviews have the ability to drive 94% of customers away. In fact, a customer is 21% more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than after a positive one, making it important for you to respond in order to protect your brand’s reputation. Review Trackers
While 79% of consumers read a fake review in 2017, a vast majority (84%) don’t know how to spot a fake review. Bryan Caplan (2018)
If a business is able to resolve a negative review and experience quickly, 95% of those dissatisfied customers will ultimately return to the business for another try. Vendasta (2019)
The most common words in online reviews? Friendly, rude, and comments about the customer service (the latter comprises nearly 27% of all online reviews!) Vendasta (2019)
Google vs. Other Review Platforms
Google is the site of choice for consumers, with nearly 64% saying that they are more likely to check Google reviews than any other review site. Review Trackers
Over 82% of Yelp users said they normally frequent the site when they are planning to buy a product or service and are seeking reliable recommendations. Yelp (2013)
The top three online review platforms (of those that are solely dedicated to reviews) are Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Foursquare. Vendasta (2019)
65% of consumers view an online search as the most trusted way to uncover information about companies and specific people – this level of trust is higher than what is found for any other source, regardless of whether it is housed on- or offline. Edelman (2014)
Every minute, an average of 26,380 reviews are posted to Yelp. Vendasta (2019)
Every single star increase in a rating on Yelp correlates to a five to nine percent increase in business revenue. Michael Luca (2011)
Within the last three years, Google and Facebook reviews have grown by more than 60%, probably because everyone now has a Google account or a Facebook account, removing the necessity to log in to a separate review website. Review Trackers
While 38% of consumers read online reviews via mobile Internet browsers, only 24% install customized apps for this purpose. Vendasta (2019)
33% of consumers feel that all local businesses should make sure their websites are optimized for mobile. 61% of consumers are more likely to reach out to local businesses if they have websites that are mobile optimized. Vendasta (2019)
Your Online Presence
Over half of all Americans have Googled someone before deciding to do business with them – with about 45% of this group deciding not to do business with the person as a result of something the search uncovered. The Denver Post (2012)
Nearly three-quarters of all American employers use social media to screen potential hires. A comparable number of HR departments are required to do so. Career Builder (2017)
Standing out online is important, with 95% of all career recruiters affirming that the job market will become more competitive. This underscores the need to stand out in a positive way in the digital setting. Jobvite (2015)
70% of American recruiters have rejected candidates based on those candidates’ digital footprints. Cross-Tab (2010)
57% of employers are less likely to interview candidates with no digital footprint at all. Career Builder (2017)
We should say from the start that we understand why someone might be tempted to game Google’s reviews. Online reviews have become an extremely important signal for consumers. If a company’s Google listing features overwhelmingly good reviews people are more likely to trust the company and hire them.
Having lots of poor reviews have the opposite effect. These reviews can make or break a company’s future business prospects. There’s a lot at stake, so we understand why buying Google reviews or paying to have fake reviews written is a tempting strategy.
But it’s a terrible idea.
Apart from the obvious ethical problems, (it’s just plain wrong), the chances that it will work in your favor are far outstripped by the chances that it will cause more damage than good. And the more often you do it, the more likely the house of cards you’re building will come crashing down around you, taking your business reputation along with it.
Here are the reasons you should never buy Google reviews or have fake reviews written on your behalf:
1. Fake reviews go against Google’s terms of service
“Sure”, you say. “But that’s only if they catch you.” Okay. That’s fair. But they will catch you.
Google takes the authenticity of reviews on their site VERY seriously. And they have the world’s best software engineers on their payroll. You can bet they have extremely powerful algorithms pouring through reviews looking for fakes. With AI and machine learning, these algorithms are very good at spotting bogus reviews.
So maybe if you did it once you MIGHT get away with it. Maybe. But probably not.
Certainly, the more reviews you purchase, the chances of Google figuring things out increases dramatically. And if you are caught, and you will be caught, Google will likely terminate your business listing and blacklist you from the site.
You’ll go from a business on Google without a lot of reviews to a business that’s not on Google at all. That’s a terrible conversion.
Google is the single most trusted business review service on the internet. If you don’t even show up in their listings, your future prospects start spiraling badly.
2. Fake testimonials online aren’t fair to your customers.
Let’s pretend for a moment that Google isn’t good at spotting counterfeit reviews and you manage to get yours into your company profile. Have you won?
Not at all. People are naturally very good at spotting fakes, and they certainly won’t reward you for dishonesty.
People normally react to fake reviews one of two ways:
Either they spot them immediately and punish the company by completely discounting them from their future purchasing decisions.
Or the person just gets a bad feeling about the company and completely discounts them from their future purchasing decisions.
In the latter case, they may not know why they’re getting a weird read off of the Google reviews on the company’s page, but some part of their mind is picking up on subtle cues that tell them these reviews shouldn’t be trusted.
So whether a person spots your fakes immediately or just senses them on a subconscious level, the result is the same. You’ll be out of the running for future business.
And when your fake reviews are spotted outright, they can breed negative reviews, from people trying to warn others about the obvious fake reviews in your listing.
3. Technically, it’s illegal to pay for Google reviews
And you could get hit with a hefty fine if you’re caught. In
2013, after a year of investigation, the FTC revealed the results of a sting
operation it had been carrying out under the name “Operation Clean Turf”.
Nineteen companies were busted for either writing fake reviews for Google and
other sites or for soliciting them. Fines reached as high as $100,000 in some
cases. This made it clear the FTC was no longer tolerating the practice.
It’s illegal because it amounts to false advertising.
You aren’t allowed to lie to consumers, and soliciting fake reviews is an attempt to do exactly that. If you’re caught you’ll suffer a fine, and a permanent stain on your reputation.
Buying Google reviews or having fake reviews written simply isn’t worth it. The small bump in your Google listing they might get you isn’t worth the much higher penalties associated with getting caught.
And you probably will get caught.
Is the inevitable loss of your Google listing, your reputation, and the cash taken via fines really worth it?
Bottom Line: Don’t buy Google reviews. Earn them.
If you’re really interested in building value for yourself on Google, you should be earning your positive reviews.
Yes, this takes more time, but the value to your business is far higher.
For one, they won’t self-destruct, destroying your reputation in the process. They’ll actually positively influence customer behavior, driving more business through your doors, and with more business, handled properly, should lead to even more positive reviews.
It’s a positive feedback loop.
So how do you get more positive reviews? Ask for them.
Seven out of ten customers say they’d leave a review if asked.
2 Step Reviews helps you get real reviews from real customers
Our easy-to-use app automates the process. Just enter your customer’s name and contact info and let the app ask for the review for you.
We know how to ask for a review, and our specific language greatly increases the chances of getting one. Get started now at www.2stepreviews.com and schedule a free demo today!