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
Consumers can be pretty forgiving when brands they’re investing in make mistakes. Heck, Volkswagen more than doubled its profits last year even in the wake of the “emissions scandal” that seemed to spell doom for the brand.
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.