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5 Easy Ways to Tank Your Online Reputation with Shady Review Practices!

By | 08.15.14

Yelp Warning Against Paid User ReviewsWe all know about the guidelines for posting reviews on Google, Yelp and other sites, saying that business reviews should be honest, real, not paid for, not written by employees, blah, blah, blah, ethics, ethics, ethics. Some people think they’re smarter than those companies and their math PhDs and legal departments, and they figure, everybody does it, what are the odds of being caught? Here are five black-hat techniques for user reviews that are bound to get you in trouble.

1.  Make it easy on customers – set up a computer at your place of business for them to write reviews on the spot!

This seems harmless but actually, Google will block reviews coming from the internet address of your business computer to discourage reviewing by customers who have been induced or coerced, as well as reviewing by employees.

2.  Run a promotion with rewards for good reviews!

Review sites are on guard for spikes in reviewing, as well as an unusually large number of reviews for a business type. Incentivizing customers to write positive reviews is frowned upon. And remember, your competitors are watching and can complain to the review sites.

3.  Heck, why mess around? Just buy good reviews!

Yelp has run stings, responding to businesses that pay reviewers, and then sticking a big red “Consumer Alert” box on their Yelp pages (see the image above). Car-review site Edmunds.com sued and settled with Humankind Design Ltd., claiming that the company set up more than 2,000 fake member accounts to post content. Google is also on the lookout for Google+ accounts that appear to have been set up just to post reviews. So don’t assume the fraud departments of the big sites aren’t watching. Want more? The New York Attorney General fined four companies up to $50,000 for buying fake reviews.

Here’s the other risk with fake, paid, good reviews: It’s hard to make them sound convincing. They’re either too positive or lacking in specifics. Readers may spot them as phonies and so may the algorithms run by Google, Yelp and others that are constantly looking for telltale word combinations and taking down the offending reviews, real or not.

4. OK, forget money – trade for business promotion and links in reviews!

Yes, your customer might give a good review on the inducement that she could include her business link and phone number. Except that Google takes down all reviews with links and phone numbers.

5. If you get a good review, be sure to ask the reviewer to repeat the review on all the other review sites, including all the different pages for each of your business locations!

Sorry, sites track this and each review needs to be unique or – kaboom!

We all know there are fake reviews out there, probably including some that adorn your competitors’ websites. But you can genuinely benefit your business by actively seeking out honest reviews—and answering them. Here are some white-hat tips on How to Ask for Customer Reviews.

Image: Yelp’s warning label for businesses caught buying reviews

Updated May 26, 2016

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