What you’ll learn in this piece:
- The legality of buying reviews
- How buying reviews violate content guidelines
- How you may lose trust and credibility by posting bogus content
It’s tempting to buy into quick fixes and pony up a little cash for the next easy thing, but the old adage stays accurate—if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
If you have even thought about paying a company to source your Google Business Page with paid-for reviews, stop yourself! “Companies” that offer this are even peddling their game on LinkedIn, a variable source of reputable companies…most of the time.
Do not let these tricks fool you—there’s no easy way out when it comes to getting reviews. In fact, buying reviews can actually do a lot of damage to your online reputation and your wallet.
It’s actually illegal to buy Google reviews
According to Google, “Business owners shouldn’t offer incentives to customers to leave reviews.” This means that it is actively against Google’s content guidelines to offer any kind of incentive, like money or a free product, in order to get a customer to review you. If Google finds out that you’ve committed this practice, it will immediately remove those reviews.
If you do pay for a review or offer an incentive, the Federal Trades Commission (FTC) states you must disclose this information upfront.
It’s also advised that you hold off on even asking people you know, like Aunt Sally or Employee Joe to review your business. If they do, they must explicitly offer up their relationship to you within the review and that you asked them to write it. It’s against Google’s content guidelines for anyone who hasn’t had an actual experience with your company to review your business. Though, Google isn’t always the most “on top of” these reviews when they get reported as such.
So, how and where does the “illegal” part come into play?
With good reason, the FTC considers paying for reviews a deception to honest users looking for real reviews on a product or business. Samuel Devine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “Fake reviews and other forms of deceptive endorsements cheat consumers and undercut honest businesses.”
The ‘Notices of Penalty Offices’ sent out by the FTC to hundreds of businesses in order to crack down on paid-for reviews, lists several practices that the FTC determined to be deceptive including, but not limited to, “falsely claiming an endorsement by a third party; misrepresenting whether an endorser is an actual, current, or recent user; using an endorsement to make deceptive performance claims; failing to disclose an unexpected material connection with an endorser; and misrepresenting that the experience of endorsers represents consumers’ typical or ordinary experience.”
The notices gave a very dire warning that if these companies had any undisclosed, paid-for reviews, they could incur a fine of up to $43,792 PER review/violation.
That fine, along with the right direction on your moral compass, is enough of an incentive to never pay for a review. Ever.
It violates Google’s Content Guidelines
Google’s content guidelines lay out all the ins and outs of their policies. They do it mostly in complicated terms, but that’s okay because we’ve parsed through the details for you here. Buying reviews definitely goes against their guidelines.
Google labels “Deceptive Content” as the following:
- Fake engagement
Basically, any content that is not based on a real user experience of that business (or product). If you do buy reviews and Google’s algorithm detects them, these reviews will immediately be removed, and you may face that steep penalty we laid out from the FTC above. Yikes.
Violating Google’s content guidelines could also affect your business’s position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and your discoverability may be demoted.
Let’s not do that, shall we?
You may not discover actual feedback for your business
This piece is often overlooked and it certainly shouldn’t be. If you flood your page with paid-for reviews, you could be missing out on real feedback from actual customers who paid for your services. Reviews are a great way to learn where your company can improve and what it can improve upon. By boxing out this type of feedback, you’re losing out on making major strides with your business by learning what your customers really want and how they actually feel.
You could lose trust and credibility
You’ve built your business from the ground up! Now is not the time to give in to a quick fix. It’s time to roll up your online sleeves and get to work soliciting reviews from real customers (more on this below).
Buying reviews could lead a potential customer to make the wrong decision for themselves resulting in a poor experience with your business, which then often translates into a negative review. The opposite of what you’re trying to do!
And if consumers don’t feel as if they can trust a company, this will lead to a downturn in your services being used. Again, the opposite of what you’re trying to do!
According to PowerReviews, 8 out of 10 consumers are worried about fake reviews influencing their purchase decisions, and 87% of the respondents polled believed they had already seen a fake review out in the wild.
We can’t imagine you’d want to wager your potential client’s trust and confidence in your business and services on a flash in the pan. It’s best to cultivate your reviews and have systems in place to make the ask easy.
So, how do you go about getting people to review you, darn it?!
Oh, we’re so glad you asked! We wrote a piece on just this exact topic not too long ago—How To Get Online Reviews—but let us sum it up for you.
There is a myriad of ways to cultivate your business’s reviews. You can send out email or SMS text message campaigns, for starters. Disclaimer: make sure you have permission from the client to text them first so that you’re compliant with CTIA and TCPA mandates.
You can also utilize the very green-friendly QR code on office signs or even on your business card! Net Promoter Surveys, social media, and email signatures are also great ways to solicit real reviews from current and former customers.
The goal of these methods is to make it as easy as possible for the client to review your business. That means using clear, easy-to-understand language and providing any and all links to review sites upfront. Short and sweet is also the name of the game because let’s face it, we all have stuff to do!
WebPunch is in the ring with you!
That’s right! As you get all those stellar reviews you’ll want to make sure you’re responding to them. People love to be heard, and when they see you’re actively responding to other people’s reviews, it’s more of an incentive for them to write you a review, too.
If you don’t feel like responding to your reviews, we can step in and take care of that for you. We have a team of professional writers just waiting to help you look your best online for positive and negative reviews. We can even help with getting those online reviews and sending out NPS surveys!
So what are you waiting for? Let us help you knock out your competition! Schedule a demo today!