An investigation conducted by New York officials recently uncovered some shady business practices involving online reviews. Operation Clean Turf resulted in thousands of dollars of fines for at least 19 businesses.
It was discovered that the businesses went through an elaborate process of hiring a marketing firm that sought individuals with the ability to write multiple fake reviews from different IPs. Situations like this emphasize the importance of keeping your online reviews legit.
Seeking Positive Reviews
While writing false reviews, or paying somebody to do it for you, is a form of false advertising, there is nothing wrong with seeking positive online reviews. You can accomplish this goal by adding a link to your various online platforms back to a convenient feedback form on your main website.
You want to make it as easy as possible for satisfied customers to post feedback.
Having No Feedback Is Just As Bad
With more consumers using the Internet to look for businesses or find a product or service, having no online feedback is just as bad as having negative feedback. While this may explain the desperation to get a bunch of online reviews quickly, resorting to such tactics can do more harm than good.
It’s safe to assume that the 19 businesses that were caught buying reviews have some major damage control to do. The fact is that it takes time to build online reviews.
While you can accelerate the process by making it easier for users to give feedback, it’s best to give it time. Additional ways to encourage online feedback include:
- Placing feedback links in follow-up emails
- Adding a blurb politely requesting feedback to your website content
- Engaging your customers via social media
- Maintaining an active blog (an excellent source of feedback)
Don’t Freak Out Over Negative Reviews
If you do get negative reviews, don’t panic. Consider it constructive criticism. Of course, the anonymity of the Internet means that some people may exaggerate or make a big deal out of a small issue.
Even if a customer successfully resolved their issue, they may not go back and add an update to their original nasty review. There are legit services that can reduce the impact of negative reviews. In the grand scheme of things, a few negative online reviews here and there won’t do any significant harm to your business.
Err on the Side of Caution
To be fair, it’s quite possible that some of the 19 businesses facing substantial penalties for posting fake online reviews thought they were doing something perfectly legal. If a marketing firm makes blanket claims without disclaimers like “results not guaranteed,” take it as a sign that things may not be entirely ethical.
As a general rule, if a marketing tactic doesn’t feel right, it’s best to pass. It’s much easier to seek legit feedback than it is to fix a tarnished business reputation.
It’s possible that some customers may post multiple reviews on the same review site to boost your image. If a customer or well-meaning employee is posting a bunch of fluff reviews on your behalf, this could be a problem.
Make it a habit to periodically check your online reviews. Most review sites are willing to work with you to remove suspicious reviews. A solid reputation is your most valuable online asset.