Building up online reviews is one of the best things you can do for your business. With 72% of customers only choosing to take action after reading customer reviews online, it’s evident that reviews are advantageous for small businesses. In fact, 15% of your customers would have a hard time trusting you and may not take your business’s credibility at face value if it has zero online reviews.
Whether you’re a local business or a prominent service provider, reviews carry weight with your target customers. By proving your customer service through glowing testimonials, great star ratings, and positive reviews, you provide peace of mind to potential customers considering doing business with you.
That said, getting those rockstar reviews isn’t an easy feat. You want to boost your local SEO and rank high on Google, and that aspiration may sometimes tempt you to buy Google reviews.
Let’s nip that thought in the bud: don’t buy Google reviews.
Read on to find out how using this unethical method to boost your search engine results and online reputation can damage your business and ultimately shake your customers’ trust in your brand.
Why You Should NOT Buy Google Reviews
What exactly is this concept of “buying reviews”? This can happen in, broadly, two different ways.
Firstly, a business that is desperate to get their Google My Business listing flooded with star ratings and reviews may resort to hiring and paying unethical businesses to post a large volume of fake reviews.
For example, a business may offer free services, a moneyback guarantee, or generous discounts in return for a 5-star review on Google. In this case, the reviews are written by authentic and real customers. Some businesses justify that this is ethical.
However, the repercussions of buying reviews can wreak irreparable damage to your business. Here are the reasons why you should steer clear of buying Google reviews.
It Violates Google’s Guidelines
Google’s guidelines are crystal clear on the terms and conditions, and best practices surrounding reviews. After all, a review should be an honest and impartial reflection of a customer’s experience with your business.
Any suspicious behavior that toes the line of fraudulent representation by convincing your customers or using shady businesses to manipulate your customer ratings through fake reviews is taken very seriously by Google’s customer support team.
Google may go so far as to penalize such businesses by taking down their Google My Business listing altogether.
At that point, what can you do to attract more customers on the platform? Absolutely nothing.
It’s even riskier in the USA, where the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has started taking action against businesses soliciting fake paid reviews.
Customers Specifically Mention the Incentives in Their Reviews
Let’s say you’re a local electrician or plumbing business. You offered a happy customer a free referral, or even $20 store credit on equipment if they post a 5-star rating and corresponding review on Google.
The customer goes and mentions in their review, “Their service is awesome! They rewarded me with $20 credit for just leaving this online review!”
That one customer may be happy, but it’s a huge red flag for others reading the review. Potential customers may view this as your business bribing your existing customers into posting inauthentic reviews so that you can make more money.
This is just one way an incentivized review can backfire.
Review Sites Can Detect Fake Reviews
Most famous review platforms like Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Google have tools and support teams that regulate and monitor the high quality and authenticity of the reviews being posted. Once a review is identified as fake or suspected to be fraudulently acquired, it can have disastrous consequences for your business’s online reputation.
Your business may be flagged, and customers may receive warnings on these platforms when visiting your Google listing; warnings that stipulate yours is not to be trusted.
Is this long-lasting damage to your business credibility worth buying reviews? Certainly not!
Inauthentic Feedback Won’t Lead to Any New Business
Last but not least, let’s not forget the actual purpose of a review. You won’t only be fooling your customers if you buy Google business reviews, you’ll also be fooling yourself.
Without real reviews and honest feedback on your products or good service, how can you expect to grow your business? A dissatisfied customer has every right to point out what went wrong in their customer experience. As a business, it’s your responsibility to take that feedback in stride and focus on improving your services.
If you incentivize this very customer to praise your business online with falsely positive reviews, you will never know the root cause of your operational or service opportunities. In return, that customer may never return despite posting a ‘happy’ review on the surface.
In the long run, this strategy is not sustainable for managing your post-sale customer relationships.
How To Earn Real Google Reviews!
We have established that you should not buy positive Google reviews. So, what’s the alternative to business owners seeking to boost their number of reviews and grow their social media footprint? That’s an easy one: you could earn reviews the right way!
There are several ways you can go about attracting more Google reviews. Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Set Up Your Google Business Account
The first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is to set up your very own Google My Business account.
This free Google account will become your one-way portal to managing all things business-related on Google. Ranging from tracking and monitoring customer reviews to viewing engagement insights, this free feature can help with your online reputation management.
By managing your business profile, you can also provide consumers with valuable information about your business opening times, contact information, etc.
Customers are more likely to connect with you and leave Google reviews if you have an optimized Google business profile.
Pro-tip: you can encourage reviews by leveraging Google review stickers made available through the GMB Marketing Kit. These attractive and visual marketing materials can attract the authentic reviews you want.
Create Google Review Email Template
Using email marketing campaigns to generate new reviews might seem old-school, but email remains a proven method for customer engagement. When asking for reviews, most businesses send a post-purchase email, and studies have also shown that as much as 70% of reviews originate from these emails.
Creating a Google review email template can help make this process easier for you by having a go-to, customizable template to leverage every time a sale or service is complete.
You can even go a step further and create specific mailing lists with varying Google review templates dependent on the customer category. For example, you can personalize templates for customers based on whether they are:
Long-time and loyal customers
Check out other Google Resources
There are a number of resources out there to consider during your efforts to boost your Google listing on local search results and attract more reviews. Listed below are links to other blogs posts and helpful resources you can reference during your digital marketing journey on Google’s business platform:
Claim your Google business listing if you haven’t already
Invite customers through a direct Google review link
Invite customers to write reviews (even if they don’t have a Gmail account)!
Respond smartly to and turn around your bad reviews
Remove negative reviews from Google search results
Get rid of unwarranted fake Google reviews
Incentivizing your customers through underhanded means or paying businesses to flood your Google listing with fake reviews is not a healthy practice. It is a recipe for disaster and can backfire significantly, leading to an online reputation crisis if you aren’t careful.
Rather than coerce or manipulate the system to get the reviews you want, focus on more proactive approaches to earning the praise you deserve from real customers.
By providing a 5-star service and encouraging happy customers to write Google reviews through more organic ways, not only do you generate positive reviews, but you also keep your business’s image untarnished, strengthening your relationships with customers old and new!
Signpost’s review management service can help you get there. By automating the process of managing and tracking reviews, you don’t have to waste time considering buying reviews. We’ll help you get the honest, most relevant, and positive reviews you deserve.