With recent changes to Google’s search algorithm, having strong online reviews are more important than ever. Reviews even account for 9/10 of the top SEO factors, causing a rush to accumulate reviews. But with the surge of online reviews comes a surge of doubt. Stories are popping up everywhere about review scammers who had their phone fixed in Toronto and Vancouver and Texas while also visiting businesses in Australia and hiring movers in four different US states. There are even more stories about people charging $10-$25 per review. Clearly, something is afoot.
Commerce websites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, and even Google are all being hit. This can be frustrating, especially when you’re running your business and cultivating reviews legitimately. Luckily, there are ways to spot fake reviews and maintain the integrity of your business listings.
Focus only on generating legitimate reviews!
Don’t pay for fake reviews. Seriously, don’t do it. You can get your review listings suspended or even deleted. Not to mention, there could be hefty legal fines as well. Instead, use a platform like LocalReviews that facilitates reviews from your real customers.
We also recommend asking every single customer for a review. Yes, even the one who may not have had a five star experience. Your reviews aren’t just a numeric rating, but they tell a real story for your business. If someone had a not so great experience, their review is an opportunity for you to share context and show potential customers that you’re willing to make things right. Not to mention that having only five star reviews looks a little fishy. With a little finesse, you can turn any legitimate review into a net positive.
Monitor your reviews!
Chances are, if you run a small business you know who most of your customers are. If you’re cultivating reviews on multiple websites, such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc., it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them all in one place. The LocalReviews dashboard makes it easy to check on who is your customer and who is leaving you reviews. Make sure you check your reviews frequently, and respond to all your reviews! If you spot any suspicious names, don’t fret…
Know where you can report fake reviews!
Unfortunately, there’s no good way for a business owner to completely prevent fake reviews, however you can dispute the reviews and get them removed.
Do, however, make sure you have a basis to get the review removed. You can’t just report reviews you don’t like- there needs to be a legitimate reason for Google to take action. Some legitimate reasons you can dispute a Google Review include:
- Spam – This might be the same review multiple times, or the same review posted from different accounts.
- Offensive, sexually explicit, or violent comments – Hate speech, profanity, and threats will be taken down by Google and possibly reported to local authorities.
- Impersonation – Reviews from fake accounts, or from accounts falsely representing organizations are considered misleading and can be removed.
- Conflicts of interest – Persons reviewing their own business, or a business trying to sabotage their competition, are not allowed. Posting about an employment experience is also not allowed on Google business listings.
If you believe your business listing has received a fake review following these criteria, you can report it here.
You should also see the Community Guidelines for Facebook recommendations and the appeals process here. Yelp is a bit more difficult, as they will only remove hate speech and hearsay, however you can view the instructions for reporting a review here.
Generate lots and lots of real reviews!
By asking your real customers for reviews, you’re bound to get plenty of great reviews from positive customers. Although some people will always be suspicious about the possibility of fake reviews, a recent study from Cornell University shows that the writing patterns of fake reviews and real reviews are significantly different. Real reviews tend to use more specific nouns to describe the product or experience, meanwhile fake reviews tend to be shorter and less descriptive, favoring verbs and broad descriptions. Ultimately, over 80% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Reviews are still a great tool for demonstrating your business model, and will still help you stand out from your competitors. Ask your customers for reviews, and be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day.