Online review sites can be really awesome. They provide a channel for customers to share their opinion about a certain product, service, business, or brand – and for consumers to gather information that will help them make better, more educated purchase decisions.
But you know what’s not awesome? Fake reviews.
Unfortunately, fake reviews are not something that can be avoided completely. There will always be a customer, a competitor, or a random freak on the Internet who’ll try to game the system and deceive other people. It’s such a shame, because if you’re a business owner working like a horse to spread the good word about your business, there’ll be others whose sole purpose is to harm your reputation.
Fortunately, online review aggregators like Yelp, OpenTable, and TripAdvisor are coming up with ways to combat fake reviews. Yelp, for instance, recently introduced a consumer alert system designed to prevent businesses or individual users from posting deceptive reviews and manipulating results. Others are developing their own review filters or banning anonymous reviews.
Google+ Local – the search engine giant’s own online review aggregator, ratings tracker, and local business discovery platform – also recently announced new updates to its review filter and spam detection system.
Read the Google+ Local Group message: “We’ve made some recent improvements to our spam detection algorithms that have increased the number of reviews that appear on some local Google+ pages. Online reviews have been in the news a lot recently, and we at Google are committed to helping people to get ratings, reviews, and recommendations that are relevant, helpful, and trustworthy. To protect both business owners and customers from spam reviews, we have systems in place that may remove individual reviews.”
Google also shared helpful tips to business owners about getting more raves and ratings – instead of having their Google+ Local pages peppered with fake, spammy reviews. Here’s a summary of those tips:
Respond proactively. Google+ Local (or any other review site for that matter) won’t take down a review just because it’s negative. Sure, negative reviews can potentially harm your business performance, but if they’re legitimate and written by a real, honest customer, it’s your responsibility as a business owner to respond and address that customer’s concerns.
Don’t believe review fixers. If a third-party agency or service provider calls you and says they can remove the negative reviews off your Google+ Local page, don’t believe it. Just hang up. They can’t do that. “Google does not work with any third-party reputation management company,” says a company spokesperson, “and we certainly don’t remove reviews unless they violate our guidelines.” Here’s what you should do instead: monitor online reviews closely and continue to strive for excellent customer service. That’s the best way to turn customers’ frowns into smiles.
Never bribe reviewers. Responding to negative reviews? Here’s a huge no-no: bribing reviewers. Most review sites – including Google+ Local – strongly discourage giving customers freebies or discount coupons in exchange for a positive review. This pretty much violates most review content guidelines – and it can potentially hurt your business’ online reputation in ways that are beyond repair.