5 Crazy Ways Business Owners are Gaming their Online Reviews

September 02, 2014

45 percent of customers say they’re more likely to visit businesses that respond to their reviews

Online Reviews Survey

reputation management


According to the latest research, as much as 88 percent of Internet users now read online reviews to determine whether a local business is good or not. That’s why many business owners and marketers have decided to embrace reviews, taking on a more active role in listening and responding to what their customers have to say online. In short: review management has become a critical part of every marketer’s strategy.

Some, however, are hoping to take the easy way out – by finding all sorts of ways to game the system. We’re posting a list that describes some of the not-so-nice things they’re doing. Hopefully, you don’t end up making the same mistakes.

Penalizing or banning negative reviews 

Recently in France, a food blogger was forced by the court to edit her negative review of an Italian café. (She eventually deleted the entire review.) A few weeks later, a group of Michelin-starred chefs and restaurateurs launched a petition to ban defamatory, damaging negative reviews.

Honestly? This is not the way to get rid of bad buzz surrounding your business. It’s probably not going to work here in America anyway. Just ask the management of Union Street Guest House, a Hudson, New York hotel that generated plenty of unwanted negative publicity after it sought to fine guests $500 for every negative online review. Our advice is: respond to reviews. Don’t penalize.

Hiring and paying someone to write fake reviews 

There are a number of business owners who give themselves 5-star ratings and great reviews, hoping to boost their online profile and business reputation. They hire writers from some country like the Philippines to post these fake reviews for them.

Unfortunately, if you follow a similar path, you not only increase the risk of getting caught by the review sites (and consequently being penalized by them); you also risk looking fake and inauthentic in the eyes of review readers. You don’t want to sound too good to be true.

(Check out: “Giving Yourself 5 Stars? Cons of Faking Your Online Reviews”)

Insulting or harassing negative reviewers 

You’ve got to deal with critics professionally and politely. There’s no use resorting to online catfights and name-calling. Their feedback may be negative, but there’s no excuse for insulting and harassing your own customers. Just check out these business owners who lost their patience and responded to reviewers in the nastiest ways you can imagine.

Ask yourself the question: would you really choose to do business with people like that? Obviously not. So be nice.

Bribing reviewers to change their opinion 

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of bribing someone to change a bad review into a good review. After all, if it’s a matter of a few gift certificates or a freebie, then why not? But you can’t buy goodwill – especially not on community-based review sites where consumers exchange information and share opinions freely with other consumers. Anyway, most of these sites prohibit business owners from offering compensation of any kind to reviewers.

(Check out: “What NOT to Do When Monitoring and Responding to Reviews”)

Suing the negative reviewers 

There’s quite a history of business owners suing individual consumers for supposedly defamatory bad reviews. One of the most high-profile cases was when a Yelp-listed housing contractor sued a woman in Virginia for posting a critical review of the company. It’s kind of sad, really, that some businesses see it fit to take the matter to court.

We here at ReviewTrackers don’t recommend it. Instead, you should invest your time and energy on applying best practices in reputation management, such as having a rapid response strategy, implementing a review monitoring system, and having a dedicated staff member who will take the main responsibility of managing each and every review.


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