In an age when majority of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, it’s very tempting to give yourself 5 stars and post fake positive reviews of your own products and services.
Many business owners have done it – to boost their business reputation, attract potential new customers, and gain an edge over the competition. Some even go so far as to write fake negative reviews of their competitors. And it’s hard to blame these guys: astroturfing reviews is easy, and fast, and costs little to no money.
It’s also a practice that will destroy your business.
Here are 9 ways faking online reviews can hurt you in the long run.
Faking reviews is unethical and probably illegal. Every review site that allows users to post online reviews has terms of service that you, as a business owner, have to follow. Violate these terms and you’ll likely get sued and penalized.
You might look too good to be true. People prefer to deal with businesses that are honest, authentic, and real. They seek accurate information. If your profiles only show five-star reviews – and no negative ones – you risk looking too perfect and inauthentic to be able to gain the trust of consumers.
Your true colors will be exposed. Let’s say that customers do visit your business location because they have been persuaded by a fake five-star review. And then what? They’ll find out eventually that the burrito or the sushi is not worth the (fake) praise that has been heaped upon it. Be genuine. Earn your five stars.
Review site technologies are in place to catch frauds. Yelp has its proprietary Review Filter and Consumer Alerts program, TripAdvisor has its own set of anti-fraud techniques, and other major review sites have developed their own technologies to weed out the fakes. You’ll get caught, sooner or later, and we believe that it’s not a risk that your business should be willing to take.
Researchers are also developing new ways to identify fakers. Cornell, for example, has created software that detects fake reviews and opinion spam. Even if you get past review site filters, you’ll have to beat other sophisticated systems.
Consumers are getting better at spotting fakes. If you’re faking reviews to gain credibility, forget it. Consumers are becoming savvier with spotting deceptive, fraudulent reviews, too – and you’ll drive them away if they’ve determined that you’re a faker.
Regulators are going to be after you, and the consequences are costly. Last year, New York cracked down on deceptive reviews and slapped a total of $350,000 in penalties on those who bought fake reviews. You can be sure that these efforts will be ramped up to combat the growing fake reviews problem.
Your local search performance will suffer. If your reviews have been determined as fake, they’ll probably be deleted. Your local search performance and online visibility will subsequently suffer, and you’ll lose valuable opportunities to connect with potential new customers.
The damage to your reputation is long-term. If you get caught, then the fakery may cause irreparable damage to your reputation. Which sort of defeats your purpose. Right?