There’s an increasing market for businesses looking to buy online reviews.
Thanks to the growth and popularity of business review sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, reviews have the power to make or break a business. According to customer reviews research:
- 94% of consumers say they have avoided a business after reading a negative review.
- Approximately 70% of consumers use rating filters to weed out unwanted businesses. The most common filter is applied to see only businesses with 4-star ratings (out of 5) and higher (35%).
- Consumers trust online reviews in the absence of personal recommendations made by friends and family.
Can you buy reviews for your business? It’s a tempting thought, especially for companies with one-star ratings and a not-so-positive online reputation. Trying to buy positive reviews online may also seem like a quick fix for burying negative feedback and for improving ratings across popular review sites.
How Do You Buy Reviews?
It’s not hard for businesses of any size to buy fake reviews. Here’s how it usually works: you find a service provider that offers “5-star review services,” promising “quality work” with “fully completed review profiles and realistic photo-attached accounts.”
Whether a business is looking to buy reviews on Google, Facebook Recommendations, or Yelp reviews, the service provider will typically advertise the reviews as being written by “100% real people or real users,” from more than tens of thousands of different cities around the world, with local IPs and native users and multiple languages to choose from.
A review from these providers can cost as little as $5 to $10 a pop. Once the business completes a service order, fake reviews will be posted on its business pages, local listings, and review website profiles.
If you’ve ever searched online for how to “buy reviews”, you may have seen tens or hundreds of websites with pages like this (yes, they can pay their fake reviewers but not, it seems, their web designers):
Should You Buy Yelp Reviews?
Yelp is a website that prohibits business owners from asking for Yelp reviews. It’s not hard to imagine what the company might think about businesses trying to buy Yelp reviews.
Yelp’s terms of service strongly advise against buying online reviews because this practice leads to deceptively biased content. Don’t think that they won’t catch fake Yelp reviews. According to the company, Yelp has a dedicated team that monitors message boards, classifieds, forums, etc. for those who buy reviews or conduct other suspicious Yelp-related activity.
If caught, you may find that your Yelp business page has been slapped with Consumer Alerts. These alerts are Yelp’s warning to consumers that someone is attempting to mislead them through review manipulation like paying for fake 5-star reviews or spamming their own pages with positive reviews.
Buying Yelp reviews may also result in the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve: it will most certainly hurt instead of help your Yelp ratings.
The businesses that perform well on Yelp are the ones that play fair and provide a 5-star customer experience to everyone who walks in the door, without any expectation or encouragement that they write a review.
Read our blog post with tips on how to get Yelp reviews without violating the website’s content guidelines and terms of service.
Should You Buy Google Reviews?
If you’re thinking of trying to buy Google reviews, you have to first consider the risks and consequences of doing so. While it sounds like a great, cost-effective solution for propelling your business to the top of relevant search results, buying Google reviews will almost certainly do your business more harm than good.
First of all, it’s against Google review policy. The company makes it clear that review content should reflect a person’s genuine experience at a business location. Review content “should not be posted just to manipulate a place’s ratings. Don’t post fake content, and don’t post content for the same place from multiple accounts.”
Also, buying Google reviews will probably lead to regulators going after you. In the last several years, regulators have been cracking down on fake reviews and other review manipulation practices.
For example, the Federal Trade Commission have been catching and slapping hefty penalties on companies buying fake reviews as well as companies writing or creating fake reviews as part of their “reputation enhancement services” offering.
If you have difficulties collecting reviews on Google, follow a few tips on how to get Google reviews the right way. If you’re running a business with multiple locations, you can also look into deploying a reputation management software platform that makes it easy for your company to proactively collect reviews and, at the same time, ensure compliance with guidelines across multiple review sites.
Don’t Buy Online Reviews, Earn Them
From everything that’s been said, you’ll come to an understanding that it is not okay to buy or pay for reviews in any way. There are better, more ethical, less harmful, and more effective ways to collect great reviews for your business.
Run Email Campaigns
One of the most effective ways to generate new reviews is through review request email campaigns. These emails usually take on the form of customer feedback surveys. Other times, the email message is simpler and more straightforward, containing a link to a page where the recipient can write a review.
Asking for reviews via email is effective, with as much as 70% of reviews coming from post-transactional review request emails. Email is also a particularly useful channel for evaluating customer loyalty and tracking customer satisfaction metrics, helping you identify customers who are likely to recommend your business to others.
Ask Customers for Reviews on Sites Where You Can
Some review sites — Yelp, for example — frown upon businesses asking customers for feedback. Other sites — like Google and Tripadvisor — are more lenient, even providing free tools for companies to reach out proactively for reviews.
When asking for reviews, make sure that your efforts are in compliance with each individual review site’s guidelines. You want to be rewarded, not penalized, for your requests.
Promote Your Business Presence on Online Review Sites
Let your audience know they can find and rate your business on Yelp, Tripadvisor, Google, and other review sites. Not only does this help improve your online visibility; promoting your presence on review sites also demonstrates your company’s openness to customer feedback. By doing so, you can listen to and act on feedback in order to understand customers better and deliver improved customer experiences.
There are multiple ways to promote your business’s review website profiles, such as:
- Using Google review stickers
- Using a Yelp sticker or Tripadvisor sticker (for restaurants and hospitality establishments)
- Using a Facebook review widget, Google reviews widget, Tripadvisor widget, and similar tools that allow you to syndicate reviews
- Displaying a selection of handpicked reviews on a website using a review widget suite like Amplify
Use Review Management Software
ReviewTrackers offers a complete online review management solution that’s compliant with the policies of today’s top review platforms, as well as responsive to the ever-increasing demand for transparency and authenticity in online reviews.
The software allows you to generate new reviews through email campaigns, SMS, on-site kiosks, and customizable landing pages, giving your brand higher star ratings and a bigger presence on local search.
Make Your Customers Happy
The easiest, most effective way to get more (and better) reviews is to consistently deliver excellent customer experiences and create “wow” moments with customers. Companies that buy reviews are unlikely to develop any effective customer experience management strategy. Don’t follow their example. If you buy reviews, you may end up destroying the credibility that you have worked so hard to build.