Search engine optimization has an effect on every aspect of the web, it seems – and product, service and restaurant reviews are no exception. That’s because enthusiastic reviews not only attract new customers, but also show up in search results. And that reality has led to a new way of spamming the search engines and potential customers: Last year a study by Gartner predicted that by 2014, 15 percent of all social media reviews would be fake – posted either by someone who works for the business being reviewed, or a paid reviewer.
That means that there are already plenty of folks out there who will follow you, hit “Like” or write a glowing review…for the right price. But is it a good idea to pay for reviews on social media or other websites?
Google cracks down on fake product reviews on Google+ Local
Google’s spam detection algorithms recently began screening Google+ local pages to determine the number of glowing reviews posted there. Google’s actions are in response to a massive influx of overly enthusiastic reviews and testimonials, many of which were obviously penned by SEO consultants, PR firms or others associated with the company being reviewed.
Even paper comment cards filled out by actual customers should not be typed up by a business owner and posted as a new review, says Google. Furthermore, Google+ has guidelines for the reviewers themselves: Don’t write a review of a company you currently work for. Don’t include any hyperlinks in the text of the review. And if the business you review has multiple locations, write your review about the specific location you visited.
Google may take down some of the more obviously fake positive reviews, but will not remove negative reviews unless they violate its guidelines. Instead, Google advises business owners to respond to negative reviews and address the customer’s concerns.
Spotting fake product reviews
If you are a business owner, you have to make sure no one posts a fake testimonial on your behalf on Google+ or any other social media site. But how do you protect yourself as a consumer?
• Look at reviews on more than one site and look for consistent complaints or praise.
• Read the review itself, not just the rating. Reviewers may rate a product higher or lower based on criteria that aren’t as important to you.
• Look at other reviews written by any reviewer who seems overly negative. Are their other reviews as negative? It could be that that person is more difficult to please or more negative than most.
Attracting real reviews that also help your SEO
So how do you get good reviews that are real? Encourage your regular customers to write reviews. Have friends or family try your products and give you their honest appraisal. And always offer customer service that goes above and beyond what customers expect. Following up on customer complaints and meeting their needs will get you the best online reviews – and great word of mouth, too.