Asking for Online Reviews? You Are Asking for Trouble.

Online reviews are more influential than advertising. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that marketers are looking for ways to boost conversion by leveraging reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, Amazon and other review sites.

According to a 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey, by Bright Local, every star a company receives on an online review site can impact revenue.  The company surveyed 1,013 US-based customers to determine how online reviews influenced their purchasing behavior. This is what they found:

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
  • 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business

With so much at stake, it’s no surprise that businesses are trying to sway the odds in their favor by requesting reviews from satisfied customers (at best) and adding positive, fake reviews to offset authentic negative reviews.

79 percent of consumers say they have read a fake review in the last year, according to the Bright Local survey.  I recently learned of a local Business Network International group meeting where members sought to boost their online review ratings by trading 5-star Google reviews.  The result? Companies without a history of online reviews suddenly had an influx of 5-star reviews over a 5-day period.  It was clear to casual Google visitors that ‘something sketchy’ was going on these companies’ reviews.

These companies damaged their credibility among potential customers and risked being penalized by Google and other review sites that deploy algorithms to detect ‘gaming behaviors.’

84 percent of consumers are concerned that they may be ‘duped’ by a fake review, according to the Bright Local survey, but online sites are working hard to prevent them.  On the most credible sites, reviews are associated with a user IDs than can be easily verified and monitored.

Vince Sollitto, Sr Vice President of Corp Communnications & Public Affairs for Yelp said its NEVER appropriate for businesses to request reviews from their customers – or to provide incentives for leaving reviews.

“Soliciting reviews leads to biased content, and Yelp’s priority is to encourage quality content that best reflects the opinions of the Yelp community,” Sollitto said. “Now, we are also demoting business pages in Yelp search results that show indicators of organized review solicitation through reputation management companies. We are taking this action because promoting biased reviews, or promoting businesses that have artificially inflated their ratings, is misleading for consumers and unfair to businesses that have honestly earned their great reputations while adhering to Yelp’s policies.”

The best way to leverage online review sites it to utilize what you learn from them to improve customers’ experiences.  The benefit of doing so is the likelihood that you’ll generate improved online review rankings AND attract loyal customers that are likely to recommend your company and its products to others.

By contrast, companies that try to ‘game the system’ for online reviews ALWAYS end up short.