Online reviews can make or break a business, especially in an age where your Internet reputation is a major point for business marketing. Every business – from sole practitioner professionals like lawyers and doctors to restaurants and retail stores – can be reviewed on sites like Yelp, Google Maps, and TripAdvisor.
In most cases, a business can’t remove negative reviews unless it can prove they’re harassing or false. The rules for getting a review removed are strict, but the rules for gaining false positive reviews not so much – until now.
New York recently announced that it was cracking down on sites that buy and create fake reviews. It will seek a total of $350,000 in penalties from 19 companies, according to a New York Times article.
Gaining Reviews in the Wrong Way Could Cost You
Reputation management companies claim to improve your business’ reputation on search and review sites. Unfortunately, the easiest way to do this is to generate a bunch of fake reviews – a practice some of them take part in without explicitly saying so.
Then there are the businesses that ask employees, friends and family to leave them positive reviews. Most review sites do not ban people with a connection to the business from reviewing it, but they also don’t encourage it. This could land an employer in hot water, too, if they ask employees to leave positive reviews and an employee felt that their job would be in jeopardy if they failed to do so.
Finally, there are businesses that offer incentives to customers who leave positive reviews. A business’ profile can be suspended in some cases if review sites find that it offers discounts or freebies to visitors who leave reviews.
Here’s How To Gain Reviews The Right Way
It goes without saying, never ever pay or compensate someone in any way for reviewing your business. Even if they leave a bad review, it’s still a review, and may lead to violations of the review site’s terms of service or community guidelines.
What you should be doing is making it as easy as possible for customers to know where and how to review your business. Include links to your review sites in your promotional e-mails, feature your reviews on your website sidebars – Yelp makes this particularly easy with its review widget.
Going a step further, if you’re looking to gain testimonials for your website independent from review sites, draft an e-mail template that helps guide your clients through the steps of writing a review. Include a link to your testimonial page to give them some ideas to work from, and make sure you explain how and where their content will be used on your site.
Remember, reviews should be honest reflections of how your customers feel about your business. Not all reviews will be positive, and that’s okay – they should serve as insight into how you can improve your business. If you listen to your clients, address their concerns in a follow-up post, and make the necessary changes, negative reviews will be a thing of the past!
Looking for more information on gaining reviews the right way? Request a copy of our two-step tip sheet to generating kick-ass business reviews!
Your business’ web content should be a reflection of your awesomeness – and We Do Web Content can help create that buzz! Fill out our contact form or call us at 888-521-3880 to set up a free consultation and site audit.