Consumers, businesses, and review sites are getting extremely smart with regards to finding a fake or solicited review. Major companies like Amazon are suing websites to stop them from selling fake, positive reviews of products. If your company or small business has thought about this as a way to generate more business or make your online review profile better, know this: it is a LOSING situation. Your company’s trust will immediately go down the toilet, and review sites, such as Yelp, will flag your business’ page as such. In fact, Yelp states that at least 25% of its reviews are faked and therefore not even published.
There’s a three-headed monster that you should avoid when it comes to reviews.
- Solicitation – The company gives out a gift card/service in exchange for a better review.
- Paying for Them – The company pays people to generate online positive reviews.
- Faking Them – The company creates the reviews themselves, under pseudonyms.
Consumer Alerts for Online Reviews
In October of 2012, Yelp started its Consumer Alerts program in order to help the consumer find trusted and valued companies. Their team searches for any signs that a company may be buying, faking, or soliciting reviews, and they don’t just flag the review, they go after them to the fullest extent. Yelp posts a 90-day warning regarding the violation, hides the offending review, and then takes it one step further by posting all of the found materials that led them to their decision to flag the account. This can also include creating a blog post about the company’s fraudulent activity.
Here is a screenshot of a sample splash page that Yelp will put up on your Yelp listing if caught doing fake online reviews.
Additional examples of the tactics that online review sites are taking are this screenshot of a conversation that took place on Yelp between a business and a potential Yelp reviewer. Unnecessary and subversive tactics will get you flagged.
UPDATE: Yelp has a new warning they are using for companies that decide to get creative in soliciting or paying for reviews.
Yelp has recently taken this consumer alert a step further by flagging restaurants with a low health score. If the eatery has a score that is in the bottom five percent locally, Yelp posts a consumer alert.
FTC Guidelines for Online Reviews
In 2009, the FTC came out with some specific guidelines to further govern endorsements and testimonials about products or companies. If someone has been asked to write a review without revealing they have been compensated for it, they risk getting into trouble with the FTC. For example, in 2013, the New York state Office of the Attorney General had 19 companies pay more than $350,000 in fines for posting fake online reviews.
Yelp Advocate Program
I hope we have shown you the risks and dangers associated with fake reviews. The risk and consequences are great and the rewards are few. This is why our advocate marketing program can be such a life saver when it comes to your business and managing reviews. Why risk your company’s name and suffer the wrath of online review sites? The Yelp Helpers finds active Yelpers, evaluators, and customers to experience your brand in a positive light. We’re not faking or ballooning a review – we’re giving you the chance to shine, and do what you do best. Don’t let a “bad day at work” bring your business down. Get the help you need from the Yelp Helpers today.