Ever sit back and wonder how your competitors are raking in hoards of glowing reviews despite all of your constant efforts to get your customers to write just one? You may be somewhat relieved to know that a lot of online businesses are paying different freelancers to write those reviews for them. This means a lot of the reviews you see on sites like Yelp or other popular review sites are fake reviews.
Those of us who run an online business are fully aware that the more reviews you have, the better your conversion rates are. In fact, the reason many people pay freelance writers to write fake reviews is that having reviews on Yelp or Google generally increases conversions by about 9 percent. The writers are paid anywhere from $1 – $10 to write fake reviews but the ROI can be well worth it for a business who uses this practice.
If you think that there probably aren’t that many fake reviews written and published on the web, think again. According to a 2013 study on the subject, approximately 20 percent (approximately 1 out of 5) of Yelp reviews published are written by “fake customers” and that was in 2013. With so many people trying to earn money online today, the fake review numbers are most likely much higher compared to 2013.
What’s It Really Worth to You?
Something all online business owners should know is that in 2009, the FTC actually banned the practice of fake reviews under what they call “undisclosed paid endorsements” deeming the entire practice as being illegal. For those who are diligently trying to build an honest business online should be happy to know that there are laws that prohibit this practice and it also comes with a hefty penalty.
Recently, there was an undercover operation that took place; 19 businesses were fined $350,000 for posting fake reviews on Google Places and Yelp. They were also prohibited from posting fake reviews on these sites. Else they would be permanently banned from posting reviews or registering their business on these sites.
No one, especially consumers, likes being deceived. Customers heavily rely on reviews to help them make their purchase decisions since more and more consumers buy most things online instead of from an actual brick and mortar store. Online buyers cannot smell taste, or touch the products they buy online. So reviews are essentially the next best thing to shopping in physical stores.
If the 5-start product reviews aren’t real, then customers are making purchases under false pretenses. This could end up landing a business in a civil lawsuit or possibly worse. Even though some business owners may be well-intended in their efforts to have quality reviews about their products or services listed, it is unethical and not to mention illegal.
Recommended for you: How to Spot Fake Reviews Online – Some Useful Tips & Tricks.
How to Remain Ethical When Posting Reviews
No business wants to be targeted by the Attorney General, so in order to avoid that while ensuring you are building strong business relationships, it is essential that you gain and publish legitimate reviews. As a new online business, you want to earn the trust of your site visitors and would like as many people as possible to buy from you but this is especially challenging when you haven’t had any customers buy from you, yet.
So, how do you accomplish this without breaking the law? You may just have to bite the bullet and hope someone buys from you first so you can try and get them to write up a review. However, you cannot in any way compensate someone in exchange for a review according to the law.
E-commerce experts recommend using a referral app, service, or plugin, depending on your platform to gather customer reviews on your behalf. Even if someone buys a toothbrush from you, have this type of service set up to help you gather real reviews.
If you receive negative reviews or comments, manage those as well. Since the issue will be public at this point, you will want to make sure you publicly resolve it. For example, you can offer some type of refund or free exchange.
Whatever the customer issue, demonstrate to the public that you are willing to do what it takes to correct the problem. Potential customers will see this and see that you did what you could to try and make it right, which will ultimately signal to them that your business provides great customer service.