Looking to buy online reviews? It's easy (and cheap!) to buy them for any review site you want to get more reviews on. But there's some risk involved too. Here we take a look at what's on the line as well as some alternative options.
You can buy a real coyote skull, bacon-flavored floss and a coffin on Amazon, so suffice it to say you can buy pretty much anything these days.
Business owners or managers might want to order bulk office supplies, a "World's Best Boss" mug, and maybe a few five-star reviews...
It's remarkably easy to pay for reviews, and often quite tempting too, especially since even just a few positive reviews can have a big impact on business. But there are some risks involved - sometimes very big risks (we'll get to that in just a minute).
Buying reviews is also totally unnecessary when getting positive reviews in an ethical way is just as easy (we'll get to that in a minute too).
Why Buy Reviews?
The temptation to buy reviews is real. They're a powerful tool for generating new business. Most consumers (almost all) consider online reviews when making buying decisions, and they take seriously what they read:
- 85 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends, according to a recent survey.
- 49 percent said they need a business to have a rating of at least four stars before using it.
- The average person wants a business to have 34 reviews in order to trust its rating.
- 77 percent of people surveyed say that reviews that are more than three months old aren't relevant.
- 68% of people say that online reviews affect their purchasing decisions.
So what does that tell us? For one thing, businesses need to get a steady stream of positive reviews in order to keep the customers coming.
And those reviews really do directly translate to sales. One study of restaurants found that a one-star increase on Yelp translated to a 5-9% increase in revenue.
Your business needs positive reviews, and your actual customers might not be delivering at the rate you need. Paying someone to write fake reviews would be easy to arrange...
A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying Reviews
- Repeat step 1.
- Have some ice cream to celebrate doing the right (and smart) thing!
Wait, That Didn't Work!
Buying reviews just isn't worth the risk because this practice can backfire spectacularly in one of several ways:
- Review sites are very good at figuring out when reviews aren't real, and they're getting better at filtering out these reviews every day. Yelp, in particular, is known for its sensitive recommendation software, which is updated constantly and hides reviews that are flagged as potentially illegitimate. Google is beginning to follow the same path.
- Consumers are also much more savvy than you think at determining when reviews are real or fake. Of course, many - maybe even most - people who read a fake review won't realize it, but all it takes is one savvy reader to raise a flag. For instance, if one reader catches on and posts a message on Facebook talking about your shady, untrustworthy reviews and that post gets shared, your reputation will take a major hit.
- Some of your paid reviewers might reveal the incentives or gifts they received for writing those positive reviews. If a customer scroll downs through your reviews and finds something like, “I loved their product. They just gave me a free hairdryer to write this review,” it could certainly mean curtains for your brand's PR.
- You’ll miss out on valuable feedback. Reviews are not just about building your business’s credibility or persuading customers to buy from you. One of the primary purposes of customer reviews is to get honest, unfiltered opinions about how your customers feel about your products or services. While some reviews may be harsh, this can serve as an opportunity for businesses to find out the shortcomings of their services and work on them. If your business has 100+ positive reviews online but your customers do not enjoy your service, not only will they never return, but they'll also realize those reviews were fake.
- Review sites take this subject seriously and may penalize businesses caught with fake reviews on their pages. Again, Yelp is the most on-the-ball about this. Under its Consumer Alerts program, Yelp posts a large pop-up message on the pages of businesses that have illegitimate reviews. The pop-up stays on the page for 90 days, alerting every customer who visits the page during that time that the business in question was caught with fake reviews.
- It's potentially illegal. Some businesses have faced hefty fines and other legal trouble because of soliciting fake reviews.
Watch out for what you do in today's world – you don’t want to be labeled as the business that pays for fake or positive reviews.
Bad press like that will wipe away almost all of the positive impact that any previous genuine positive reviews might have had.
Basically, paying people to write fake reviews - or giving discounts or other perks to real customers in exchange for writing positive reviews - is a waste of money and an all-around headache.
The Better Way to Get Reviews
To recap: getting reviews is necessary, while buying reviews is bad. What's a business to do?
It's actually pretty simple. First, put your energy into earning positive reviews by emphasizing customer service and doing everything within your power to satisfy existing customers. Then use an automated system like ReputationStacker to get those customers to write authentic reviews.
The system them automatically contacts your customers with a one-question survey, identifying the satisfied customers and funneling them to the review site of your choice. Dissatisfied customers are funneled back to you, giving you a chance to follow up with them and address their concerns.
Many customers who are pleased with your service will be willing to review you, provided it's easy for them to do. ReputationStacker removes all the hurdles and makes it easy to get a steady stream of positive reviews posted on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google.
Other Ways to Get Reviews Organically
1. Simplify the Process
Hardly anyone these days has the time for things that don’t directly benefit them; the same goes for reviews. So, try and keep the review process as simple as possible.
No unnecessary registrations, no multiple site visits – just have a simple link to your preferred review site or add clickable rating stars in your emails. If you have an app, it's best to have a pop-up reminder urging your customers to leave a review.
2. Reply to Every Review
Many customers won't bother leaving a review if they see that previous comments or questions addressed to you remain unanswered. Responding to reviews does two things:
(1) Encourages your customers to leave a review.
(2) Sends out the message that you actually care about your customers, especially the dissatisfied ones.
So, next time, instead of ignoring negative feedback, reach out to the customer and help them out.
3. Host Giveaways
Just because you can’t buy reviews doesn't mean you can’t invest some money into getting organic reviews. Giveaways are a great way to rake in genuine feedback with minimal investment.
Select any product or service of your choice and ask the participants to leave a review in return for the free product, service, or discount.NOTE: Make it clear that you’re offering the giveaway to anyone who leaves a review, regardless of whether the review is positive or negative.
(Don't) Show Me the Money
Buying fake reviews is a waste of money and time in the best of circumstances. If fake reviews are discovered by site administrators or your customers, the fallout can be devastating.
Put your efforts into earning positive reviews and let ReputationStacker do the heavy lifting of getting your customers to post those reviews on major sites.
Ian Kirby has been working in digital marketing for over 15 years. Having worked both with and for digital marketing agencies and in-house with multiple companies, he has a specific interest and expertise in online reputation management, online reviews, and the implementation of business systems. Ian’s writing, videos, and interviews have garnered millions of reads, views, and listens.