Should I pay for positive online reviews?

The FTC does not take kindly to businesses that purchase fake online reviews. 

The FTC does not take kindly to businesses that purchase fake online reviews. 

In a few short years, online reviews have completely changed how consumers spend money with local businesses. In fact, studies show that 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, and just a one-star rating bump can increase business revenue by 39%.

Having a high rating on review sites like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook is essential for success these days, but what should you do if you don’t have very many reviews, or you have too many negative ones? Let’s lay out your options:

Should you pay for positive reviews?

If you didn't know, there are so-called “reputation management” companies that will help you buy positive reviews. Let’s be clear: this is a terrible idea.

First of all, the FTC has ruled that it’s illegal to buy positive reviews, and they crack down on companies that are caught doing so. On top of that, most review sites have strict policies in place against buying reviews.

Google, for example, has algorithms that detect fake reviews and manipulation, and will remove anything that appears suspicious. Yelp makes the deceit public by clearly notifying consumers when reviews are fake.

Besides, buying phony reviews is just bad for your company’s brand reputation. Today’s customers are savvy and likely to catch on quickly to any deceitful practices. Once you’re caught, you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. Don’t risk it.   

What should you do instead?

If buying positive reviews is off limits, how can you ensure your company gets more reviews so customers can find and patronize your business? Here are three easy tips:

1. Just ask

If you want more reviews, the first step is to simply ask customers for them. You can offer incentives, like a discount or raffle for customers who post reviews about your business. But honestly, why not just ask them directly?

Womply’s Get Reviews tool makes it easy to keep negative feedback private while encouraging your best customers to share their experiences online. Just upload your customers’ email addresses and Get Reviews will ask them to rate their experience. If they give 1-3 stars, feedback stays between you and the customer. If they give 4-5 stars, they’ll be given the option to post a positive review on Yelp, Google, or other popular sites. 

2. Engage with reviewers

Positive reviews beget more positive reviews, and vice versa. When you do get a good review, you can use the pile-on effect to your advantage. When you get a negative one, showing some genuine empathy can reduce its impact on your business.

Once a good review is posted, offer a quick thank you—it goes a long way. Not only will the reviewer feel appreciated, but prospective customers will notice that you took time to respond. The same goes for bad reviews: respond promptly. But this time, listen closely to what was said, offer an apology, and provide a solution.

People will pay attention to how you handle the matter, so don’t overreact. Regardless of what the reviewer said, online reviews give you an opportunity for customer interaction, which builds rapport and trust, and ultimately increases customer loyalty, leading to even more positive reviews. It’s a beautiful cycle.

3. Use their feedback

Don’t just sit back and watch the reviews roll in, listen to what your customers say and implement their feedback. Use their positive reviews to know what they like, and then do more of it. You can also use their positive comments to tailor your marketing.

When you get a negative reviews, use it as an opportunity to improve and grow your business. The more you listen to your customers and implement their feedback, the likelier they are to continue visiting your business and give positive reviews and high star ratings.

You can also remove blind spots by paying attention to negative reviews, which reduces the chance of getting more of them. Read about how Kimana Littleflower used online review feedback to spot and correct a sneaky problem with a signature dish at her popular South Carolina restaurant.

Getting more positive reviews doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’d like to see how Womply can help you own the online conversation, request a demo.