How To Avoid Fake Consumer Reviews

Reviews have become a crucial part of doing business in today’s world. Especially when making choices online, customers rely on reviews to give them accurate information regarding a business. Customers are hesitant to engage with a business without enough good reviews. Maintaining a good rating is crucial for many businesses. Too few reviews can negatively impact the number of customers approaching your business and can increase your customer acquisition costs. One negative review can skew your entire online rating which can affect how often your business shows up on Google searches. Customers can also encourage the public to give one star reviews to punish the business, a process known as review bombing.

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With all of this, businesses can feel pressure to have a large quantity of positive reviews. Any effort to change or affect your reviews that do not encourage/ allow for genuine customer feedback is a form of fraud. If you pay for more reviews, fraud. If you create fake accounts to boost your rating, fraud. Even encouraging customers to write positive reviews in exchange for an award is fraud. All of these are examples of fraud in the from of fake reviews. The Federal Trade Commission has been prosecuting this type of fraud on a case by case basis, but their new proposed rule would ensure an up to $50,000 fine for each fake review.

What Is A Fake Review?

In order to fully understand how to avoid soliciting or encouraging fake reviews, we need to define these types of reviews. The first way is the most obvious. If you pay people directly or create a bunch of fake accounts to write positive reviews, those are fake reviews. If you encourage your customers to write positive reviews, especially if there is a financial incentive attached, you are influencing their reviews to the point that these also become fake reviews. This is because there is no way to distinguish between actual favorable reviews or ones where the customer may have felt pressured into falsifying their review.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you purchase an apartment complex that has a lot of negative reviews under previous management. You are frustrated by the number of stars because it is affecting occupancy. You then decide to offer a chance to win a rent credit for writing a positive review.

This is an example of a business encouraged fake review. But how do we acquire reviews without becoming criminals?

How To Avoid Fake Reviews

In our previous example, it was the emphasis on positive reviews that made the review seeking fraudulent. A quick way to avoid this is to encourage honest reviews. Do not stipulate whether the reviews need to be good or bad. The FTC goes into this in much more detail here.

Make sure when hiring a marketing team that they are not purchasing or making positive reviews for you. Some companies will do this; therefore, you must carefully read the fine print of any and all contracts.

If you are consistently getting bad reviews, take a look at the reviews themselves. By examining the reviews, you can determine whether you are missing your ideal customer and if so what steps you need to take to reach that customer. You can also determine if there is an aspect of your business that is not being understood or is not translating in the way you intended.

At the end of the day, trust yourself and your business. You do not need to engage in fake reviews to make your business more successful. And if you try, you may face legal trouble.