There are some unscrupulous people who prey on unsuspecting business owners by offering to give their business a massive boost through online reviews with 5 star ratings. While it might sound like an easy way to bury a few bad reviews, the result is never what you would expect. Reviews from non-customers invariably give themselves away through a lack of specific details, generic accolades, and little to no association with the local community.

Not long ago, we noticed a local chiropractor had nearly 50 outstanding ratings on important review sites. But it didn’t make sense that the reviewers were from all across the USA. While it is remotely possible that people often find themselves needing chiropractic care while on the road, a quick search revealed that each of the reviewers had posted identical reviews on 20-30 chiropractic office listings from California to Maine. It doesn’t matter how good these reviews were, online customers are too smart to be fooled by appearances. What could have been a reputation boost, quickly becomes a reputation nightmare because when words get out, those fake reviews cannot be retracted.

Paying for reviews is a clear violation of the terms of use for sites like Yelp, who go out of their way to filter reviews that they suspect are potentially less than genuine. In fact, Yelp considers the location of their reviewers, how often and the types of reviews they tend to leave, and whom else they are connected to within the Yelp community to determine whether or not a review should remain visible. Websites like Google are able to check IP addresses of the reviewers and match them to the businesses. Because they record and retain this information, clearly fake reviews could potentially lead to a blacklisting of a business on the world’s most popular search engine.

Even promising to reward customers in exchange for positive reviews can backfire. You can’t control what others say, especially on social media. When word gets out that a review was “paid for”, it no longer has value to other readers and you risk public exposure about your “promotion”. It’s best to avoid anything that can be misconstrued as a business arrangement.

What you can do, is pay attention to your customers, create great experiences, and give your most satisfied customers an opportunity to provide you with feedback that will potentially help your business. Revues is unique in that customers publish their reviews on a private web page, and only when they give you a high rating, (4 or 5 stars) they are then encouraged to share that review on the sites that matter most to your business. And once customers have left their review, you are welcome to show your appreciation with a little extra service.

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