Have you ever seen one of those websites that feature fake reviews? These are usually “wonder pills” that help you lose weight without dieting or exercise, or “magic creams” that erase wrinkles like real-life Photoshop. You see and realize that the photos are computer-altered, and you cannot help but wonder: “Do people buy this?”
Fake reviews are not limited to those shady-looking websites. They are everywhere. People are getting paid to write fake reviews on Amazon, Yelp, and Google.
Why are brands doing this? Why are they risking ruining their reputation by posting fake reviews? Henry Miles, a marketing expert from UK Best Essays, sheds some light on this issue: “Marketing techniques are not always ethical. We see exaggerations in TV commercials all the time. Magazine reporters also exaggerate when writing product reviews. The fake online reviews, however, are completely unethical. They create deceiving social proof that violates consumer rights. Are they worth it? I don’t think so. They impose a huge risk for the business, and they do not contribute towards better reputation, no matter how it may seem at the start.”
Reviews Are Still Important
The statistics are precise: 31% of people aged 16 to 24 years had used a customer review to find information about products and brands before making a purchase. Older people are even more willing to rely on reviews: 42% of the respondents aged 55 to 64 years are relying on reviews.
Brands that have positive reviews on Amazon, Yelp or Google have higher chances to generate conversions. The issue with fake Amazon reviews has gotten severe lately. In June, July and August 2017, the reviews started looking more unnatural than ever. Amazon is aware of the problem, which is why they have brought lawsuits over 1,000 defendants for abuse of the review feature.
From a brand’s point of view, fake reviews are easy. You only pay someone to praise your product or service, and that small investment will boost your online reputation. However, that also means you’re deceiving the customers, and let’s be clear on this one: customers do not like being deceived. They cannot smell, taste, or feel products to the touch when they are shopping online. That’s why they rely on reviews so much; they want genuine information that will help them make the purchasing decision. When these reviews are not real, the customers are being misled. This unethical practice may bring short-term benefits for your brand, but it will ruin its reputation in the long run.
How Fake Reviews Can Hurt Your Business
Fraudulent reviews undermine the sense of community among online buyers. When someone makes a purchasing decision based on a fake review, and that product is nowhere near the expectations, your business will suffer the consequences. You’re faking your online reputation with these reviews, but guess what: you cannot stop your real customers from posting reviews, too. If they reveal the scam, they will soon bring your business down by warning everyone else about the fraud.
Negative fake reviews are an even bigger problem. Some businesses will pay reviewers to write something negative about a product or a service a competitor sells. When businesses reveal these black-hat marketing practices, they will actively go after the reviewers. They will research their records to prove that such purchase was never made and such dispute was never raised in their customer support center.
How to Achieve Great Online Reputation without Relying on Fake Reviews
There are plenty of ways to go about the ethics in marketing, but ethical marketing practices are still your safest bet. Instead of posting fake positive reviews about your business and fake negative reviews about the competition, you should mainly focus on promoting your products or services in the best way possible.
- Earn people’s trust by providing high-quality products or services. If your offer is excellent, the good reviews will come without you forcing them.
- Invest in a brilliant customer support system. Whenever someone purchases from you, they should feel safe knowing that they have nothing to lose. Respond to all disputes promptly. Provide refunds and product replacement whenever necessary. When you get the customers used to such professionalism, many others will be willing to purchase from you.
- If you want positive reviews, connect with influencers! You will provide your products or services, and they will share their honest opinion with a broad base of followers.
- You may also offer free product packages as a giveaway to your target audience. You will not demand favorable reviews in return; you’ll just send the products and allow the users to form their own opinion.
- Instead of generating fake reviews, you can directly ask your customers to share their feedback. Whenever they make a purchase, send an email with a request for review after they try the product. You may offer a discount code in return for their honest opinion. You’ll feature these testimonials at your website as a way to generate a social proof.
To make these testimonials more believable, you may show where your users are coming from. The Google Maps Widget PRO plugin for WordPress will show the visitors how favorite your products are. Just ask each reviewer for their location and pin it on the map. If your products or services are used on a global level, this map will create a significant impression for your website visitors. Improve your Google Maps marketing strategy to avoid falling behind competitors.
- If you notice a fake negative review for your business, respond to it. If the review is on Yelp, Amazon or Google, report it with your explanation and a proof that it’s fake. Try to deal with the haters so that they won’t ruin your reputation. If the review is negative but not fake, offer refunds or product replacement. That’s the least you can do.
Bottom line is: fake reviews are not worth the effort. It’s a risky endeavor that may harm the reputation of your business. Internet users are not dull. They can see right through fake reviews. Even when they can’t, the scam will be revealed as soon as people start placing real orders. So stick to ethical marketing practices and steer away from the fake reviews!