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Cracking Down on Fake Google Reviews

Google Business Profile, previously known as Google My Business (GMB), is a small business’s best friend when it comes to boosting Local SEO performance. Why? 2 words: Google reviews. 

Google reviews are a critical component of any well-established business and local SEO strategy, but there is a right and wrong way to go about it.

More and more, we are seeing fake Google reviews appearing for businesses, but not just the bad kind. 

While receiving a bad review isn’t ideal, fake good reviews can prove just as damaging to your reputation. 

Getting a fake 5-star Google review goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, but you may be asking, ‘how can I get a fake good review?’ 

What is defined as a fake review?

Well, in a nutshell, a fake review is any review that is given without the person having used your product or service. 

There are a few ways in which people do this. 

The first is where someone creates a fake Google account (consisting of a false name and made-up email) to leave a review. We see this a lot with bad reviews, but now it’s become prevalent practice amongst black hat SEO practitioners and businesses looking to get results quickly and easily. 

This approach has even become encouraged by some so-called ‘SEO specialists.’  We even witnessed this email sent by a self-proclaimed SEO expert:

SEO specialists encouraging fake reviews is black hat SEO

 

They even have the audacity to say it’s NOT black hat SEO! Can you believe this?! 

 

This is becoming more common within the industry but take it from us when we say it is NEVER a good idea to have a fake Google account leave reviews. It not only breaks Google’s rules, but it builds distrust in your brand and is just plain lazy. 

By the same token, you shouldn’t pay for people to provide reviews either. There are a lot of providers out there that allow you to buy reviews, but we can guarantee it’s not by any ethical means. 

Buying fake reviews, whether it be through an agency or paying an individual, may provide a stream of fresh positive online reviews, but you risk a sharp decline in rankings once Google discovers that your reviews are not an authentic reflection of the customer experience.

However, there can be a fine line between what’s considered a fake review. For instance, getting your family or friends to write a review is totally fine, but they should only do so if they have actually used your product or service in a professional capacity. 

If you get all your friends to leave you a review saying how awesome your products are without ever having used them, it also doesn’t give your customers the opportunity to build trust or have a true indication of what your offer is and whether it is right for them. 

The best way to think of this is if you were looking for a product or service; would you not want to be reading honest reviews from people who have purchased the product or service?

So how can you increase your good reviews the right way?

Google reviews should be earned organically, but you have to be proactive. Whether you ask for a review face-to-face or utilise email marketing or social media, there is a multitude of ways to get good, honest reviews flooding in.

  1. Customer Surveys

Send your customers a survey after they have purchased your product or utilised your service. If you get positive feedback, follow up and ask them to provide a Google review. You can do this manually or set up an automated email. Try to avoid sending customers directly to your Google review page before touching base with them about their experience; this is better customer service practice and also limits the chances of receiving a bad Google review. 

  1. Incentives 

While you can’t buy Google reviews, you can incentivise REAL customers to leave them. You can offer products and services at a discounted price or provide other incentives to gather feedback from customers. This is particularly useful in the product testing phase. If the consumers love it, get them to leave a review! This isn’t just good for reviews; it’s a great way to get feedback about your business and see where you could improve. 

So, before you buy a review or ask a friend to leave you one, think carefully about whether or not the review is genuine. Speak to the team at 80/20 Digital today and find out how we can improve your rankings and local SEO listings through best practice.

80/20 Digital's Content & SEO Specialist, Abbey Faulkner is dedicated to staying on top of industry trends and putting her creativity to good use for her clients. She combines her expertise in media and writing to boost rankings, improve brand awareness, increase engagement and generate leads across clients' websites, email marketing and social media.

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