Online reviews have been growing in importance in recent years. Just looking back at some of my recent posts about review management and the importance or reviews show how they are growing in importance and popularity. Aside from that, business owners are now getting inundated with offers for review management tools. I have always been very careful to follow the rules with review procurement. You know, make sure they are real customers, make sure you ask everyone and bake it into your business process, and they will organically grow over time if you are doing a good job. This is an important part.
Reviews as a Ranking Factor
In recent years, we have seen the importance of not only the number of reviews, but the frequency of reviews, and even the text used inside the reviews to help Google learn more about your business and whether you are authoritative enough or trustworthy enough to rank. Your response rate and what you say back to reviewers may even be a ranking factor. Even non-local businesses seem to have to rely on a good review reputation for rankings, as I was seeing with the results of some experiments this past year. With all of that being said you would think that Google, with their brilliant machine learning and all of their resources, would be great at fighting and stopping fake reviews.
Fighting Against Fake Reviews
I recently had a client competitor leave a blatantly fake 1-star review on their GMB. Even their text in the review was clear that they weren’t actually a customer. I flagged it and it appears to have been removed. This is good news if this is the trend, though we haven’t seen much progress in this area. Though Google tells us the rules against fake reviews and occasionally knocks down large fake review networks, otherwise, they don’t seem to care too much, and clearly put up with really obvious breakers of the rules. One of my all-time local search favorites, Mike Blumenthal, recently did an amazing post outlining how Google could, but doesn’t shut down this rampant fake review market, hurting the small businesses that are doing it right. Give his post a read. It really gets to the heart of things.
To Fake Review or not to Fake Review
It seems so easy to get these fake reviews streaming in on a regular basis and Google seems to reward it. Why not do it? We said ourselves, with the help of Mike, that Google doesn’t seem to really care unless there is a big PR hit from it. It is a risk I wouldn’t recommend taking even though I know it is tempting. If Google does find a cheater as they did with Birdeye a while back, they can crush you by removing all of these reviews. The better way to approach it is to just be very good at getting real reviews, and for interacting with them. Ask every customer to review you, and when they do, respond as quickly as you can, and do with in-depth and personalized answers. In the end, doing it right will pay off. Eventually, there will be enough blowback that Google will make moves. Even if they don’t put a lot of effort into it, they will likely continue to do some big punishments on occasion to show that they are doing something, and you don’t want your business disappearing because of that. You never know which cheating network they will take down. In the meantime, if you know your competitors are using fake reviews, flag them, and try to turn them in. If it doesn’t get removed, it can at least be a little therapeutic.
If you put your cursor over the review, to the right, a little flag will come up that you can click on and start the process. Go for it. We all need to fight this together.