This is a quick post because it has come up a few times in the past week talking with business owners and even the example image letter I recently got after making a purchase. Please don’t risk getting yourself in trouble by offering prizes or rewards for 5-star reviews. Both Google and Amazon have strong policies against this, and you are putting yourself in danger of having all of your reviews or even listing removed for breaking policy. If it is found you have a policy for bribing or rewarding people for specific 5-star reviews, it can make all of you reviews suspect.

Reviews More Important Than Ever

Reviews have grown in importance for ranking in searches for what you sell. However, as often is the case, all things that have value to ranking algorithms tend to trigger an entire industry of nefarious actors who cheat to manipulate things.  Generally, I tell clients to just do a good job and ask everyone for reviews. As Google, Amazon, and other providers get a better handle on weeding out the cheaters, the value of review metrics will increase in importance.  But it isn’t just about the score. It is about the recency, volume, and score.

Avoid Review Gating and Rewards for 5-Stars

Good review management combined with good customer service can be a differentiator and help you stand out.  Don’t review gate, or only ask selected people for reviews. First of all, review gating serves almost no purpose. A GatherUp study showed that review gating actually doesn’t improve scores in a significant way, but does significantly reduce review volume, which can be just as important.

Another seemingly tempting thing to do is to offer a reward for 5-star reviews. I know this because I get asked about it all the time. This is strictly against policy and should be avoided. The accompanying photograph is from a letter I received after buying a product.  I blurred out the identifying details to protect the business owner as I’m not here to take them down, but it is a clear violation and attempt to give away free products in exchange for 5-star reviews.  Do not do this. It will hurt you in the long run, and if a competitor can show you are doing this, it can get your business in trouble or suspended.

Simply Ask Everyone for Reviews

There are many reputable tools out there that can help you manage and make the review process easier by sending out an email or text requests and making it easy on the user by sending them directly to the spot to leave reviews at the click of a button or sending reminders to gently nudge them back to the reviews. However, any review tool that forces a 5-star review or rewards good reviews only will likely get you in trouble in the long run.  Review management companies have gotten clients in trouble in the past by pre-filling 5-star reviews for customers. Anything that feels a little sketchy probably is. I wouldn’t go out with the goal to outsmart Google with your review policy. Better to just do a good job and keep on asking.