Online reviews have become an indispensable part of digital marketing in today’s world. Reviews help customers in their decision-making process because one of the first things we do as consumers is consult others on their opinion. From restaurants to hotel bookings, fashion to cars, trusted reviews for each of these keep us from making the same mistakes others have made.
You might be willing to do just about anything to ensure that your business flourishes. But should you pay for online reviews? Read this guide before making a hasty decision.
The importance of online reviews
Research by BrightLocal shows that an increasing number of consumers are turning to online reviews to influence their buying decision, and more than 92% of them are likely to turn away from a business because of negative reviews. Customers trust online reviews just as much as personal endorsements from family and friends. In this day and age, online reviews clearly need to be taken seriously by any business.
Reviews serve as the ideal social proof your business needs. The more positive reviews your business has, the more likely a search engine such as Google will give you a higher ranking. And more visibility on the internet automatically means more success for you. Fresh online reviews ensure that your brand stays relevant every time a search engine updates its index. And the more often you make in on to the first page of search results, the more authentic your brand will appear.
You can set up reviews on your websites, ask users to rate you on social media or choose to collate reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon. At Feefo, we have plenty of tools for you to collate and customise online reviews across various platforms on the web.
Should you pay for online reviews?
In recent years, there have been plenty of incidents where companies have been criticised after they have been exposed for paying for online reviews. Investigations by BBC and Which? have shown that Google has been unable to combat fake reviews in an effective manner. This has led to customers being misled and people falling for scam offers.
You certainly don’t want to be part of the next fake review crackdown, nor do you want to invest money on schemes that could ruin you. Here are three reasons why you should stay away from paid online reviews:
- You’re likely to get caught. As tempting as it sounds, those who investigate fake online reviews are going to be even more powerful and resourceful than you. Some websites even set traps to find fake or bought reviews as soon as they’re created, and you can risk having your whole operation getting shut down. Most review platforms, such as Feefo, shift and filter through hundreds of reviews a day to ensure that only authenticated reviews are presented to the public.
- You might get legally prosecuted. Even if your online audience is forgiving, you may still face the legal consequences of attempting to scam customers using paid online reviews. You might get off by paying a small fine, or if you become entangled in a complicated case, you could be taken to court, with potential ramifications that could be a lot direr.
- Your reputation is at risk. Once word gets out that your brand pays for online reviews, it can be a long road to recover from that. News, especially bad news, spreads especially quickly on the internet and customers are less likely to trust you after your name becomes associated with unethical behaviour.
It’s easy to get scammed by fraudulent agencies who will do a bad job trying to get you paid reviews. They will often be from user/click farms with easily recognisable suspicious accounts, which your users can identify at first glance.
Don’t pay for online reviews, do this instead
The risk doesn’t seem worth it, right? There are easier ways to increase your reviews online than paying for them, and you can start by:
1) Asking for genuine reviews
Need your customers to leave you a review? Just ask them! Around 72% of them are likely to leave a review after only being asked. It can be as simple as suggesting that they share their experience so you can see if anything needs to be done differently. If they have positive feedback to share, tell them that sharing it online it will help you continue doing a great job and will also help others in their decision-making.
Some popular ways of asking for a review:
- In-person, if you have a physical presence and get to meet your customers
- Through email or text when you thank your customer for their transaction
- By contacting them on social media or by calling them
To have more control over what kind of reviews get posted to the public online, you can try to filter them yourself. Send out a survey with an in-built rating system on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the happiest customer. For responses between 7 to 10, take it one step further by asking them to share their experience online in the form of a review. The lower-scored responses can be used internally for your own improvements, and we will explain how in the next point.
2) Engaging with your customers
Keeping in constant contact with your customers will ensure that you build a positive relationship with them. If a customer is invested in your brand emotionally and feels a connection, they are more likely to share their experiences and feedback in the form of reviews. Look for opportunities to interact with and keep customers engaged. To build trust and loyalty with your brand, start a rapport by posting content that they like and would want to share with their network.
Respond to every single comment in a friendly and professional manner. You never know which of those people will leave you a positive review after an interaction. Thank them for sharing their opinion, for visiting your page or even for downloading your app. Ask them how you can make things better. Listen to what your customer base is talking about online and share content they’ll be interested in. If you build a presence where they are likely to be, there is more chance that they will not forget you.
Incorporate your best reviews where others can see them. Some brands choose to publish glowing testimonials on the homepage of their website, and the rest can appear on your social media pages and on Google. Once other customers see what’s posted they may want their opinions to be published as well.
3) Actioning any feedback
Now that you’ve got a few online reviews, you need to know what to do with them. Thank each customer individually — and with a personalised message — for taking the time to leave a review. If they have provided suggestions or changes for you, make a note to action them and then update that customer on exactly what you did. This will make them feel like you take their feedback seriously and push others to leave a positive review for you too.
Paying close attention to what customers are saying about you online will give you the opportunity to learn about your own weaknesses and strengths. You can then focus on eliminating customer ‘pain points’ and enhance the good experience. This allows you to provide customers with exactly what they’re looking for, and by doing so, deliver a better service and be known as a company that likes to please its customers.
On average, customers will read about 7 reviews before they trust you. So, the more positive reviews you are able to get, the better your chances of success.
Dealing with negativity and next steps
Use negative reviews to your advantage. The customer has complained online, in a very public forum, so respond to them publically as well. This shows them, and potential customers, that you have nothing to hide and that you conduct business in full transparency. Start by apologising and end with a solution to their grievance. Once you have actioned any changes they specifically requested, always follow up to see how you can get the customer back to try your new and improved service.
As you’ve seen, paying for reviews has plenty of disadvantages and will never yield you the results you desire. Grow and develop your business organically by being a good listener, building a solid relationship with your customer and actioning their feedback — all without having to pay for online reviews. Ultimately, if you are still unsure whether to pay for online reviews or not, go with your intuition. Some companies can get away with it for a while, but as we’ve seen, many cannot. It’s just not worth the risk.
Get in touch with our professionals at Feefo to help you find the best solutions for your business. You might as well let us help you take the safest, quickest, more efficient — and above board — method of obtaining reviews to maximise your returns and success for the long run.
With the right guidance and proper strategy in place, positive reviews can be earned and not bought.