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No, Fake Reviews Are Not Harmless

You keep hearing about how important it is to have customer reviews on your Google, Yelp, and Facebook listings. In fact, a majority of what you’ve heard has probably come straight from us. After all, we’re always harping on the fact that customer reviews are crucial because they improve your SEO and make you more appealing to prospective customers. So after reading about customer reviews for the umpteenth time, you start feeling a little insecure about the lack of reviews on your own listing. You think, Why don’t I just take matters into my own hands? And you decide to write some fake reviews yourself. Consequences Just Ahead Green Road Sign Writing fake customer reviews may seem harmless on the surface, but there can be some seriously negative consequences. When you post fake reviews—whether on your own listing or another company’s—it’s not a matter of if you’ll get caught, but when. Google and other review sites know your IP address and will inevitably connect you to the fake review. However, it’s true that the circumstances surrounding fake reviews can vary, and so will the penalties for getting caught. In this post, we’ll explain the three major types of fake customer reviews and their typical consequences. Then, we’ll give you some tips on how to get real customer reviews the honest way, instead.

The Unintentional Fake Review

Sometimes, a business owner unwittingly posts on their own Google or Yelp listing using their own username. This usually happens when a business owner intended to post a review anonymously (under the pretense of a customer) but forgot that they were signed in to their account. With this type of fake review, the potential damage is minimal because it was less of a deception and more of a mistake. Most customers will notice that the review came from the owner of the business and ignore it. Eventually, Google or Yelp might delete it.

The Anonymous, Self-Promotional Review

In this type of fake review, a business owner poses as a customer on their own listing by writing a review anonymously or by creating a new account for a fictional person. These reviews are always positive, with the intention of boosting that business’s overall ratings. If you don’t get caught, this kind of review could give you a small boost. But this is where we remind you that Google will catch you. It knows your IP address. It will easily notice if a post appears on your listing from your own computer. When you’re caught, your listing will be suspended temporarily and your business will be penalized in the search rankings. And if you continue this behavior once your penalty is lifted, Google could actually ban you completely. Is it really worth the risk?

The Vengeful Fake Review

The final, and most damaging, type of fake review involves the business owner posing as a customer on another business’s listing. These reviews are overwhelmingly negative, and they’re usually done to a direct competitor as a way to bring down their ratings. These reviews have the harshest penalties because their intent is purely malicious. If Google catches you, your listing could be banned, and you could be kept from ever leaving reviews on Google again. And since there’s no direct benefit to your business (it only hurts another business), this type of review is not worth the backlash, plain and simple.

Get Reviews the Honest Way

Why go through the trouble of writing fake customer reviews and risking serious penalties when you can get real ones, instead? It takes a little more effort upfront to get real customer reviews, but they’ll make your business’s listings much more stable and appealing in the long run. Here are some ideas:

  • If you’ve done any work for family or friends in the past, ask them to leave you a review. They’ll be happy to help you out. Just make sure they don’t write their reviews from the same house! Reviews coming from the same IP address will be flagged.
  • Target any customers who have a Gmail address. It’s super fast and easy for Gmail users to leave reviews on your Google listing because they’ll already be logged in to their account. To make it as easy as possible, provide them with a direct link and brief instructions on how to post a review.
  • Use a professional service that keeps track of your customers and calls or e-mails them to ask for reviews on your behalf. Although we do not endorse any specific company, we know that some of our clients use Customer Lobby with good results.
  • Leverage the on-page feedback feature available from Prospect Genius. Customers can use this to leave a review right on your site, and then (if the review is positive) they’ll be given links to your Facebook and Google listings so they can spread their reviews even further. This feature is nice and simple because it’s just a link on your LeadTrax™ site—it doesn’t require customers to have an existing account.
  • Check out more helpful tips for getting the most customer reviews possible in our blog post, “Make Your Presence Known: Get More Customer Reviews Online.”

Writing fake customer reviews, no matter what the circumstances, is never worth the risk of penalization or suspension. Instead, use the tips outlined above to get more customer reviews that are actually honest and helpful. You’ll thank yourself for the effort! As always, don’t hesitate to contact Prospect Genius with any questions.