Most of Kona Impact’s clients have a love-hate relationship with social media and review websites. When they get a lot of positive reviews, they are, of course, happy. When a customer or client writes a bad review, they are not happy. When a competitor plays dirty, they are furious.
How do competitors play dirty online?
- Writing fake negative reviews about your business.
- Writing fake positive reviews about their business
- Engaging ï¿½black hatï¿½ marketing firms to spread incorrect information online.
How many online reviews are fake?
There is a lot of evidence that 15-20% percent of Yelp! and TripAdvisor reviews are fake. That is a huge number because most businesses do not write or pay for fake reviews. That means, there is a relatively small number of businesses that are responsible for a huge amount of dishonest content.
What can an honest business do?
The first thing is never to write fake reviews or pay a company to write fake reviews for you or a competitor. It is dishonest, and it violates the Terms of Service of every review site. You might get away with it for a short long time, but trickery and dishonesty are no way to build a reputable business. Most of the review sites are very good at detecting large-scale fraud, so if you go from zero reviews to ten five-star reviews, written on the same computer, in a few days, it will be detected.
The review sites have one fatal flaw: they have no way to connect the review/reviewer to business.
That is, anyone can write a review about any business, whether he or she was a customer or not. Until that happens, all online reviews should not be imagined to be from actual customers. We saw this with the Minnesota dentist who killed the lion in Africa. His business got thousands of negative reviews on Yelp! by enraged people, and almost none of these was from his patients.
How can you deal with fake reviews about your business?
Unfortunately, Yelp! and TripAdvisor will seldom remove reviews, even if you claim the review is not from a customer or client. In practice, it seems to be an exercise in futility to contact the websites. You will also find it to be a long, expensive uphill struggle to bring legal action against the site. Donï¿½t waste your time.
You could hire a lawyer and try to identify the person posting the review. This, again, seems like a waste of time and money; that is, by following the steps below you should be able to mitigate the damage of a fake review.
The first step should be to reply to the review. We received a fake review posted by Manon Holroyd, who works for our competitor. We have never met her. She posted it on our Google+ profile.
If you are certain the person has never been your client, say so. Most readers of reviews understand that fake reviews are common. Keep it factual and short.
The next step is to work on diluting the value of the negative review by asking customers to write reviews. You might want to have a sign at the counter or on the door, or you might print out some cards with your profiles on the review sites. Note: it’s against the Terms of Service of all the review sites to offer any incentives like money or free merchandise. Another strategy is to send an email thank you to clients and request reviews.
If you have one fake, planted review, ten positive ones will make that one look like an aberration.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do about competitors that fake reviews for their websites. I know of one vacation service provider in Kona that has tens of excellent reviews, yet all the “reviewers” only seem to have written one reviewï¿½for that company. Clearly, this is someone trying to game the system. Volume is not the issue–we have one client with 170+ genuine five-star reviews–it’s reviews that seem overly vague and laudatory coming from “reviewers” who have not written many reviews.
My advice is to focus on your business. Eventually, the scammers and unprofessional businesses all get their just desserts.