First of all, let's be clear...
Buying online reviews is a REALLY bad idea. Do not buy, purchase or pay for online reviews for your business.
Plain and simple.
We understand that you're working really hard in your business, and that getting more five star reviews can be a real pain (especially if you don't have the right systems in place). Tier 1 review sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp all have their own unique review compliance standards and as a business it is important that you know and understand how they work.
Besides, your customers love you right? So why not get more authentic, real reviews from the people that already love you and your products and services.
If you haven't already, you should take a look at Yelp's Content Guidelines
and make sure you understand the right and wrong ways to get more reviews for your business. Yelp doesn't take kindly to businesses that try to buy online reviews. As this article from Entrepreneur.com points out
, Yelp is even "targeting" businesses how try to buy online reviews and warning customers that land on their Yelp page (see image below). Yelp calls this their "Consumer Alerts" program and describes the program as:
"We introduced our Consumer Alerts program back in 2012 to warn people when we see brazen attempts to manipulate ratings and reviews – either by purchasing/incentivizing people for reviews, writing a bunch of reviews from the same IP address (a helpful indicator that they may lack authenticity), or threatening reviewers with legal action. While our recommendation software does a great job weeding out unreliable reviews so you don't have to, our investigation team is also always on the job.
When we issue an alert, a warning message pops up over the review section of a business page informing the user of the particular action we have learned about, sometimes with a link to view the evidence. The user must manually close the popup to read any of the reviews."
Numerous businesses that are paying for online reviews have been penalized by Yelp with this Consumer Alert ( learn more about Yelp's Consumer Alert Program here
It simply isn't worth it. Your online reputation can't afford to take a "Consumer Alert" hit.
Don't pay for Yelp reviews. Period. End of story.
Just as you would suspect, Google doesn't like businesses that pay for reviews. Once again, getting more real, authentic reviews from your customers is the safest way to control your online reputation. With that said, Google doesn't appear to "crack-the-whip" as a hard as Yelp when it comes to punishments.
Although the most likely scenario is the removal of the suspected "fake" or purchased reviews, there have been reports of companies having their page taken down.
Just like Yelp, it is important to understand Google's Review Policy.
Of the 12 different reasons they cite for ways a review can be taken down, one of them in particular calls our paying for reviews. "
- Conflict of interest:
Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor.
If you're a business owner, don't set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.
Don't pay for Google reviews. Period. End of story.
Several years ago, the FTC already made it clear. Paying for reviews is illegal.
In fact, according to this article from Search Engine Watch
, significant financial penalties have been enforced for companies that participate in buying online reviews.
"New York is going further. Regulators today announced
their crackdown on illegal reviews, and have reached agreements with 19 different companies who will stop posting and soliciting fake reviews as well as pay $350,000 in penalties.
The crackdown, dubbed “Operation Clean Turf”, targeted both companies who purchased the fake reviews, as well as the companies who are creating the fake reviews. A total of seven companies offering “reputation enhancement” services were caught in the year-long investigation, along with their clients they post reviews for."
Since you're here, you already understand the importance of getting more reviews for your business. By now, you should know that buying online reviews is a really bad idea that can not only put your business in the penalty box with Google and Yelp, it could have a lasting negative impact on your online reputation.
Most importantly, remember that you don't need
to buy online reviews to begin with. Like most local businesses, your customers already love you and will happily leave you a review if you simply continue to give them the great products and services they're looking for.