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Should You Pay for Google Reviews? Risk vs Reward

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Should You Pay for Google Reviews? Absolutely not.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can talk about why paying for Google reviews is easily one of the most misguided decisions you could ever make for your business. 

Not only is buying good reviews considered illegal under federal law, but it’s also just bad business. And not surprisingly, it’s completely against Google’s rules. Beyond that, trying to pay for Google reviews can hurt your SEO efforts, damage your reputation, and end up slowing down any progress you might be making towards your marketing goals.

At this point, you might be wondering: what’s the best way to get good reviews from customers? And what can you do to encourage happy customers to leave authentic Google reviews that support your online reputation? Don’t worry because we have all the answers you need – and we promise that you won’t ever think about paid Google reviews again.

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Should You Pay for Good Reviews on Google?

In case we weren’t clear, buying Google reviews is a terrible idea. Aside from being an unethical business practice, there are many other drawbacks to consider (and when we say “drawbacks,” we’re doing some serious sugar-coating).

Here’s why you don’t want to pay for Google reviews under any circumstances.

Buying Google reviews is illegal.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t mince words when they categorize “undisclosed paid endorsements” as prohibited under federal law. But what do endorsements have to do with Google reviews?

Well, anytime someone leaves a review for your business, it’s considered an “endorsement.” And when you’ve paid that person to write the review, it becomes a “paid endorsement.” Payment doesn’t just equate to cash, either; it can include free products or services, discounts, and other benefits. Since we’re assuming that you aren’t planning to label said review as a “paid ad,” it then becomes an “undisclosed paid endorsement.” 

In other words, you’re not informing the public that the review was paid for.

This sets you up for tens of thousands of dollars in FTC fines (or more). Still not convinced? Here are a few cautionary tales you should know:

  • In 2017, several California car dealerships had to pay $3.6 million in FTC fines after posting fake reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
  • A Nashville-based music education company paid $250,000 in FTC fines after they were caught paying for reviews.
  • Aura Labs set up a handful of fake reviews for their app, and the FTC wasted no time slapping them with a $100,000 fine.

When you do the math, it’s easy to see that buying reviews isn’t even close to worth it.

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It’s against Google policy to buy reviews.

Paying customers for reviews is against the law, but it’s also going to get you in trouble with Google. They might not be able to fine you thousands of dollars for offering incentives for reviews, but there will be a penalty to pay.

So, what happens if you pay for good reviews on Google? The reviews will be quickly deleted, and you’ll be out the money you spent on the review, to begin with. And don’t assume that Google won’t be able to find paid reviews – they’re not the world’s number-one search engine for nothing.

Paying for Google reviews can hurt SEO.

The Google algorithm is a force to be reckoned with, something that many business owners only discover after they’ve been on the receiving end of a penalty. Buying reviews fall under the umbrella of “black hat SEO,” and Google algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin target those types of SEO practices.

When it comes to local SEO, customer reviews are considered one of the most important ranking signals. Fake reviews essentially count as “spam,” and the algorithm doesn’t like spam. Add that to the fact that those reviews will be wiped out once they’re discovered, and you could disappear from search results. 

You’ll be violating customer trust.

Today’s consumers are smarter than ever, and many of them can spot shady marketing a mile away. No business wants to have a reputation for false advertising, especially because undoing that kind of damage to your brand image is incredibly difficult. 

Think back to why you’re running your business in the first place: odds are, you have a certain desire to provide your customers with a quality product or service that can improve their lives. So, don’t get swept away by tricky tactics; instead, go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get more reviews with an honest, open approach. 

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How to Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews

We have good news: you can accumulate a great variety of positive customer reviews without ever handing over a cent. You just need to know when and how to ask for customer reviews and what you can do to earn those 100% real words of thanks and appreciation.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Timing is key.

Don’t wait too long to ask for a review because customers are busy, and their lives move on very quickly. Aim to reach out immediately after you finish conducting business; for example, a house painter would connect with a customer after they have wrapped up a painting job. Depending on the products or services you offer, it might make more sense to wait a few days or a week to give the customer time to experience the benefits of whatever they have purchased.

The goal is to request a review while a customer’s memory is still fresh and the positive emotions they feel are just as strong. This is the “sweet spot” when you’ll receive the best response rates, as well as the most detailed reviews.

Don’t just think about timing in terms of the specific part of the sales process in which you make your request, but also consider the appropriateness of each situation. For example, if a customer has just expressed their frustration or dissatisfaction, it’s probably not a good time to ask for a review. Instead, wait until you’ve been able to resolve their issue (and hopefully go above and beyond). If they mentioned being appreciative of your willingness to make a situation right, that could be an ideal “window.”

Make it easy to leave a review, but don’t pressure customers.

Let’s say you decide to set up a review system where you ask customers for feedback in person, offering them a tablet to fill out a review page right after they make a purchase. This might seem like a helpful, convenient approach, but it can end up putting an uncomfortable amount of pressure on customers – and nobody wants that. 

Instead, we suggest sending an email or text message to ask for reviews. Alternatively, you could provide customers with a reminder card or something similar at checkout. A digital reminder can even include a direct link to the review site, making the entire process as hassle-free as possible.

After about a week, send a follow-up if you haven’t received a response. If another week goes by without a word, you can opt to send one more friendly reminder. With a well-spaced series of follow-up communications, you can make sure you give that gentle “nudge” without being overly pushy.

Above all, provide fantastic customer service and top-quality products/services.

Of course, the best way to get good Google reviews is to deliver exceptional customer service. Good reviews will follow when you combine outstanding products and services with genuine care for your customers. And with our tips for getting positive reviews, you’ll be ready to get all of the positive feedback your business deserves.

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Create a Five-Star Strategy for Reputation Management, Marketing, and More

Fantastic reviews are just one piece of the very large, complex puzzle of effective marketing. If you want to equip your business with a marketing plan that sets you up for success, the team at V Digital Services is here to help.

We’ll work with you to strengthen your online presence and reputation, make targeted marketed decisions, and optimize your approach to connecting with new and existing customers alike. Find out more about our digital marketing services and how our experts can elevate your business when you contact V Digital Services today!

 

Image Sources: 13_Phunkod / Irina Strelnikova / HAKINMHAN / Thapana Onphalai

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