4 Reasons Why Fake Reviews Are Deadly For Your Business

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Large and small companies have valued customer reviews for years. And for as long as we can remember, businesses have always used client feedback to better serve customers. Of course, your success in business relies on whether or not your customers are satisfied with your services. And more often than not, happy customers will always refer new clients to services that they enjoy. But if you've ever been tempted to pay for fake reviews for your business then don't. Here are 4 reasons why fake reviews are deadly for your business:


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Online Reviews Matter

Statistics from Bright Local provide insightful points:

  • 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business.
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 93% of consumers read online reviews when searching for local businesses.
  • Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more.
  • Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business

What do those statistics tell us?

A company’s online reputation is important (no surprise there). It is one of a business’s biggest assets and its worst liabilities. And furthermore, Google gives weight to reviews in local rankings.

With your business’s reputation in mind, you need to be vigilant enough to abstain from actions that will jeopardize that precious integrity. I’m talking about fake content -- specifically fake reviews -- that is the unseen bane of every business’ existence.

Recommended reading: Why Reputation Management Matters for Small Businesses

Settling for Second Best

Every business’ need to climb to the top and gain more customers may present the temptation to manipulate your company’s positive reviews just a tiny bit. But digital marketing and SEO experts would be quick to tell you, ‘DON’T!’

Ooi Ming, the co-founder of Fakespot.com, a site that analyzes Amazon products’ review authenticity, said: “As we ranked the products, it became pretty obvious that there are a lot of inauthentic and fake reviews online. This is probably an epidemic that hasn’t been talked about. I would say 40% of Amazon reviews are fake.”

And according to Yelp’s Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Communications Vince Sollitto, about 25% of the reviews submitted on Yelp are not published or recommended to consumers. Why? Because these alleged reviews are likely to be fakes, submitted by businesses themselves.

And yet, the competition for the top spot on the market continues relentlessly. Everybody has to keep striving for the top spot. Consumers rely heavily on reviews (about 85% as mentioned earlier). And in fact, a study conducted by Harvard Business School shows that increasing a business’ online rating by one star causes sales to jump from 5% to 9%.

People offering to write positive reviews on behalf of the buyer doesn’t help matters either. It’s difficult to say ‘no,’ but businesses must; if only for the sake of their company’s reputation and trust.

Here are four valid reasons to resist the temptation of fake reviews:

#1. Protect trust, it's hard won but easily lost

As mentioned twice in this article, 85% of consumers trust online reviews like personal recommendations. Don’t manipulate or take advantage of that trust. Protect it.

Maintaining that trust is important as consumers’ sensitivity towards this issue heightens. Information that will challenge their brand loyalty may change their buying behavior and their overall opinion about the company, in general.

As Wesley Young from Search Engine Land says, “Reviews are part of your business content and reflect your reputation, whether positively or negatively.”

Consumers who realize that your company’s reviews are fake -- unreliable -- will move on from your product to find better alternatives. And as their awareness towards the issue arises, they get better at sniffing fake reviews out.

#2. The gains are short-lived

Constant input of fake reviews have been proven to raise a company’s business and sales, but don’t let that fool you. The short-term gain is marvellous. But the hazard you face in the long-run is debilitating. You might get a short term boost but it's not sustainable if it's based on fake reviews. 

#3. Unrealistic expectations lead to massive disappointment

The problem lies in the fact that when outrageous expectations are built up, it’s much harder to meet and in turn, maintain. Building up your company’s ratings on false pretenses will only open all sorts of failures down the road. It starts unsustainable trends.

What will you do when every one of your consumers’ experiences won’t match with the expectations you’ve set up? The backlash will be worse. An avalanche of false reviews will start falling, and some will think it balances everything out. But in reality, it just makes everything worse.

And on that note, don’t shy away from negative reviews. Take them as constructive criticism instead. Too many five-star reviews will raise eyebrows and create skepticism among your consumers.

A Power Reviews report show that 82% of consumers seek out negative feedback to get the full picture, based on the belief that the truth often lies somewhere in the middle.

#4. There's a legal consequence to fake reviews

Reviews are vital nutrients for any business -- big or small. Entrepreneurs are fully aware of how positive ratings impact their business and generate revenue. Consumers won’t consider a company unless it has at least a four-star rating. But unfortunately, only about 15 out of 1,000 customers will bother to leave feedback.

With seemingly dismal stats like that, writing one or two reviews to bolster your company’s image must be so enticing. It looks harmless at first glance, but the legal consequences for fake reviews and deceptive practices are massive.

Reviews are one of the top-ranking factors for local SEO. For this reason, there are severe possible legal consequences for any businesses caught publishing false reviews.

Back in 2013, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched “Operation Clean Turf.” It was an initiative aimed at ending fake reviews. In the process of this operation, Schneiderman managed to uncover 19 local businesses guilty of publishing fake reviews. The companies were forced to pay fines ranging from $2,500 and $100,000 in addition to being publicly shamed by the New York government.

The consequences of publishing fake reviews are many, but apart from losing customers and facing legal action, practicing deceptive reviews can end in your company being blackballed by Yelp or Google.

Don't worry about negative reviews

A study by Revoo revealed that 95% of consumers distrust companies with no negative ratings as they suspect censorship or inauthenticity.

In fact, consumers are more likely to trust brands that contain both positive and negative reviews. Your customers are fully aware that no matter how expertly manufactured a product is, it’s not perfect.

It can be extremely tempting to boost ratings with a few made-up reviews, but the long-term risks and consequences reaped from such a practice aren’t worth it. The negative impact on your business outweighs the temporary satisfaction you’ll get out of it.

At the end of the day, trust is what helps your relationships with your customers. Trust is what will secure their loyalty towards your brand. 

Over to you now. Have you come across fake reviews online? What did you think when you saw them? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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