The world of reviews

In the past few weeks I’ve been looking at some aspects of the website reviews, and their effect on SEO, and real conversion. I looked into the whole landscape of social metrics and saw that for similar businesses some had 10’s of reviews, while others barely have a dozen. There had to be a reason why some businesses seemed to be attracting more reviews than others, and I doubted it was really because they had ‘the sticker’ on their door. There are ways of getting reviews both legitimate and more underhanded. This could be anything from

  • reminding past customers with a follow up email that you’d like to hear their thoughts on your business
  • asking for reviews at the bottom of your newsletter
  • having a terminal near your hotel checkout and asking people to write a review while you check them out
  • using a review widget on your website
  • paying for reviews to a third party service
  • creating your own fake accounts and posting reviews.
  • incentivising customers for reviews

Rules on Reviews

In TripAdvisor’s Rules (typo their own) it states :

No reviews written by ownership or management; including current or past employees, or anyone associated with/related to employees of tthe property with which they are affiliated.

So that clears up employees posting reviews. But what about incentivising reviews, it’s not mentioned there, but I’m sure it’s frown upon. I found on a page not linked from their rules, it says

I was offered an incentive for a review – is that ok?
No. Property owners are welcome to encourage their guests to submit user reviews upon their return home, but they are not allowed to offer incentives, discounts, upgrades, or special treatment on current or future stays in exchange for reviews. If someone has offered you an incentive for a review, please tell us about it.

So there you have it, generally it is seems dodgy, leave it out.

Real reviews gone bad

Even if you manage to get a real review, as a business there are certain ways you should react to it and certain ways you shouldn’t react to them. This could have a more catastrophic effect on your business. It’s true that reviews can make or break a business, especially for hotels, bars, restaurants and other service industries where people use that type service infrequently or while on holiday.

But everyone is doing it

Sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Qype and Google Places do take these issues seriously and have moved to try and bring them under control, all with varying amounts of success. According to Gartner they predict that 15% of online reviews will be fake by 2014. But according to the LATimes this number is closer to 40% right now.

It seems that’s there are less scrupulous businesses out their manipulating these review sites. I’m sure there are shill accounts from businesses that post positive reviews about them selves. Or even worse, they might even post less than positive reviews about their competitors.

Review Services

There are even review services, like the screenshot below, that you can pay for reviews, or if you are on a budget you can pay someone $5 on fiverr to do it.

fake tripadvisor example

This is clearly the high risk approach to promoting your business.

Fake reviews on blogs

Here is an email that I got today, and it really is sad to see, but it should act as a reminder than any review you read, not just from the main review sites, could have an alternative motive for posting.

Hi there,
You’ve built a new app for iPhone. It’s ready; it’s what the market needs. You’ve done a great job! So what now?

The single MOST important thing you can do when you release a new app is obtain quality 5 star reviews. It will make the difference between actively growing and having an app that gets lost in the crowd.

What I do – I provide app reviews for apps in the following categories:

  • – Education
  • – Food & Drink
  • – Health & Fitness
  • – Lifestyle
  • – Photography
  • – Shopping
  • – Social Networking apps

I have THE strongest blogger review network for these app categories.

*Important – I only submit reviews for apps that deserve 5 stars and your app is a strong candidate.

I have 2 services that I am offering at 50% for this week:

iTunes App Store Reviews – 20 new 5 star iTunes App Store reviews with comments. Price $99

Home Page Review – I will personally write a 200 word review of your app and post it to my blog home page lechateaudesfleurs.blogspot.com which has over 2800 Mommy Blogger followers. I will also post to my Facebook account, Pinterest account, Google + and my Twitter account. Price $79

In fact, I am so confident in these reviews that if they do not create significant momentum for your app I will refund the entire review cost. I look forward to hearing from you!!!

Sincerely,
Frenchy

My nickname is Frenchy. I am French, born and raised in Paris, France…Live in Utah with hubby and 4 Darling kids. Blogger, designer, photographer, fashionista, decorator, crafter, cook, gardener…

Visit my blog here: http://lechateaudesfleurs.blogspot.com

Fake followers, Fake likes, fake fakes

And it’s not just reviews that are actively being manipulated on the web, twitter followers, facebook likes, google plus votes, etc. Seeing the ‘facebook thumbs up’ for a few hundred people does add a certain level of confidence to a shopper. If hundreds of anonymous people like something, it has to be safe, right ? So you can see why business would chase these metrics. We’ve even seen cases where people have manipulated the like button to look like the like widget, but it’s actually just a static image, check http://likefake.com if you are curious.

Sites like Google & Facebook are aware that there are fake accounts, in their SEC filing Facebook said they have around 9% fake accounts. In numbers that’s about 80+ million accounts.

fake twitter account example

Don’t be tempted

Whether you are a blogger being offered to post a review, or a business tempted in gaming the social signals, be warned it’s likely you will be found out, possibly fined and at risk of being blacklisted by the services or penalised on google.

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