If you’re a small business owner – this post is for you. In classic catch 22 fashion though - if you’re a small business owner – chances are you’re not reading this blog even though it is written especially for you. Instead – you’re busy running your business – oblivious to what’s happening online.
- You don’t know that your business already has a free page one web presence with Google that you just need to claim to put it to work.
- You don’t know that you have dozens of other “free” online directory listings – some of which are coming up first when consumers are looking for your business online.
- You also are probably unaware that when consumers find these free listings – many times they have the ability to REVIEW your business.
This is a case of what you don’t know can hurt you. Because if someone is “bitching” about your business online – you’d darned well better be there to respond. Otherwise, all that is out there in cyberspace – the bitching and griping with nary a word from you.
However, there are a handful of business owners who are WELL aware of these sites – and even more aware of the presence of reviews on these sites. So these businesses have gone to work creating fake positive reviews of their business online.
The NY Times reports in In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5 that not only are people willing to “sell” you their positive review for only $5 but that businesses are scurrying to take them up on the offer.
Writing fake reviews for your business is like blowing your nose with tissues filled with sneezing powder. Customer reviews set consumer expectations and when consumer expectations are set to “high” then a transaction which could have earned a three star review is now doomed to receive a one star review.
I’ve always preached – I mean CHAMPIONED here that the sure path to business success is to solve a problem that people are willing to pay money to solve. So it should come as no surprise that there are people furiously working on ways to allow the bots which index the internet to discern between authentic user reviews – and fake ones.
There are already humans who are sharing how you can spot a fake online review. Sandraparker wrote about her experience writing fake reviews on Money Talks and there’s another article on the site which offers11 tips to spot fake online reviews.
As more fake reviews hit these sites – the site owners will be looking for ways to weed them out. Keep in mind that Google is a business with a dog in this hunt and they have the $$$ to not only find but implement any solution they find to this problem.
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
In the past – when Google and the other search engines have discovered people trying to “game” the system of getting ranked in the SERPS – they have come down hard and fast – banning sites which used what are now known as “black hat tactics”.
If you’re tempted to hire fake reviews for your free business website – remember – the powers that be (a.k.a. Google, Yelp, etc.) are aware of the problem and seeking a solution. When they implement that solution – you could very well find your online local business listing removed from the most visible sites on the web.