Why you shouldn’t buy Google reviews and do this insteadBy Solange Messier
Since so many buying decisions today begin with a Google search, it’s easy to understand the temptation to buy Google reviews. Businesses are drawn by the idea of quickly bolstering their public image and standing out in a competitive online environment.
Your small and medium-sized business (SMB) clients understand the benefits of having plenty of positive and recent reviews on their Google Business Profile. However, paying for Google reviews is not the way to go about getting them. When a business purchases Google reviews, they risk running afoul of Google’s policies, customer trust, and even the law.
Luckily, there are honest, effective, and legal ways to get those glowing reviews rolling in. Let’s dig into exactly why you shouldn’t buy fake reviews, and how to generate reviews authentically instead.
Buying Google reviews: What’s the appeal?
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of sketchy businesses online promising overnight success by selling fake Google reviews. There are also ways that businesses can buy reviews without ever turning to a third party. For example, they might offer customers a cash incentive to leave a review. This might not feel as inauthentic as the former example, but it still constitutes buying Google reviews.
The reality is that customers are highly encouraged when they see positive reviews for a business they’re thinking of supporting. If a business doesn’t have many reviews on its Google Business Profile, or if they’re just starting out, business owners might think that by paying for Google reviews they’ll enjoy:
- More sales
- Improved SEO performance
- A quick improvement to their online reputation
Ask any of your clients, and these are sure to be some of their highest priorities. However, by buying Google reviews, they’re putting themselves at risk for some serious repercussions.
Can I get in legal trouble if I buy Google reviews?
Yes: If you buy Google reviews, it could lead to legal action against the business. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) pursues violations of federal consumer protection laws. It has the power to issue heavy fines and other repercussions to businesses that fail to comply with its guidelines.
While the high-profile cases of multimillion-dollar fines involve major corporations, this doesn’t mean that your clients have nothing to worry about. For example, in 2021, over 700 businesses received notices warning them that further action would be taken if they didn’t comply with regulations. They were also alerted that they could be fined up to $43,792 in civil penalties for failure to comply.
Risks of buying Google reviews
The legal risks should be enough to scare most SMBs out of trying their chances at paying for Google reviews. However, in addition to the risk of having the FTC take legal action or issue a significant fine, there are plenty of other risks to consider.
Google’s guidelines do not allow businesses to misrepresent themselves on the platform. Buying Google reviews misrepresents the business’s product or service to prospective customers, so it’s in violation of their guidelines.
Google reserves the right to remove business information from search results or suspend an account altogether. If a business is de-indexed on Google, it would no longer be discoverable through their search engine, which would be a huge blow to most businesses.
Google may also respond by removing all reviews if they believe an account is paying for Google reviews. This means that even authentic reviews could be deleted, setting back a business’s review-building activities.
Online reputation damage
A positive online reputation can take a long time to build up but can be damaged rapidly. If consumers have reason to believe that a business is buying Google reviews, it puts everything else they know about the business into question. If they’re being dishonest about their reviews, what else are they being dishonest about?
Disconnect between expectation and reality
Interestingly, more than 80% of reputation damage comes from a disconnect between the buzz around a product or service, and the reality. If you purchase Google reviews, the resulting reviews are unlikely to be representative of a business’s offering. This disconnect is a major driver of customer dissatisfaction.
Will I get caught if I buy Google reviews?
Yes, if you buy Google reviews, you'll get caught. Google’s spam detection algorithm is powerful. They are also constantly improving their detection filters to keep up with changing techniques employed by businesses, so it’s not a good idea to try to outsmart the tech giant. Paying for Google reviews is a good way to get your business flagged by their system, which can result in the serious repercussions we just discussed.
The bottom line: Don’t buy Google reviews
Despite the understandable temptation, it simply isn’t worth the risk to purchase Google reviews. If your agency is working with a client that wants to buy fake reviews to bolster their Google Business Profile, here’s what to do: Go over the extent of the risks they face, and guide them instead toward more ethical review-generating practices.
Paying for Google reviews appeals to business unders owners who understandably want to project a positive image, boost their reputation, and encourage more prospective customers to convert. However, as a result of purchasing Google reviews, they can:
- Incur heavy fines
- Have their Google Business Profile suspended
- Break the trust of their customers
- Damage their online reputation
So, what should SMBs be doing instead of buying Google reviews? Luckily, there are lots of ways to get reviews the right way.
Don’t buy Google reviews. Use these techniques
Getting more reviews is actually easy. You don't have to buy Google reviews. With consistency and the right tools, SMBs can create a steady stream of positive reviews that boost their online reputation and land them more clients. Agencies can make use of resellable tools and services to put this process on autopilot, creating a reliable and easily repeatable digital marketing revenue stream. Here’s how it’s done.
Customers are often more than happy to leave a review when they are prompted. Plenty of happy customers who had a positive experience never leave a review because they were never prompted to. You can’t expect people to go out of their way to leave a review in most cases.
By inviting them to share feedback, you’ll be surprised about just how many take the time to share their thoughts.
In addition to asking, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for customers to provide a review. Each extra click is an extra bit of friction that makes it harder to complete the task. People are busy. If it’s going to take too long to share their review, you’re more likely to lose them.
Make it as easy as possible for them to complete the action. For example, if you ask for a review in an email, make it possible for them to respond or click a star rating right in the body of the email.
Vendasta’s Customer Voice simplifies and automates the process of asking for reviews through email.
Build an online presence
Local reputation building includes listing building. This is a great way to make a business more discoverable online, since it will appear on more websites. Additionally, listing platforms also frequently allow reviews, meaning there are more potential locations where reviews can be collected.
Using a review management platform like Vendasta’s Reputation Management makes it easy to see reviews across a wide range of platforms, ensuring they never get missed.
Prioritize the customer experience
As obvious as it may be, one of the best ways for a business to get more positive Google reviews is by giving customers an awesome experience. This means developing a good product or service, and crafting marketing messaging and communications that align with the reality of the product.
Once a customer has made a purchase, make sure their positive experience continues with adequate follow up if necessary, as well as high-quality customer service. A great customer experience earns positive Google reviews.
Respond to all reviews
All reviews, regardless of whether they are good or bad, should get a response. For positive reviews, this can be as simple as thanking the customer for their business and for taking the time to share their review.
For negative reviews, it’s generally a good idea to acknowledge their concern and take ownership of the issue. If you can, address their concern publicly in the body of the response. Other prospective customers scrolling by will then see that you took the time to respectfully address a negative comment. This can make a business appear more credible and transparent. It’s a great move when it comes to boosting an online reputation.
In some cases, you may need to initiate a private conversation to resolve an issue from a negative review. You should still leave a public comment so that others can see that the business values feedback, and then continue the conversation privately. If a review violates Google’s policies, you might be able to dispute it and get it removed.
Responding to reviews manually would be extremely time-consuming, but agencies can deliver this service through white-label review management services. Experts can manage reviews on behalf of a client through the Reputation Management platform, all under the banner of your agency.
Reviews are most effective when they are positive and recent. This means that generating a regular flow of positive reviews and monitoring your online reputation is important.
It’s not a one-time task, as it's always good to practice regular review monitoring on all your listings.
To maintain consistency and generate a regular flow of reviews, SMBs can automate the techniques we’ve discussed so far: Asking customers for reviews, offering them an easy way to leave a review, building listings, and responding to reviews.
Staying consistent with these tactics eliminates the need to purchase Google reviews. It’s a more sustainable, long-term reputation management strategy.
Using Vendasta to generate Google reviews
You don't have to buy Google reviews. Vendasta’s reseller solutions make it easy for agencies to offer a robust reputation management solution that gets real reviews on Google, Facebook, and other platforms for SMB clients. The tools for the job include:
- Vendasta’s Reputation Management platform, which can be used to track reviews across a wide range of platforms and to respond from a single dashboard
- Customer Voice, which automates the process of asking for reviews, ensuring a steady stream of new ones, and
- Listing Management, a white-label solution that ensures listings are created and maintained across many platforms
Why would you buy fake reviews when it’s this easy to do things the right way?
Frequently asked questions
Does Google detect fake reviews?
Yes, Google has spam detection filters that will pick up fake reviews. If you are found to have fake reviews on your profile, it may be removed from the platform.
Can you pay for 5 star Google reviews?
No, you should not pay for 5 star Google reviews. This is in violation of Google’s terms and conditions, and can get your business removed from the platform. Instead, use review management techniques to general authentic reviews.