Beware Reviewgating: How to Preserve Trust and Avoid Google Penalties

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Trust is a big deal in the world of online reviews, and for good reason. With 95% of consumers reading online reviews before they make a purchase, some businesses have turned to some questionable tactics to increase their number of reviews, often creating entirely fake reviews to boost their numbers. While it’s pretty obvious that fake reviews aren’t a sustainable long-term review generation strategy, there are some other less-obvious strategies to be wary of. One of them, known as reviewgating, was recently called out by Google as a practice that will be penalized. What is this practice and how can you make sure your reviews won’t get you in trouble? 

What is “reviewgating?”

Essentially, reviewgating is the process of pre-screening your clients before they leave a review. This can be as simple as a question like “would you recommend us?” or “how was your experience?” Some companies include a scale of 1-10 for clients to rate their experiences. Clients who indicate that they had positive experiences are then asked to leave a review, while others are either sent to a form to leave feedback, or directed to contact the company. While this might seem like a good practice, it creates artificially positive reviews, which ultimately aren’t useful for consumers looking to make a decision. Artificially positive reviews are a no-go under Google’s “deceptive content” rules, specifically considered fake engagement:

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How do you avoid reviewgating?

Asking for client feedback is great, and so is asking for reviews! If you’re currently doing that, don’t stop. Just make sure you’re asking everyone for feedback and reviews, regardless of what kind of experience they’ve had with you. While having a majority of positive reviews (and a review score over 4 stars) is a good goal to have, don’t forget that negative reviews are valuable to your business as well. Not only are they a sign that your reviews are legitimate (because most consumers expect a business to have at least a couple of negative reviews), they’re also a great way to showcase how you interact with unhappy clients. 

Here are 6 rules to follow to create a response to a negative review:

  1. Respond promptly. 30 days is a good rule of thumb.
  2. Keep sensitive information confidential. This will vary depending on the industry, so know the rules and keep them in mind when you form your response.
  3. Avoid addressing the reviewer directly. Don’t attack the reviewer!
  4. Keep emotion out of the conversation. Even if it feels like a personal attack, keep it professional.
  5. Learn what you can from legitimate complaints. Sometimes reviewers have a point. 
  6. Say thank you, offer solutions, and offer to continue the conversation offline.

We Can Help

Managing reviews can be a full time job. We created Review Power to make that job easier – and keep you safe from things like reviewgating. Contact one of our experts at MyAdvice to find out how. 

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