5 Ways to Get Good Online Reviews, Only One of Which is Correct

by Ken Mueller on May 22, 2012 · 21 comments

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Report card1 300x300 5 Ways to Get Good Online Reviews, Only One of Which is CorrectAs the mobile web and social networks grow in importance, more power is being handed over to users; your customers. Rather than relying on what you tell us about yourself, we are headed to the social web to do our research. What was once the domain of publications like Consumer Reports, is now in the hands of the masses.

As we do our research online, we are seeking out the opinions of others in a variety of places, but mostly from our peers. On Amazon we might read the reviews of a book before we decide to make our purchase. We are less interested in the “official” reviews of professional critics. There was a time when we might check in with Siskel and Ebert before we went to a movie. We might subscribe to a paid service like Zagat to get professional opinions on restaurants.

But now, we’re more interested in the opinions of people just like us. Actually given the choice, we probably would have always valued the opinions of our friends and peers over that of professionals, but those weren’t also quite so handy. But the combination of the Internet, social media, and mobile technology means that the reviews and opinions of “people like us” are just a click away. Sites like Yelp, Urban Spoon and Trip Advisor can be incredibly handy.

This changes the game for those of us who run businesses. On the one hand, it’s wonderful if we get good reviews. Nothing beats positive word of mouth as it travels across the web. On the other hand, though, just one bad review can set us back quite a bit. As a result, businesses begin to panic and look for ways of getting those good online reviews, either to increase their ratings, or to fight back against negative reviews.

As I’ve researched this and worked with local small businesses, and watched what other businesses are doing, I’ve discovered five methods for getting those good online reviews. Unfortunately, only one of them is the correct way.

First, the four methods that I believe are unethical or at least border on being disingenuous.

1. Do it yourself – We’ve all seen this. You read a review on Yelp or some other site and it’s written in such a way that you just KNOW it was done by the owner of the business, or an employee, or the owner’s mom. I’ve even seen marketing and social media consultants review their client businesses without revealing the relationship. This is wrong. Neither you nor employees, or anyone related to your business should write a review. As a consultant, I don’t review my own clients, and if I did, I would point out up front that we have a working relationship. Full disclosure is necessary. Of course, the opposite of this is also true: never write a negative review of your competitors. Either way, you will eventually be found out. Cleaning up that mess will more than undo any good created by your fake good review.

2. Pay someone to write the review – I’ve discovered a few cases where people offer their services to businesses to help them get good reviews. What generally happens is they hire people who have never interacted with the business to write the reviews. This is the long-lost cousin of paying for Facebook likes or Twitter followers. It’s sleazy. Just don’t do it! Seriously, how would you feel about your competitors if you found out that this is what they were doing?

3. Bribe your customers – We have a local business here that offers discounts to those who write reviews of them online. They even promote this on their Facebook page. It’s not illegal, but boy it just doesn’t seem right. Offering discounts is fine to draw people in, but to write a good review? This really toes the line on disclosure and online reviews. Bloggers are required by the FTC to practice full disclosure when writing a review of something they’ve been given for free, such as a book or a trip. But now we are ALL content creators. Even a simple Facebook status update is creating content. There is no way to police this, but every one of us should practice disclosure. Customers who receive discounts or free items should disclose that if they are going to write a review. Little things like that have a direct relation on the credibility of those reviews. If we want to make informed decisions about businesses based on online reviews we need them to be believable, and not colored by special favors.

4. Mislead people – I don’t mind businesses asking for reviews or directing customers to sites where they can write reviews. But if you do, be honest in how you do it. Check out this photo that my friend Adam took awhile back of a sign he found in his hotel room in Indiana.

hampton inn1 5 Ways to Get Good Online Reviews, Only One of Which is Correct

Besides the fact that it is incredibly unprofessional looking, there are so many things wrong with this sign I’m not even sure where to begin. First off, this screams to me that they’ve been on the receiving end of some bad reviews, and that perhaps the parent company is checking up on them. Second, the whole notion that only 9s or 10s count is false. Every rating you give them counts, but only the 9s and 10s count favorably. Those 3s and 4s count, it’s just that you’d rather not have them. They count against you, not for you.

I never want to hear that you have to use any of these above practices in order to compete. Saying that “everyone else is doing it” is not an excuse. Rise above the fray and resolve to do things the right way; the ethical way.

Speaking of the right way, here’s what I believe is the only proper way to get good online reviews.

5. Do your job well, and encourage reviews – If you want me to give you 9s and 10s, you’d better earn them. The quickest way to a good review is to do your job well, and then encourage me to write a review. Don’t bribe me, don’t mislead me. Just provide quality products and services, combined with great customer service, in a way that makes me want to tell others about you. Then if you suggest to me that I write a review in a way that makes it easy for me, there’s a good chance I will. Treat me well and the folks on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and so on will hear about it. Do your job poorly, and I’ll probably let you know as well.

There are no shortcuts. Just do your job, and do it well.

Are you doing your part to get good reviews? How are you encouraging your customers to post positive online reviews?

 5 Ways to Get Good Online Reviews, Only One of Which is Correct
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16 comments
adionu
adionu

i found an website positive-reviews.org who does this kind of job. they are very good

adionu
adionu

i think the best way to deal with this matter is to buy some positive reviews. i use positive-reviews.org and i am very happy. 

anthea turner
anthea turner

I am really impressed by this excellent stuff. I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Thanks for sharing

girlseeksplace
girlseeksplace

I don't really have anything I need reviews for, other than a few short stories I published to Amazon. I don't know who downloaded them, so I can't go asking for reviews. I wish people would write reviews, though. I think it would help my sales, but it doesn't really make a difference to me right now. I disclose everything I review on my blog, no matter how I got it. When I first started reviewing books, I didn't know about disclosure, but when I learned about it I went back and fixed all of my book review posts to reflect my new knowledge.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

Rewarding reviews doesn't de facto wade into murky disclosure waters, provided that it's done the right way. For example, a restaurant can extend special invitations or discounts to *existing* Yelp reviews; Burger Lounge in San Diego did this to good effect back in 2009. http://www.yelp.com/biz/burger-lounge-san-diego-4#hrid:OYjJonlIZfIed3y9QU2tSw. They rewarded everyone who had posted a review with a free burger day - and announced it in advance.  

 

 

 

Latest blog post: The Lie I Keep Telling

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

I rarely respond to anyone or anything that so blatantly asks for a positive review. I understand the call to action but I do not enjoy the feeling of being coerced.  I am happy to fill out a poll or survey but with my views, not yours.  I agree with @KenMueller , you do your job, I will do mine, and mine is free.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @jasonkonopinski As long as they reward all reviews, bad or good. But I think fishing for reviews (and good reviews) by announcing it in advance, it can get sketchy. You can do it and get the desired result, but it taints the reviews. Several states are now looking at this and how it falls under current contest laws, which is why Facebook has such strict contest rules. 

joeyambrose
joeyambrose

 @annelizhannan  @KenMueller OK, but what if it's simply for a review? If I employ a strategy to solicit HONEST reviews, do you see that as negative? We manage numerous websites and I've found the key to a healthy reputation is to be proactive. Yes, an amazing service and the service to make it stellar is what will do it naturally, but so many just ask and end up regretting it when that one bad review comes in. All the while they could have been asking the rest and gettting them on record. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @annelizhannan I LOVE writing good reviews. I often forget, but I like to write positive ones, because I think we are too quick to write the negative ones.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ginidietrich Well, I know Yelp has tried, but their algorithm is abysmal. I just know I've gotten emails, and a few of my clients have gotten emails, from social media companies offering exactly that service. Makes me wanna drive a stake thru their hearts. If they have hearts. I know they don't have souls.  

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

 @KenMueller I'm just not convinced that it 'taints' the reviews as extensively as you think.  I'm not an extensive reviewer, but I do consult them periodically when making purchasing decisions. Rewarding reviews after they've been published is perfectly acceptable in my mind - and a good review *should* be recognized by the business in some way.  

 

The Burger Lounge is a good case study.  They encourage people to post reviews by occasionally rewarding Yelpers with a one-day (specific hours) free burger promotion. You have to RSVP, tell them which location you're going to and your Yelp name. 

 

Kitchen Nightmares profiled a restauranteur (Burger Kitchen in LA) that was convinced that Yelp! was going to destroy his business. Watch that episode if you can - it's hysterical and sad. 

Latest blog post: The Lie I Keep Telling

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

It will be interesting, because CA is now moving toward legislation that treats everyone like a blogger. If you get something free and write a  review anywhere, even on FB, under this proposed law, you have to disclose it, and the businesses bear some of the burden on that in that they will have to tell the people that. Plus some states are not allowing the exclusive deals, i.e. Facebook only or Yelp only. Small businesses need to know the laws, which is why so many constantly run promotions on FB that are a violation of TOS. I'd say a good number of area businesses are in violation just based on their new Timeline cover image alone. There are strict guidelines, and people don't read the fine print. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ginidietrich i wish people who tried to game the system would spend that same energy in actually making a difference somewhere.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] do my best to steer clear of these types of deals, and advise my clients to do the same. Yes, the magazine I mentioned at the top did note that it was a “special advertising [...]

  2. [...] nothing works better than simply putting the customer first and always striving to do better. “The quickest way to a good review is to do your job well, and then encourage me to write a [...]

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