How to Respond to a Fraudulent or Negative Review
How do you deal with online reviews that are not necessarily what you expected? How do you respond to a negative review?
Some reviews may be:
What is Black Hat SEO?
There is this dynamic of inbound links, keywords on a page, and legitimate ways to make it work well for your business. But there are also illegitimate ways to make this work. Those tactics have shifted to the ratings and reviews business. It is subtle. A common tactic, for example, is creating a network of sites that agree to link to each other. The goal is massive amounts of links to each other’s content. These are called “link farms” and are created with the purpose of tricking people and tricking bots. This is one of the reasons why bloggers shut down their comments. Google search results were affected. So, to fight back, Google engineers recognized that freshness (how often the content on a page is updated), is one of the signals of the impact of link farms and other Black Hat SEO tactics. SEO industries realized that there is a way to prey on this strategy with fresh content on the ratings and reviews websites, such as Yelp. Because Google likes “freshness”, many Black Hat SEO companies recognize Yelp and other ratings and reviews websites because of their freshness.
New Customers & Reviews
People assume that if other people have a common view on something, that it is absolutely true. Not necessarily one review, but the presence of multiple reviews can affect a company.
Some Popular Review Sites:
- Yelp – the importance of a review depends on the business category, for a particular type of consumer
- TripAdvisor – very important for the travel industry
An endless option of review sites for business exist. Google favors this type of content; it has basically turned into a SEO tactic. Many big sites are adding “rating and reviews” to their site to take advantage of the popularity of review sites. Plus, the importance of these sites matter to Google. Not only does Google like reviews on your website, but consumers like it as well.
Know What is Being Said About Your Business
As a small business owner, you have probably found that manually reviewing your business reputation online can take a lot of time! The “elbow grease” or “manual way” of going to Yelp or visiting TripAdvisor is common, and even through it is very time consuming, it is also extremely viable.
Is there an easy way to track your reviews?
There is an entire industry of businesses that track reviews for business owners. They monitor the reviews, show you the star rating, comments, etc…They will even notify you via e-mail when there is a change.
Ratings & Reviews and SEO
Black Hat SEO, evil doers who live in the shadow of the Internet have, unfortunately, begun to intersect with ratings and reviews. Black Hat SEO have shifted tactics. Large businesses manage ratings and reviews, but small and medium size businesses often do not.
The Dark Side of Ratings and Reviews
An example of a dark story about ratings and reviews is the unprecedented lawsuit filed by Amazon in which they accuse 1,100 people of selling reviews for monetary gain on the website fiverr. There is money to be made with charging for reviews, but not a ton of money. Nevertheless, the industry that charges for fake or fraudulent online reviews exists. There are many people who write fake reviews for a living. Businesses contact these people and ask them to write reviews, and from there, they list their service on fiverr. Some of these people are very good and being paid by the companies whom they review (as pathetic as it sounds, it is true). The scum actually make a living off of posting fake reviews! The reviews are so good that it is very hard to distinguish from a real review. Most likely, however, we anticipate that this Amazon lawsuit will change the industry, for the better.
The Really Dark Side
Without giving these websites added attention, I would like to point out that there are a few websites that lurk in the shadows of the Internet and profit by posting false and defamatory information. These sites even post claims front-and-center that are known to be false, with a link for the business owner to “repair” their reputation, which of course can cost thousands of dollars. Whether the person to whom the false information affects has pointed out the incorrect facts, or a third party has, either way – the site in question has been made aware that something posted on their site is false. These sites, in some cases, will contact the person in the article and ask for them to pay a fee to “post the rebuttal”. They call it a “CORPORATE ADVOCACY PROGRAM”. In simple terms… where I come from, this is called extortion. It is unfortunate, but these sites can at times claim that they are protected by freedom of speech. This is to be determined, because in some cases, there is a gray line between slander and freedom of speech. Don’t give up. Write letters, articles, and make it known that there is false information out there that needs to be corrected. Don’t pay the extortion fee and if necessary, seek legal counsel.
Why are fake reviews created?
Part of this phenomena is when companies hire a person to write a negative review about a competitor. This is where the shadowy black-hat people come into the mix. Negative reviews are posted and then these creepy people appear out of nowhere, contact the company involved, and then they ask for a monetary payment for removing the review. Sometimes these people are polite, and other times they are not. Particularly it affects small and medium sized businesses. Large businesses are not really as much affected. For example, McDonalds would not care as much for one negative review, while a solo photographer, for example, that makes his living off of his reputation can be financially hurt by one negative (fake) review.
Does Yelp extort business owners?
Does Yelp really have business owners’ best interest in mind? Frankly, I do not think they are sinister, but at the same time I do not think that they are there to fight for the best interest of businesses. Some business owners have complained that Yelp will contact them to solicit advertising. If the business owner does not pay a large amount of money to advertise, then Yelp will filter out its’ good reviews and allow any fake reviews to remain.
What should we do about fake reviews?
Don’t panic. A negative review, even if it is fake is not going to take your business down. A bad review in the context of decent reviews around it, may actually help to validate the good reviews. This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t do anything about it. If you have a handful of good reviews and one bad review happens. Even if it is fake, don’t panic. It will not most likely take your business down.
Re mediation is Available but not Great
Some review sites offer a re mediation service that you can use to reply to a review. Yelp, in particular, is not the best at upholding their Terms of Service. When you complain about a review based on violation of Terms of Service, you assume that it is obvious to their “review team” that the review is in violation. This is not always the case, unfortunately. There are ways, however, that you can make them aware of suspicious circumstances regarding a specific review. In simple terms, there is an art to gaining the attention of the people that review requests to “look” at a review. As a business owner, you should make your presence known at review sites. When submitting a request for review take-down, do your homework. Spell out the facts in clear and easy-to-understand format. Be polite, explain your issue, then hope for the best but don’t give up if your review request is declined because you can always apply again.
How to Deal with Negative Criticism
How to be angry in the context of a public forum? How do you say “your a fraud” without being so confrontational about it? There is an interesting method. Every site is different. The way forward is to put your foot in the ground and say, I know that reviews are important to my business. I want to do something to fix it and use this as an opportunity.
Stop, Drop and Roll
Stop, step away and breathe. Take a mindful moment. Wait for 24 hours, if possible. Then, after you have calmed down…Think about what you want to say. Draft a response, then have someone else look at your reply. Then and only after you have taken an overnight break or pause, you can consider a reply. Don’t jump in too deeply.
“What can I do to make it right”?
In a very polite fashion, respond. Throw the baton back to the person who complains with “What can I do to make it right?”. Hopefully your complainer is not there to try and get free services by posting reviews. (Yes, those type of people exist). With a polite response, you are in a way disarming the hateful moment. The person can, then, respond back even more negatively, but if you are reserved, polite and courteous – it might take a lot of discipline but at the same time, it is important for others to see your calm, professional response. You are there to be of service to your customers, even the ones that irritate to you.