I post at SearchCommander.com now, and this post was published 9 years 1 month 10 days ago. This industry changes FAST, so blindly following the advice here *may not* be a good idea! If you're at all unsure, feel free to hit me up on Twitter and ask.
You MUST know that Google can instantly tell whether a certain Google user who just left a review is a “real” user or not, right?
Google has access to everything a user does from their web browsing history to their Gmail habits, and they have for years. They even know where you live, so creating a completely fake / new user to leave a single review is stupid.
Even what Google doesn’t inherently know already from your computer use, they can get access to anything, so don’t think for a minute that they can’t spot a “fake user”.
Have they done anything about it yet? You bet that have. While Google had appeared to take no action forever, they recently revised their official policy, and even started deleting fake accounts last month, and that’s generated some controversy .
Fake Reviews Fool Nobody
Okay, that’s a lie, and you know it, but hear me out…
Yes it’s true that despite what Google says you should do fake reviews often still seem to be working for your competitors. And sadly, the fake negative review problem remains too, and you can have a daunting task ahead of you trying get one removed, but I don’t think that can last.
Although some people seem to have trouble singling out the fake reviews, I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to spot the “illegitimate” ones. How? Just by looking at the reviewer profile and taking note of one missing characteristic which legitimate ones will almost always have – multiple and logically associated reviews.
A legitimate review is usually not the only review someone makes for their entire account history. Any account with only one review is a suspect account, in my book. I’m not saying all are fake, but it’s unlikely that a user is going to create a new Places account just for the purpose of leaving one review.
Yes it’s true that SOME review has to be the first one in a Google account, but that number should naturally grow over time, shouldn’t it?
If a user has multiple Google reviews, and leaves reviews and star ratings over time for other businesses, and those businesses are geographically located near where they live and travel, then that helps add to their legitimacy as a reviewer, because that’s how a real person uses Google.
Could someone actually fake the Google profile and put up fake reviews that look credible and stand up to scrutiny?
Well sure, by assuming the personality of that Google profile, and participating regularly in rating other local businesses, but in trying to “fake it” they essentially become a second (or third, or fourth…) person, and who has time for that? Is it even worth the effort?
Well some people seem to think it is, and the fake review business is growing like wildfire.
Google Verifies People
Who’s to say that someday the only reviews that will ever show are those of Google plus users that you have verified as human and “legitimate? Isn’t that what you might not do if you were Google? I’ll bet that someday the only reviews that show will be verified through Google Plus or something similar.
Even a legitimate profile can potentially lose Googles trust by star rating and reviewing businesses scattered all over the country, unless they’re a frequent traveller, which Google would probably know too.
If someone has multiple reviews in the same industry, or they review only businesses which all have multiple reviews by the same reviewers, then that’s another dead giveaway too, that is easy to spot if you dig in.
As of last month, Google is officially asking you to use your real name for your Google profile, and in this short video they clearly let us know that your days are numbered if you’re a phony.
I predict that someday soon, maybe even this year, Google reviews and star ratings might only show up when they’re from verified users.
Fake Review Services are Illegal
To me, the HUGE difference between paid links and fake reviews, and why I feel they cross a line that Google MUST react to, is that since 2009, the FTC had said that leaving fake reviews is actually illegal, whereas there IS no law against paid links, and probably never will be until Google buys the entire United States.
Businesses have sprung up already offering Google Places reviews by “real” Google users, and I have no doubt that Google will spot them fairly quickly, as those that sell their votes abuse their accounts.
Those Google accounts will either get shut down, or worse, those businesses which they have reviewed will actually be penalized though guilt by association.
Even though it seems to be working for now, perhaps Google is just letting some businesses run with the ball on the fake review thing to build a history – sort of, a long term pattern of misbehavior – as some suspect might be the case going on with paid links.
Faking reviews cannot possibly lead to anything good long term, and just like backlinks from a bad neighborhood can (supposedly) come back to haunt you, reviews left by shady reviewer accounts are likely to do the same thing.
I believe that reporting a competing business for “buying links” is a chickenshit act of a desperate internet marketer, whereas reporting fake reviews is a completely different story, and I would encourage reporting them to not only Google, but the FTC as well. I just wish that the two issues weren’t on the same report form at Google because they have nothing in common.
Get Reviews From Real and Active Reviewer Accounts
There’s nothing wrong with asking your customers to leave you a review, but ask them to leave you one somewhere that they already have an account, not just Google.
Sure you want Google places reviews, but you ONLY want them from Google users that will continue to leave reviews at multiple businesses for the rest of the immediate future.
If you have a computer or kiosk in your office open to your Google places page, and someone says “but I don’t have a Google account – I use Yahoo” then don’t ask them to open a Google account that they’re not going to use. Happily accept their review at Yahoo.
Just because Google has stopped showing the review snippits from all of the other review services doesn’t mean they’re not still indexing, watching, and factoring them in for rankings…
If you send out an email to customers asking them for a review, don’t just send them a link to your Google places page. Send them links to anywhere you’re listed that THEY might want to leave you feedback, and let them do what’s easiest for them.
To Be Fake – Be Real
The easiest way to get fake reviews is to trick your customers into leaving you one, by giving them “fake” great customer service.
Give them a fake smile as you happily move them to a window seat. Make believe you care when they tell you their problem. Offer them a solution, discount, refund, or any other concession that will not only pacify them, but might even make them happy!
In short, the way to get fake reviews is to make believe you’re a good business by BEING a good business!
If a business can trick real people into leaving good reviews by actually BEING good, then Google won’t mind that you’re gaming the system. Fake it ’till you make it…