In the U.S, the practice of astroturfing violates the Endorsement and Advertising Guidelines set down by the Federal Trade Commission. A year-long investigation into the reputation management industry entitled ‘Operation Clean Turf’ by the New York Attorney General’s office ended in September 2013 and found that 19 companies were involved in the manipulation of consumer-review websites and astroturfing. These companies flooded fake reviews on the Internet by posting bogus consumer reviews on prominent review sites including Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch. They used techniques to hide their identities during this campaign such as creating fake profiles for posting reviews and paying freelance writers from the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe $1 to $10 per review. By the time the undercover investigation was done, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman had doled out more than $350,000 in fines (ranging from $2500 to $100,000). All the companies agreed to stop the practice of writing fake reviews for their businesses and pay the fine.
Once the consumers find the reviews are not authentic, they won’t come back to your site or recommend your products to others. This will lower your online reputation. So, if you really want to build your brand reputation, avoid posting fake reviews. You should also monitor your sites and applications constantly for review spam and filter them. Watch out for posts that are full of empty adjectives and praise with no caveats and those that talk only about product features (real users talk more about performance, reliability and value). Be careful about the reviews that are all posted with very short time duration between them.
Tips to Get Good Online Reviews
Locate Satisfied Customers – Your happy customers would definitely have something to talk about your positives and give suggestions to improve your service. If you own a website for your plastic surgery service, the comments from a patient who underwent face restoration surgery for burns and got the best results matters a lot. So, take efforts to identify both your satisfied clients and unsatisfied ones. According to the nature of your business, conduct a satisfaction survey or call your customers periodically and ask their opinion.
Request Them for Testimonials or Online Reviews – Once you find satisfied customers, collect their e-mail addresses and send mails periodically requesting their testimonials or reviews. Make sure that your mails do not take the form of spam as the customers will discard them. It is very important to make it easy for customers to post their testimonials or reviews. You can send the link to your review section (your web page or review sites) with appropriate instructions. Don’t offer them any discounts, free offers or money in exchange for the reviews.
Use Social Media Channels – By posting the latest news about your product or services along with the full address of your website on social networking sites, you can receive responses from a large number of customers quickly in the form of shares, comments, likes, retweets, and repins. You can identify your satisfied customers easily from this and add them as your fans and followers to send messages asking them to share their experiences on your business page (social networking sites provide you with the opportunity to create a page exclusively for your business) or website. You can also encourage them to write their stories along with hashtags. Ask customers in your social media circle to rate your products or services to collect feedback and generate social interest. Facebook has launched starred reviews for users to rate business pages.
Good reviews are part of an effective social media buy google map reviews optimization campaign, and can improve the exposure and popularity of your brand.
To enhance your brand reputation, you should avoid posting fake reviews, filter review spam and encourage happy customers to write reviews, and also respond to reviews and show your customers that you care about them. Do not ignore negative reviews if they appear genuine. Respond to them as fast as you can, but thoughtfully. Provide factual information to counter the negative comments, if you can. Otherwise, apologize and assure the customers that you are taking efforts to improve your service. This will highlight your positive attitude towards customers and also prove that you are not faking reviews. Since it is rather difficult to monitor each customer interaction and take decision, getting support from a professional SEO company that offers online reputation management services is desirable.