Should You Hire a Review Writer? Read This First
There is no denying that customer reviews are crucial to the success of your online business. Customer reviews have the power to influence customer decisions, gain consumer loyalty, garner trust and boost a brand’s reputation. All these benefits ultimately lead to one outcome: improved profits. It makes sense that, if you don’t have many customer reviews or if any of your reviews are less than stellar, you may consider hiring a review writer to help shape shoppers’ perceptions of your brand. However, you may want to think twice before doing so.
What’s in a Review?
Online reviews are the new word of mouth. Shoppers rely on and believe in them as much as they rely on and believe in recommendations from a family member or trusted friend. In fact, because testimonials are readily available, individuals are more likely to use them to guide their purchase decisions than they are to use verbal recommendations. While this may seem like a bold assertion, the stats don’t lie:
- 97% of customers say that online customer reviews factor into their purchase decisions.
- 93% of shoppers say they use customer reviews to determine the credibility and reputation of a brand.
- 68% of online shoppers are more likely to engage with a brand if said brand has positive customer testimonials.
- 92% of individuals say they are hesitant to purchase from a company if the company does not have any customer reviews.
If you think that’s impressive, there’s more. Products with reviews are 270% more likely to be purchased than those without. When the product boasts a higher price tag, that percentage jumps to 380%.
These stats serve as an undeniable testament to the power of consumer opinion. They also tell us that superior content and high search engine rankings are no longer enough to sway online shoppers to make the purchase.
The Power of Reviews
Customers crave knowledge from first-hand experiences, and reviews give them that. As a result of this shifting consumer behavior, businesses need to refine their marketing strategies to include online reviews. However, does that mean brands that don’t have a library of testimonials should pay a freelance product review writer? While we believe in the power of storytelling, we don’t think it should stretch to testimonials. We explain why in the sections below.Products with reviews are 270% 📈 more likely to be purchased than those without. When the product boasts a higher price tag 💰, that percentage jumps to 380%. #Ecommerce #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet
Why It’s a Bad Idea To Pay a Review Writer
When you were new to the whole content marketing thing, you may have invested in Google Ads to generate some quick traffic while you waited for your content to do it organically. Now that reviews have begun to play a significant role in SEO, you may wonder why you can’t do more or less the same — pay a review writer for a handful of positive testimonials until authentic customer accounts start to roll in. Though we get where you’re coming from, there are three good reasons you should rethink your strategy.
1. It Goes Against Everything Google, Yelp and Other Search Engines Stand For
In a 2015 interview, after the Federal Trade Commission ruled that Yelp — one of the internet’s most prominent review sites — was not guilty of giving companies that purchased advertising better reviews, the founder declared that of course it wasn’t, because doing so would go against everything that the brand stood for. According to the statement, “The reason millions of people around the world use Yelp every day to find great local businesses is because they trust the content.”
That one word — “trust” — is precisely what customer reviews are all about, and it is why the search engines, and platforms within the search engines, rely on them so heavily.
What These Companies Stand For
Though the goals of every major search engine vary slightly, they all come back to the user. What do users want? What matters to them? For Google, it’s to deliver to users the most relevant and high-quality results based on their search queries. Google must trust a website or business before it will rank it organically.
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build a community, and to share and express what matters most to them. While its mission statement does not specifically contain the word “trust,” it’s implied through words like “community” and “express,” that honesty is one of the company’s core values.
Think about the core beliefs of your company. Hiring a freelance product review writer can lose the trust of your readers. Although you may not have many reviews on your website yet, trust us, maintaining integrity can be much more valuable in the long haul.
You may be thinking, how could the search engines and business directories possibly know if a review is false or not. To that we say, keep reading.
2. It Goes Against Search Engine Policies
Companies such as Google, Facebook and Yelp have policies in place that make it very clear that they will not tolerate compensated reviews and/or the trading of fake reviews. Google, for instance, states in its Prohibited and Restricted Content section that all content, reviews included, should reflect users’ genuine experiences at certain locations and should not be posted for the sake of “[manipulating] a place’s ratings.”
It warns users and businesses against posting fake content, the same content multiple times and content from the same IP address from multiple accounts. If Google discovers that you used a review writer to post fake reviews (which it can do using an algorithm), your SEO may suffer.
Facebook is guilty of hosting hundreds of organized groups that recruit freelance product review writers to pen dishonest or outright false reviews for brands. In exchange, these writers receive either incentives or monetary compensation.
The social media platform has come under fire for allowing this type of behavior to continue. In response to the accusations, Facebook issued a statement saying, “We don’t allow people to use Facebook to facilitate or encourage false reviews.”
The Leading Example of Yelp
To date, neither Google nor Facebook has taken what some may call a “drastic stance” on fake reviews, but as a site dedicated solely to the sharing of authentic experiences, Yelp has. In its Content Guidelines, Yelp touches on “factual accuracy” and “personal experience.” It also warns that contributions may not be made if there is a “conflict of interest,” which may occur if a contribution is made for one’s own business, a peer’s or competitor’s business, a relative’s or friend’s business, or a business within one’s networking group.
In case the guidelines leave room for interpretation, Yelp offers more clarity in its Guide to Success for businesses. In this guide, the company explicitly states that businesses will be penalized for the following:
- Offering discounts, gifts or payments in return for contributions
- Asking family, friends and customers to contribute to their online profiles
- Hiring third parties or other companies to improve their online reputations
- Influencing Yelpers to change or remove critical posts
Actions Taken Against Violators
Unlike the policies of Google and Facebook, which do not detail how the platforms identify or punish fake reviews, Yelp’s does.
Back in 2012, the directory developed a Consumer Alerts program, which it runs sort of like a sting operation. In the operation, Yelp has employees pose as review writers who advertise review writing services to any business that would like to purchase them. If a company bites, it will then place a Consumer Alert badge on the brand’s website, warning visitors of its deceitful behavior. To get rid of the alert, a visitor must manually close it, much like he or she would do a pop-up.
Yelp also uses recommendation software that’s designed to sift through reviews and weed out any unreliable ones. “Unreliable reviews” are those that come from a user known to abuse the review system (or who is part of a Facebook review swap page); that are obtained by paying or incentivizing the review writer; that were motivated by a recent news event rather than an actual experience; a disproportionate number of positive/negative reviews that come from the same IP address multiple times; or that are the result of Yelpers defending celebrities.
For companies that routinely abuse the system, Yelp has taken legal action, which brings us to our third and final point.
3. It Is Illegal
If losing rankings and wearing a scarlet letter on one’s website is not incentive enough to not pay a freelance product review writer to procure false testimonials, maybe the fact that doing so is illegal will deter brands.
Per the Federal Trade Commission, it is illegal for businesses to pay or bribe individuals for reviews or endorsements. However, the FTC does provide a loophole. If a brand does compensate someone for a review, it must disclose this fact on the review itself. We don’t know about you, but disclosing the fact that you paid for a review kind of defeats the purpose of customer reviews entirely, don’t you think?
Reasons You Should Steer Clear of Incentivizing Reviews, Too
Now you know you shouldn’t pay a review writer for reviews, but what about incentivizing actual customers to post positive testimonials about your brand? For instance, you may encourage new and existing customers to post about their experiences to Yelp in exchange for a $5 coupon or for a free meal. Though this is not necessarily illegal (after all, customers can take the coupon or do what they will with the incentive), chances that it will bolster your ratings are slim.
Though Yelp will give all new reviews and reviewers the benefit of the doubt, it gives precedence to active Yelp users. Even if you incentivize a customer to create a new Yelp account just for the sake of sharing about his or her experience with your brand, there’s a very real possibility that the review will get caught in the directory’s filter.
Yelp isn’t the only online directory that uses an algorithm to weed out false or one-off reviews. This is something to think about before giving out free merchandise or steep discounts to individuals who would otherwise never even have considered raving about your company.
The Best Ways To Get Positive Customer Reviews
Netting positive customer reviews shouldn’t be hard. In fact, if you offer great customer service, quality products and a one-of-a-kind customer experience, reviews should be par for the course for your business. However, maybe you cater to a crowd that isn’t tech-savvy, or that doesn’t realize the value of customer testimonials (the elderly or youth) — what can you do then? There are a few legitimate and legal ways you can encourage shoppers, diners or clients to express their satisfaction online:
1. Reach Out Immediately After the Transaction Is Complete
Think about it … If you’re like most people, you’re more likely to take a brief customer survey after the call is complete than to take a follow-up call asking you to rate a brand’s customer experience.
Why? For two reasons: 1) You’re already on the line, so it’s convenient, and 2) The experience is still fresh in your memory. Whether you conducted business online, in-person or over the phone, immediately reach out to the customer asking him or her to rate his or her experience.
This method is a much more natural way than hiring a review writer. Keep in mind that people are more likely to respond to inquiries made hours after an experience than they are days or weeks afterward.
2. Make Writing Reviews Convenient (and Comfortable)
You may be tempted to ask customers to leave reviews in-store. Don’t do this, as doing so puts a lot of uncomfortable pressure on them. Instead, offer a convenient and virtual way for individuals to leave feedback about your brand. Send a text or follow-up email, or leave a number they can call on your receipt. Whether you offer a survey or simply request a written review, make sure the whole process is short and sweet.
And sometimes the best way to get authentic reviews from customers is to improve every part of the sales product, starting with exceptional product description writing. The more honest you are about products, the more trust you gain from customers.
3. Offer Multiple Ways Customers Can Leave Reviews
Creating different spaces on which customers can leave reviews serves two benefits: 1) It gives your customers options, and 2) It expands your reach. Not everyone uses Yelp or Facebook or Google My Business. Give customers options they’re likely to use to increase the odds that they’ll actually leave reviews.
Also, by encouraging shoppers to use multiple review platforms, you’re boosting your chances that your business gets talked about on multiple sites, which is great for your SEO.
Should You Hire a Review Writer?
To summarize the content of this article: Hiring a review writer to pen reviews on your behalf is bad. The only real (and honorable) way to benefit from positive customer reviews is to earn them through superior customer service, quality offerings and one-of-a-kind customer experiences.