Is Buying Reviews an Ethical Business Practice?

As soon as you throw around words like “Ethical”, I get ready for a lecture on morality and religion. That is not the intent of this article. However I will provide you with a sliding scale and you can impose your own sense of ethics and morality to determine which end of that scale you are comfortable with. I am quite convinced that ethics is a sliding scale affected by Risk, Reward and Motivation.

· Risk = Likelihood of punishment

· Reward = Size of the prize

· Motivation = Emotional drive derived from positive or negative circumstances.

As an example, if you ask most people if they would eat food from a dumpster, most would say “Hell No”. However, as your hunger grows and your options for something better recede, your willingness to partake of the dumpster dining experience will grow.

When it comes to reviews there is the obvious question of what will reviews do for me. I believe there are four primary benefits for reviews:

1. Ego boost for the business owner. “They like me!, They really like me!”

2. Social signals to the search engines that people are engaging with your company. This tends to effect ranking to a small degree.

3. A visual indicator that makes your business listing stand out. In the instance of a Google listing, the 5 yellow stars show up after you get 5 reviews and that makes your maps listing more noticeable and more likely to get clicks or calls.

4. Positive affirmations to your new potential customers that others have found what you provide to be of value.

Obviously, the fourth is the primary factor of interest. 60% of online shoppers look at reviews before making a decision. Refer to link at the bottom.

Most business owners already know this. So, reviews are something that business owners want. However, I’ve seen a lot of confusion about where the reviews should be placed and how much value and weight they carry. The primary value is based on credibility from potential customers and possibly search engines. Here are where most of the reviews end up and the value that they carry.

· Company Website: Written Review – This type of review carries no weight with search engines and very little credibility with potential customers because everyone knows you control the website and you can put anything you want on their regardless of the truth of the statement or if the customer is a real person or not.

· Company Website: Video Review – This carries more weight with your potential customers because people can see that it is a real person and not just a creation of your imagination. They still don’t know if this person is actually a customer of yours or just a good friend that owes you a favor, but it looks more realistic. Many times these types of reviews are great for a specific product page or the page that discusses a service you provide.

· Google Plus: This tends to carry more weight with potential customers because they know you can’t delete a bad review and it is slightly difficult to fake the reviews.

· Yelp: This tends to carry more weight than Google reviews because it is even harder to fake these reviews and you cannot delete bad reviews from this forum. This review platform carries a lot of credibility with Google as well. Yelp has a loyal following and there are a lot of people who use that instead of a search engine.

It is good to have the stars and a written review on Facebook because there are loyal Facebook followers that give this platform credibility. Although you can’t delete bad reviews from Facebook, it is not a well-known fact.

· Yellow Page or Dex: It is good to have at least one review on this platform because it tends to influence that group of people who like to use this search tool.

· Other places that you may want to have reviews include: Citysearch, Manta, Superpages, Kudzu, Best of the Web, and Better Business Bureau. If you can get reviews on Angie’s list those are pretty solid because they are nearly impossible to fake.

Now that you know the value of reviews and where to put them it’s time to address the original question of should you “pay” for them?

As you may know, it is against Google’s terms of service to pay for reviews: “Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.

 

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