The Risks of Buying Google Reviews: Protect Your Business and Reputation

12 Jul 2023 Last updated: 12 Apr 2024 By Simeon Prokopov

Online reviews have a significant impact on businesses in today’s environment.

Positive reviews can improve a business’s reputation and draw in new customers, while negative reviews can have the opposite effect.

Unfortunately, some businesses resort to buying fake reviews to improve their online reputation, which can do more harm than good.

In this article, we will discuss the risks associated with buying Google reviews and provide some effective strategies for building a genuine online reputation.

Google's spam detection filters are continuously improving to maintain the integrity of the review system.

The Importance of Google Reviews for Your Business

Five-star Google Business Reviews provide benefits such as increased local search rankings, credibility, and influence on consumer decisions.

Let’s delve into the benefits of receiving authentic feedback for your business:

1. Improve Online Reputation and Visibility

Google reviews are a valuable tool for showcasing your business’s credibility, customer satisfaction, and online reputation.

They can help establish trust with potential customers when compared to competitors.

2. Enhance Customer Experience

Google reviews provide valuable customer feedback that can help you understand customer preferences and make informed decisions to improve the customer experience.

By addressing this feedback, you can align your decisions with customer expectations and enhance the overall experience.

3. Establish Trust with Potential Customers

In the digital age, consumers use online reviews to help make purchasing decisions.

Positive Google reviews can build trust with potential customers, with research indicating online reviews are just as trusted as personal recommendations.

4. Improve Local Search Visibility

Google considers online reviews important for local search rankings.

Obtaining genuine and insightful Google reviews can improve the significance of your Google Business Profile, leading to increased visibility in local search results and making it easier for potential customers to find your business when searching for relevant products or services nearby.

The Importance of Google Reviews for Your Business

The Risks Associated with Purchasing Google Reviews

Purchasing Google reviews carries risks and could lead to negative consequences for your business in the long run.

Let’s examine the disadvantages in depth.

First and foremost, purchasing Google reviews directly goes against Google’s guidelines for businesses.

These guidelines place a strong emphasis on honesty, authenticity, and unbiased content.

Providing incentives or engaging in activities that create a conflict of interest undermines the integrity of the review system.

Google has implemented automatic spam detection filters specifically designed to detect fake reviews.

Any attempts to manipulate the system can result in serious consequences, including legal action.

2. Trust and Credibility Issues

The practice of purchasing Google reviews can negatively impact customers’ trust in businesses.

Today’s consumers are savvy and can distinguish between real and fake feedback.

Paying for five-star ratings jeopardizes customer trust and damages your business’s credibility. Instead of fostering a loyal customer base, you risk losing customers by being dishonest and lacking transparency.

3. Detection and Removal by Google

Google utilizes sophisticated algorithms to enhance its spam detection filters and uphold the integrity of the review system by identifying and flagging deceptive reviews.

Purchased reviews may not be immediately detected, but diligent users often report any questionable ones. Google responds promptly by removing such reviews, rendering any investment in fake reviews fruitless.

4. Reputation Damage

Having a good online reputation is crucial for business success.

But purchasing reviews can backfire. When customers find out about a company’s deceitful actions, they lose trust and may avoid the business.

This can lead to a damaged reputation, reduced customer trust, negative word-of-mouth, and ultimately, a decline in business growth.

Google enforces a strict policy against fake reviews and removes any reviews that are considered fake or violate their review policies.

Deliberately fake content, copied or stolen photos, off-topic reviews, defamatory language, personal attacks, and unnecessary or incorrect content are all in violation of our policy. We may also delete or suspend Google Accounts that violate our policies. 

Google Maps user-generated content policy

5. Financial Penalties

Engaging in fraudulent practices such as manipulating and purchasing online reviews can result in financial repercussions for your business.

The New York Times recently exposed Dr. Mohrmann’s case, where he and his wife employed various methods to suppress negative online reviews.

They engaged in illegal activities by soliciting fake positive reviews. They urged friends, family, and staff to post positive, five-star reviews, even if they hadn’t received treatment or experienced their services.

Additionally, they hired freelancers from platforms like Fiverr.com and Upwork.com to fabricate reviews.

Following an investigation initiated by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York (“OAG”) under Executive Law § 63(12) and General Business Law § 349 concerning Highline Orthopaedics’ conduct, an agreement was reached. Dr. Mohrmann and his wife consented to removing all fraudulent positive reviews online, and Dr. Mohrmann was ordered to pay $100,000 in penalties.

Effective Strategies for Obtaining Genuine Google Reviews

Instead of resorting to unethical practices, prioritize establishing a strong base of genuine Google reviews from actual customers.

Here are some strategies for obtaining authentic reviews and promoting long-term business growth:

1. Ask Real Customers for Reviews

Reach out to customers who have used your products or services and kindly request their feedback. Personalize your requests and consider utilizing various communication channels:

  • Email Marketing: Compose persuasive emails that politely ask customers to leave a review. Include direct links to your Google Business Profile or review submission page to make it easier for them to complete the process.
  • SMS Marketing: Leverage the power of text messages to connect with your customers and solicit their valuable feedback. Craft concise messages along with a link to your review page for convenient review submission.
  • Social Media Outreach: Utilize your social media platforms to engage with customers and encourage them to share their genuine experiences. Interact with them, highlighting the importance of their opinions and the value they bring to your business.
  • Direct Mailing: For businesses with physical locations, consider sending a personalized letter or postcard to express your appreciation for their support and kindly ask for a review.
Include QR codes on your physical marketing materials, such as business cards, flyers, or product packaging. When scanned, these codes can directly link customers to your Google review page. Click To Tweet

2. Utilize Review Request Templates

Streamline the review request process and increase customer response rates by creating well-crafted review request templates.

Customize these templates for various customer touchpoints, such as after a purchase, completion of a service, or interaction with your customer support team.

Personalize the templates by addressing customers by their names, expressing appreciation for their business, and providing clear instructions on how to leave a review.

3. Respond to Google Reviews

Showcase exceptional customer service by promptly engaging with customer reviews.

Respond to both positive and bad reviews, addressing concerns and feedback. These interactions demonstrate your dedication to customer satisfaction and effectively resolve issues.

Additionally, responding to reviews positively impacts SEO efforts, indicating active customer engagement with search engines.

4. Harness the Power of Positive Reviews in Your Marketing Strategies

Integrate customer reviews across various platforms, including your website, social media, and promotional materials. Highlight the aspects of your business that customers appreciate, such as excellent customer service, quality products, or timely delivery.

By sharing positive feedback, you build trust with potential customers, showcasing the positive experiences of those who have engaged with your business.

5. Monitor and Manage Your Online Reputation

Regularly monitor the reviews your business receives on different platforms, including Google, to gain valuable insights into the customer experience.

Responsibly address any negative feedback by seeking constructive resolutions and transforming dissatisfied customers into loyal brand advocates.

Actively incorporate customer feedback and implement necessary improvements to enhance the overall experience your business provides.

How to Spot a Fake Online Review

The Risks of Buying Google Reviews and What to Do Instead

To maintain a trustworthy online reputation, it is essential to identify fake reviews.

By becoming adept at spotting these fraudulent reviews, businesses can safeguard themselves from potential harm and empower their customers to make informed choices.

1. Look for Patterns or Similarities

Fake reviews often originate from the same source and exhibit common characteristics.

Look out for patterns such as similar language or repetitive phrases in multiple reviews.

Be cautious of overly positive or excessively negative sentiments that seem out of proportion with the average customer experience.

2. Evaluate Reviewer Profiles

Reviewing the profiles of individuals leaving reviews is essential in assessing their credibility.

Consider the number of reviews they have posted and the frequency of their activity.

Genuine reviewers tend to have a history of diverse reviews across different businesses, while fake reviewers may have limited or biased activity.

3. Check Reviewer’s Contextual Knowledge

Assess the depth and specificity of the reviewer’s knowledge about the business or the product/service being reviewed.

Legit reviews often include specific details, such as mentioning particular features or describing personal experiences.

On the other hand, fake reviews may lack context, seem generic, or contain vague statements.

4. Verify Reviewer’s Purchase/Experience

Genuine customer reviews are typically based on real experiences with the business.

Look for indications that the reviewer has used the product or service.

Genuine reviews often mention specific interactions with staff, provide details about features, or describe the timeframe of their experience.

A lack of specific information or generic statements may raise suspicion.

5. Compare Reviews across Platforms

Cross-reference reviews across different platforms or review sites to gain a broader perspective.

Compare the opinions and ratings provided by the same reviewer on multiple platforms. Inconsistencies or drastically different opinions may indicate potential manipulation or fake reviews.

By being vigilant and employing these strategies, businesses can effectively identify fake Google reviews and maintain an authentic online reputation.

REMEMBER, BUILDING TRUST WITH GENUINE REVIEWS IS THE KEY TO ATTRACTING CUSTOMERS AND FOSTERING SUSTAINABLE GROWTH.

For a detailed analysis of the fake review industry and its impact on the online review ecosystem, watch the video titled “How Much We Paid For FAKE Google Reviews?” by The Honest Guide.

What to do when your Business Receives Fake Reviews

You can request Google to remove fake reviews from your Business Profile on Google.

To request the removal of fake reviews from other popular review platforms, review the platform’s policies and guidelines for handling fake reviews.

Additionally, a company may take legal action for a negative online review if it can prove that the online review is defamatory and that the review is likely to cause the company serious financial harm.

Conclusion: Don’t Buy Google Reviews!

In conclusion, it is strongly advised not to purchase Google reviews.

Many businesses consider buying false reviews to enhance their online credibility, especially when they receive unsolicited emails offering such services.

However, buying Google reviews is a risky and counterproductive practice that can have severe consequences for your business.

Instead, focus on obtaining genuine feedback from your real users.

By actively engaging with honest reviews and employing ethical strategies, you can build an authentic online reputation that attracts customers, fosters trust, and supports long-term business growth.

How Agile can help

As an ethical digital agency, we understand the importance of a strong online reputation, and we are here to assist you in navigating the digital landscape with integrity.

Contact us today to explore our comprehensive digital marketing solutions that can elevate your business and safeguard your reputation.

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Simeon Prokopov Simeon Prokopov

I am a managing partner at Agile Digital. A graduate of Modern Balkan history, I made a complete pivot in my career when, together with Juan Pineda, we founded a nearshore design and development studio Sofyma in 2009, followed by our digital agency Agile Digital several years later. Over time, I have worked on hundreds of digital projects from small startups to global brands. I enjoy writing in our Blog about topics I am actively involved in at work.