The value of a good review for a business is priceless. How many of us browse Yelp when choosing where to grab a bite to eat, scout TripAdvisor to plan a vacation, or check out reviews of the local auto mechanic down the street just to see what others are saying? People rely on the opinions of others (instead of just advertisements) to decide on where to spend their money, which is why online reviews are so important.
However, don’t let the urge to get more buzz around your business sway you to the dark side. Fake reviews can tarnish your brand, and organizations have been cracking down to weed out fraudulent posts.
All the sites I mentioned already have algorithms and human moderators in place to fight fake reviews. Yelp in particular is very aggressive, with 20% of their reviews never making it to public display. In fact, Yelp is planning to punish repeat fraudsters by exposing them and shaming the businesses that employ these deceitful tactics. It is also against Federal Trade Commission guidelines, which states that you must disclose if you have been paid to endorse a product or service. Not doing so entitles you to steep fines, like a $250,000 one the FTC slapped Legacy Learning Systems in 2011.
But an even greater damage that outweighs any monetary concerns is the damage to your reputation. Years of building your business as a credible organization would instantly evaporate and instead be replaced with public scrutiny. Make sure to only employ reviews from credible sources and not engage in deceptive practices to ensure that the next business exposed online and shamed for fake reviews is not yours.