It can be hard out there for a contractor to get more online reviews, but while some are up to the challenge, some clearly aren’t. Here are the 5 worst ways that contractors have tried to get more Yelp reviews.
1. Paying for Fake Reviews
If you’re a contractor with even a little online presence, chances are good that you have been contacted by a shady reputation management firm that offered to get you more Yelp reviews. While some are a lot more transparent than others about their methods, an awful lot of them are happy to slather your profile with fake reviews.
While you hopefully have an ethical problem with that, you might not see a lot of risk when it comes to your business, right?
In March, the FTC hit an auto dealership group in Los Angeles with $3.6 million in fines for fake reviews and deceptive advertising. This fine also covered fake reviews posted to Facebook and Google as well, so this is in no way exclusive to Yelp.
2. Getting Friends and Family to Post Fake Reviews
It might seem smarter to let your friends, family, and even employees to post fake Yelp reviews, but think again.
First off, these are the easiest fake reviews to spot. Yelp’s reviewers are shown with their first names, last initials, and profile photos. If some of those reviewers are your employees, chances are good that your customers will run into them in the field or over the phone. All it takes is one disgruntled customer to call you out on Yelp and dredge up the rest of your fake reviews.
Relying on friends and family for fake reviews is just a little safer, but it’s still not a good idea. If you receive several reviews from people who look and sound similar, that can be a good indicator to users that your reviews are bogus. If several reviews come in from the same IP address but you’re a service area business, that’s a strong signal to Yelp that those reviews should be filtered out. And while it’s possible to be smart about how you stagger and vary these reviews, there’s no telling which data will have access to in the future, either through data partnerships or acquisitions. If Yelp had access to Facebook’s data, for example, they could tear those fake reviews apart in a heartbeat.
Oh, and remember that FTC fine for the car dealership? It also covered fake reviews posted by the owner and employees. Even if you can fool Yelp and your customers, that still doesn’t mean you’re home free.
3. Incentivizing Reviews
It can be tempting to slip a $20 under the table to get a customer to review you on Yelp, but you really don’t want to get caught doing that.
If Yelp catches a business offering cash or incentives for positive reviews, Yelp will hit them with a scarlet letter:
This warning will appear at the top of your page for several months, pretty much eliminating all business from Yelpers, whether they started their search on Yelp or not.
3. Doing a good job and hoping for the best
A lot of contractors seem to think you can just do a good job and the good reviews will flow.
While it is against Yelp’s terms of service to ask for reviews, contractors need to. The trades aren’t glamorous businesses and the vast majority of your customers won’t ever review your business—even if they’re already Yelp users.
According to data from Customer Lobby, an unsolicited review is about as likely to be a 1 stars as 5 stars, while a review you ask for is overwhelmingly more likely to be 4 or 5 stars.
Because you should have a good sense of who is more likely to leave a good review, and chances are you won’t ask for one from a disgruntled customer.
4. Telling People to Review You on Yelp
Wait, didn’t I just say you should tell people to review you on Yelp?
Yes and no.
When you tell someone to review you on Yelp, you’re asking for a lot. They’ll have to remember sometime after you talk to them to actually leave that review, and first they’ll have to find your profile. If there are several companies with similar names, if they don’t know where you’re headquartered, if you’ve switched between multiple business names, or if you have more than one page for your business, that’s going to be a problem. (tip: a good SEO company can help with that.)
Instead, don’t just ask them to leave you a review—send them the link to your page. By removing extra steps, you’ll make it easier for customers to leave reviews and you should get a lot more of them in the process.
5. Paying for Yelp Ads
There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation around what you get when you pay for Yelp ads. The truth is that you don’t get much. You’ll get more exposure in Yelp’s searches, they might be a little more cooperative if you want to dispute a specific review, and they’ll most likely push a good review to the top of your profile, but that’s about it.
Oh, and you’ll get a long-term contract.
If there’s already a dominant player in your market with a boatload of reviews, Yelp ads aren’t going to help you eat their lunch. Likewise, if there isn’t a dominant player in your market, you don’t need Yelp ads to take the throne.
Be Smart About Growing your Yelp Reviews
It’s easy to make some wrong terms when it comes to growing your Yelp reviews. If you’re ready to get serious about it and avoid the pitfalls, do your research or hire a consultant who can help you navigate the waters.