We’ve given a lot of attention to online reviews recently. We’ve pointed out why they’re important, how to respond to negative ones, and how to generate more of them.

Now, let’s talk about some of the things you should NOT do with online reviews.

Jamie Pitman at BrightLocal researched Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, BBB, and Yellow Pages, and he assembled a list of Guidelines for the Top Local Review Sites.

We’ve summarized some key takeaways for you to keep in mind as you work on your reviews.


1. DON’T pay for reviews.

Don’t offer cash, prizes, products, or any kind of incentive in exchange for a review. This is a big no-no across the board. All review sites frown on this behavior, and they are likely to penalize you for doing it.

2. DON’T negatively review a competitor or encourage anyone else to do it.

Not only is it against the rules and a conflict of interest, it’s just bad manners. And you’re better than that.

3. DON’T review your own business, either.

You should focus on providing quality products and services, and let your customers speak for you.

 

There are also some practices that are on the fence.

Done properly, review sites will allow you to do the following activities; however, done poorly, review sites will penalize you for them.

1. Asking for reviews:

This is tricky. You can carefully incorporate an ask as part of your standard customer service follow up communication, but you can’t send out a bulk email to all of your customers asking them to review you. Jason Brown at BrightLocal says, "When it comes to reviews, I tell all new brick and mortar businesses that they should be getting 5 to 10 new reviews per month. This really isn’t that hard if you train your staff to listen to your customers. If a customer says how great the service is, ask them to share that feedback online and leave your business a Google review."

There are other ways to suggest a review without a direct, face-to-face ask or a penalty-inducing bulk ask. You can publish a link on your website that leads to your listings on Google My Business, Yelp, or Yellow Pages. You can also include these links in your email signature. This is like leaving out a tip jar; you’re not actively asking for anything, but people will be more likely to contribute when the opportunity is suggested than if there's no opportunity at all.

2. Removing reviews:

If you receive a truly unfair or false review, by all means, take action to have it removed. But you will not be able to remove every bad thing that is said about your business online. Along with being very difficult to do, removing all your bad reviews has a downside. Believe it or not, a business with nothing but positive reviews looks misleading, and that’s not good either. In most cases, it’s best to monitor your online reputation and respond positively to all reviews, good and bad. People who read reviews value a business owner’s response to a bad review more than they value the negative review itself.

The Marketing department at Foremost Media has great tips for Reputation Management for Reputation Management. If you want help managing your online reviews, let's talk.

More Reputation Management Tips:

Best Practices for Answering Online Reviews

Google Reviews: The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

Proactively Manage Your Local Citations