The fastest way to lose online credibility

If you’re a local business looking to grow, online reviews are a critical component of your online marketing strategy that you can’t ignore.  They provide a window into your business from an existing customer’s perspective and can quickly increase your online reputation and build trust with potential customers. The vast majority of real customer online reviews are tied to customer service in one form or another. Receiving consistent positive online reviews from real customers can increase business much faster than traditional marketing.

On the flip side, consistent negative online reviews could hurt a business instantly. Business owners can find themselves turned off by online reviews altogether with a bad experience. If you’re a business owner in this boat you might want to rethink your marketing strategy.

  1. For the most part, consumers can tell if a negative online review is someone just complaining to complain or if it’s a legitimate issue. As a business owner, there are common practices to engage with all reviewers.
  2. Business owners have to realize no business is perfect, and a real negative online review can provide valuable insight into fixing an area of the business they may have never realized was an issue, to begin with.

Now, most business owners we talk to understand how valuable online reviews are for growing their business and it might seem tempting to cross the line and write fake positive online reviews to boost your numbers, but just as consumers can spot weak negative reviews it’s just as easy to spot fake or weak positive reviews.

Take for example the local business listed below. At the time of us reviewing their Google reviews, we found they had 11 (5 star) reviews. Not too bad until we read the first 2 reviews.


Both people wrote the same exact review word for word. As a potential customer, this is a huge red flag not to trust this business, as it’s reasonable to assume the business worked with these reviewers to write the reviews.

Then we went to their Yelp review page to see what customers were saying about them over there.

We found they had 2 reviews with a total rating of 2.5.

Then we noticed the same person that wrote a 5-star review on Google wrote a review on Yelp mostly ranting about someone else’s negative review. That type of review does very little to help the business as potential customers want to read about real experiences, not a review about a customer defending the business about someone else negative review. This is another red flag to a potential customer reading the review that this isn’t a normal review and they are probably connected to the business deeper than just a customer. This type of review in most cases hurts the business’s reputation more than helps. As we look a little further down on the same reviewer we noticed they wrote 2 other reviews. Their first review on 4/1/2015 is virtually word for word the same review they wrote on Google. Again another red flag as customers doesn’t usually copy and paste the same review on multiple sites.

As a business owner, you may be eager to increase business and it might seem tempting to take a shortcut and write fake online reviews or have friends and family write duplicate reviews on multiple sites but we warn you to stay away from these practices. It can lead to a loss of business, hurt your reputation, or even worse lead to fines. In New York City, 19 companies paid $350,000 in penalties for using misleading online reviews.

The lesson is simple, the fastest way to lose your online credibility is focusing on misleading reviews. In many cases, they can hurt your business more than a few negative reviews.

If you focus on providing a great customer experience and have a willingness to listen to customer feedback (both good and bad) positive online reviews from real customers are sure to follow.

Featured In

  • ABC News
  • Bloomberg Business
  • CBS News
  • The CW
  • Fox News Channel
  • NBC News