One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you when trying to market your business or services is to BE HONEST and use honest marketing techniques. Writing fake online reviews can land your business in serious trouble and cost you more than you gained in reputation or sales. Just ask 19 businesses caught in New York’s “Operation Clean Turf.” Nineteen companies entered into agreements with the attorney general’s office to pay between $2,500 and $100,000 in fines and avoid further prosecution. All because of a lack of integrity and a refusal to put in some hard work.
The undercover investigation snagged SEO companies and small businesses engaged in an activity Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is calling “astroturfing.” Astroturfing is the “practice of preparing or disseminating a false or deceptive review that a reasonable consumer would believe to be a neutral, third-party review.” The technique is a form of false advertising, according to the state Attorney General.
The investigation uncovered businesses that allegedly created false accounts on review sites like Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch. The companies then hired freelancers in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe to write reviews for between $1 and $10 a piece. They also uncovered hundreds of fake profiles created on social media review sites and complex techniques used by companies to mask user IPs and hide the true identities of these accounts.
Being dishonest in your marketing is just not worth it. Will true marketing take time, money and hard work? Yes. Most definitely. But, it is more then worth it in the end. Taking shortcuts ultimately lead to a bitter end. Even for the many businesses out there who are still getting away with these despicable practices, how can they feel good about their business or themselves?
Just as a clarification, it is okay for you to ask your clients and customers to go to these sites and write reviews for your business. As long as you are conveying (and they understand) they are supposed to be completely honest with their reviews. If they think you should change something or they dislike something you do, they should include it in their review. It not only gets good reviews out there for your business, but you also get to see things you need to improve on. And once you improve them, you can have those same people go back to those sites to tell the masses that you listened to their complaints and suggestions.