You already know that posting fake positive reviews on a third-party review site isn’t going to do anything to help your online reputation. If anything, it can hurt your reputation when the falsehood is discovered, and it can open you up to costly lawsuits.
But what about your own site, which you control? Is there harm in posting a fake testimonial about your business there to improve your online reputation?
In a word: yes. There’s plenty of harm in it. Here’s why.
It’s Against FTC Guidelines
Online reviews are covered by the Federal Trade Commission. Any connection between a reviewer and the company has to be disclosed, as paid reviews. If you write a review on your own website and claim it’s from Tom in California, and it’s not, then you are using false or misleading advertising. If you pay a freelance writer to write up 10 false reviews and post them on the website then, again, you’re using false advertisement, and you’re not disclosing that you paid someone to create this content.
As the uproar about reviews gains more publicity the FTC is cracking down more and more. The fines can be hefty – sometimes as high as $250,000. That’s enough to put most small and medium sized businesses out of business.
Customers Aren’t Dumb
There are a lot of “tells” that a savvy customer can look for when they’re trying to decide whether a review is genuine or not. There are even tons of articles online which teach people how to spot them.
The moment a customer decides that you are faking your testimonials is the moment where they move on and decide to do business with someone else. In today’s online environment trust is the coin of the realm. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by breaking that trust. There are enough people lining up to make you look bad as it is.
It’s Not Ethical
The temptation to post fake reviews on your own website is totally understandable in a climate where reviews carry so much weight. But at the end of the day you are lying to the customer.
This puts you in a dangerous position. You’re building relationships on a foundation of lies, which never ends well. You encourage yourself to be lazy, because you won’t have an incentive to create the kind of business that generates real testimonials from customers who received outstanding service. You may even form an attitude of contempt towards the gullible customer. Sooner or later they’ll pick up on it, and you’ll be out of business anyway.
There are far better ways to handle bad reviews online, ways that don’t compromise your ethics or expose you to lawsuits. Companies specializing in online reputation management, such as InternetReputation.com, help businesses like yours do just that every single day. If you’re just not sure how to get good reviews or are losing business fast because of bad ones, contact an experienced online reputation management company that will help you handle the situation the right way.