Think your customers are the only ones writing online reviews of your business? Well, think again.
Online review websites are a place where anyone can publish their comments about your business. Published comments can be positive, negative, or neutral. And they can be written by your customers, your competitors, or anyone else.
Why would anyone besides a customer spend time writing an online local review of your company? There are lots of reasons. Some reasons are good, but others are not so good.
Who might publish an online review of your business?
In reality, any John or Jane Doe might. But these are the most common sources of online reviews:
An Actual Customer
An actual customer is someone who had a real-life experience with your business.
Customers who write online reviews typically had either a really good or a really bad encounter with your business or with one of your products and/or services.
A review written by an actual customer usually comes across as genuine. It sounds real whether it was written with a positive, negative or neutral tone.
A legitimate local online review includes details that could only be provided by an actual customer. These reviews are generally considered by the public as more trustworthy and honest.
An online review written by an actual customer can be invaluable to a business – even if it is negative. A negative review written by an actual customer is a wake-up call to a business – that some improvements are needed!
A Mistaken “Customer”
Occasionally a reviewer will select the wrong business and leave a review for it. If this happens to your business, you will likely be able to remedy the situation quickly.
This can happen for numerous reasons. Often it is caused by a reviewer who is in a hurry and simply makes an honest mistake.
If your business name is similar to another local business, then it is possible for the review site to show the wrong one when a reviewer searches.
For franchises, this can be a problem when there are multiple locations in a small geographic area. They have the same name and can show up in search, especially if one or more of them have not performed proper local SEO on their location.
A nearby pizza chain had this problem due to someone manually moving their “pin” to the middle of a large lake 5 miles away. So when reviewers were sitting at this restaurant ready to check-in on Yelp, 3 other nearby locations, owned by different owners, showed up instead.
If any of these scenarios happen to you, you need to decide the best way to handle the situation. If it is a negative review, you will want to get it removed quickly.
The first step is to respond to the review and politely explain the mistake. For many review sites there is a button or process to report the review as being incorrect or not applicable to your business.
While your response explaining the mistake will help visitors who read it, the bad star rating impacts your overall average. This can result in decreased revenues according to a study conducted by Harvard Business School.
The Business Itself
Many business owners believe it’s a good idea to have all employees publish an anonymous positive review. They may think this is a good way to increase the number of glowing online reviews of the business.
Unfortunately, it is not usually difficult to spot a review that was written by either a business owner or someone who works for the business. More importantly, this practice is against the terms of service for many major review sites.
Reviews that are overly-upbeat or complimentary are often viewed as fake or fabricated. Too many of these reviews can turn off a prospective customer.
A Friend of the Business Owner
Business owners with only a handful of online reviews might be tempted to ask friends or family members to write a glowing online review in order to gain positive exposure.
The only problem with having friends and family members write online reviews of a business is that this type of review is often easily identified as fake.
It’s important that business owners not attempt to deceive the public with artificial online reviews. However, it is acceptable for friends and family members to write online reviews if they did have an actual encounter with a business.
If you want a friend or family member to write a review of your business, make sure the review is honest and written by the reviewer him/herself. This is the best way to ensure the review comes across as genuine.
A Person that a Business Hires to Write a Review
It is not uncommon for business owners to hire a person or an agency to submit positive comments on various local review websites.
Paying people to write online reviews is unethical and can be dangerous. Anyone who has never had an experience with a business cannot write an honest review. This type of review can be simple to detect.
If the public realizes reviews are fake, the result can be disastrous for a business. When prospective customers read reviews that were obviously bought (and not earned), they will be turned off.
Too many overly positive reviews listed in a row can look suspicious. In general, members of the public prefer purchasing from a business that earned its excellent reputation the old fashioned way – not by buying it.
A Competitor of the Business
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for business owners to discover poor online reviews that were obviously written by a competitor.
While it may be difficult to prove that a competitor wrote the review, it’s important for a business to publish a response so the public is aware of what is going on.
Handling reviews of vindictive competitors can be a challenge. This is why it’s important for any business to keep tabs on online reviews.
Someone Who is Angry at a Business or the Owner of a Business
No matter how helpful or well-respected your business, you might have a customer who is not happy with your products or services or has had a negative experience.
Angry customers can easily take out their frustration by posting online negative reviews.
Angry customers pose a risk to the online reputation of any business. Regardless of the reason for the anger, a negative review can have lasting ramifications.
If an angry customer authors an unfavorable online review, the situation can be mitigated with a proper response. An angry customer review is not the end of the world – as long as it’s handled properly.
Among the most irritating online reviews are those written by complete strangers. Unfortunately, some people have nothing better to do than to try to harm a business by posting poor online reviews for no apparent reason.
While it may not be possible to prevent complete strangers from maliciously targeting a business in this manner, there are ways to combat it.
If a stranger writes a bogus review of your business on a local online review site, it’s essential that you immediately nip the problem in the bud. Respond to the comment with a short statement indicating your reasons for thinking the comment is fake. Be professional and courteous with your response.
Plenty of people can (and do) write online reviews. Local review sites are not strictly reserved for customers only.
In order for you to maintain a credible and excellent online reputation, It’s important to understand who is publishing online comments about your business and why they are doing it.
Do your best to determine which reviews are genuine and honest. If you believe a review is fake, make sure to handle the situation quickly and properly.