The Ethics of Skewed Reviews & Why you Shouldn’t Use Them
Online reviews carry a bad reputation and for good reason. Skewing the review score of a product or business is easy, especially if the product in question relates to tech in any way; Amazon reviews of tech products are hilarious, mostly due to many reviews complaining about problems that are either a.) not actually problems or b.) problems they created.
But as hilarious as these reviews are, they’re nothing but damaging to the reputation of the product. Same goes for bad Yelp reviews, bad Etsy reviews and vice versa. However, buyers aren’t the only ones responsible for skewing reviews the wrong way–businesses do it quite a bit.
Hold on, where did I put my shocked hat? Doesn’t matter. What does matter is identifying the companies behind skewed reviews and identifying why it’s such a bad idea.
Building a False Reputation
Look no further than Yelp for the perfect example of a business skewing reviews. However, Yelp wasn’t skewing reviews of themselves, rather they were offering review skewing services for a chunk of cash. You wanted good reviews or needed a bad review wiped away? For a price, Yelp’s got you covered.
And while Yelp garnered a reputation of distrust and systemic abuse with their stunt, they’re not the only ones–far from it.
Perhaps the most recent example of this is the prosecution of company Cure Encapsulations by the FTC. According to them, Cure paid for five-star reviews in order to garner more interest in their product.
I’m sure many companies are guilty of paying for good reviews or removing bad ones; it’s expected, really. However, while this practice carries short-term benefits, you will not want to suffer the long-term consequences.
Gaining a Bad Reputation
First off, you will be caught. Not if, but when. After all, this is the Internet–a place where everything is out in the open and you just don’t know it yet. Just like not owning a VPN for Chrome, you’re playing with fire by participating in the practice.
Plus, if a service like Yelp couldn’t get away with it, no one can. For one, fake reviews tend to be easily identifiable, with many written like the author was a robot stuck on factory settings. Search engines (especially Google) know fake reviews pass through as well, so it’s not uncommon for these search engines to track businesses that offer fake reviews to the buyers.
If found out, the search engine will immediately pull a few stunts with your site’s SEO, causing your site to fall faster down Google’s index than Bitcoin’s value. If that happens, say goodbye to a decent chunk of your traffic and, consequentially, your profits.
And if all of this doesn’t scare you off of the idea of paying for fake reviews, remember that many crimes carry a hefty fine, especially in the United States. When you’re caught, you risk paying tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and if your business is small, that could spell out doom for it.
Besides getting caught and paying a fine, there’s also the issue of gaining a bad reputation. Reputation is everything in business–when building one up, at least–so a bad reputation carries potential to ruin the business in question.
A business is designed to maximize profits in every area possible while keeping high standards, therefore paying for fake reviews is the antithesis of a business. Well, not really, but you get my point.
Sure, bigger companies are probably paying for fake reviews left and right, but if caught, they can afford it because their profits allow them to; it’s not excuse, but there is none for the practice.
However, there’s no need to stoop to the lower levels of higher companies. In this day and age, there’s a severe lack of honest, honorable companies to aspire confidence in the minds of consumers, so acting like one may not be great short-term, but like I said, the long-term benefits are worth it.