Want more Google business reviews? You won't have to look far online to see dozens of websites offering to sell you "authentic" Google reviews. Buying Google reviews can seem like an easy solution: instant social proof with none of the headache. These websites will seem legitimate, assuring convincing and foolproof reviews that will avoid detection algorithms.
Business owners beware: not only is purchasing reviews illegal, but it can also irreparably damage your business.
No, full-stop. Despite what review-hawking websites may try to tell you, buying Google reviews is both unethical and illegal.
Doing so clearly violates Google's review policy, which prohibits "fake engagement". Fake engagement includes "Paying, incentivizing or encouraging the posting of content that does not represent a genuine experience.."
Buying reviews is also illegal. The USA's Federal Trade Commission has guidelines against misleading endorsements, backed by the threat of hefty fines. In the UK, the Competition and Marketing Authority also banned the purchase of false reviews.
As technology gets more advanced, so does review-detection software to identify false reviews.
Even the most basic software or discerning customer can spot tell-tale signs of a fake review: profile pictures sourced from Google Images, reviews spread throughout inconsistent geographical locations, orphan reviews, reviews with little detail, etc.
The detection doesn't stop there, either. Google employs highly sophisticated algorithms and machine learning to detect fake reviews over large volumes of data.
Even if your purchased reviews escape algorithm detection now, there's no guarantee that your account won't be flagged in the future. Google's tools grow more sophisticated as time passes, and false reviews from years ago may carry consequences well into the future.
Buying reviews can seriously risk your online reputation and finances.
In the United States, the FTC isn't waving empty threats. In 2021, the organization sent notice to more than 700 companies, warning them of fines up to $43,792 per violation for false reviews. Just this year, the FTC fined an online clothing retailer a whopping 4.2 million for deliberately trying to hide negative reviews.
In the UK, recent consumer protection reforms have threatened to fine businesses up to 10% of their global annual revenue if found allowing false review practices.
More frequently, businesses that purchase reviews are at risk of Google Business Profile suspension. If negative reviews are detected, Google will remove the offending reviews and possibly suspend your business account entirely. In 2019, Google removed over 75 million reviews and 4 million business accounts. Suspension from Google Business Profile and the Google map pack can financially devastate businesses and cripple marketing initiatives.
On top of all the financial and legal consequences, relying on fake reviews removes opportunities for valuable feedback from real customers. Google reviews help you connect with customers, develop relationships, and improve your business offering. Purchasing online reviews removes these benefits, making building a community for your local business more difficult.
There's no way around it, you need to actually earn your Google reviews.
If it isn’t already, Google review outreach should become an essential part of your business marketing strategy. Not sure where to start? Here are 11 different strategies for collecting reviews.
Start by identifying which channels are best aligned to your business. For example, if you're a local business that relies on foot traffic, put up signs in-store or include review cards with every purchase. If you have an e-commerce store, send follow-up emails after each purchase with a custom link to leave a review.
Whatever channels you choose, make sure your outreach is consistent, personalized, and offers value to the customer.
Simply put: buying Google reviews isn't worth the risk.
You could end up with a hefty fine, lose your Google Business Profile and Map Pack listing, or even be blacklisted from Google entirely. Not to mention the loss of opportunities to connect with real customers and get valuable feedback.
There’s no shortcut to quality reviews. Grow your business profile organically by improving outreach channels to request reviews from happy customers.
Build social proof by collecting and managing reviews from customers in one place. Learn how Trustmetrics can transform your Google Business Profile reviews.