Examples of businesses misusing reviews
Five years ago reviews in the UK
were unregulated; as a result all kinds of questionable practices became
commonplace. Now, we are delighted to say, reviews are regulated by the
Competition and Markets Authority.
In this article we will highlight
some of these practices and we strongly suggest that those yet to join HelpHound
use this as a checklist (if you are a HelpHound client you will not need to
concern yourself – except, perhaps, to see if a competitor is non-compliant!).
the most common: it’s often because the business has received a negative review
and they have suddenly realized they need to engage. So what would any normal
business do? It will ask its staff to ask its most reliable customers to post a
glowing review. Normal? Yes. Compliant? No.
or no – reviews over a period of years, then a negative, hotly followed by a
flurry of positives.
variant of cherry-picking: the business asks all of its customers to write a
review to a small independent reviews site – after that they only invite those
who have posted a five star review to copy it to Google. Ouch!
average score on a less well-known site and then a great score on Google, but
from fewer reviews.
Mis-describing testimonials as reviews
It is simple: a ‘review’ must be verified by an external source. If it is not it is a testimonial, and must not be described as a review. We have seen multiple examples of such misleading misdescription – one where the testimonials in question are even being used to hoodwink Google into displaying a star rating in natural search.
Giveaways: If the ‘review’ is taken from an independent site and displayed on the business’s site it will appear twice if pasted into Google search: once on each site; if it does not, it is not a review.
for posting a review is frowned on by most review platforms, and against the
T&Cs of some. It can also backfire: we recently saw a negative review of a
business mentioning the reward that had been offered – not good PR (see below). Rewards can
be OK in certain circumstances, but everyone must qualify for the reward, those
posting negative reviews included.
reviews mentioning the reward (see screenshot below)
‘rewarding’ really – how about the business that hosted a party for graduates
and then asked their guests to post a review? Unfortunately multiple reviewers
used their reviews as an opportunity to thank the business for its hospitality
– making clear that they were not bona-fide clients of the business.
mentions in the review – ‘thank you for the Amazon voucher’ or ‘I look forward
to receiving my reward’
that filters reviews
– under CMA rules, anyone must be able to post a review at any time – any
system – or business using such a system – that prevents that, however well-meaning, is non-compliant. It will also
drive unhappy customers to post to a site that does allow them to post as and
when they want – and that site? Google, of course.
showing external reviews on the business’s own site
you might think – inviting reviews to an external site and then showing only
the positive ones on the business’s own site.
simple cross-check shows this up
testimonials as reviews
this frequently. A review is, by definition, independently verified by an outside agency, a
testimonial is invited and displayed by the business alone and the business has
total control over what is displayed.
‘reviews’ lack attribution
There are two messages here: the first is that whatever reviews system your business adopts it must be compliant with the CMA regulations (they have the force of law). The second is to use this article as a checklist against which to examine any system you might be tempted to use.
Alternatively you can speak to us. We have no axe to grind other than our clients’ best interests – so you can be sure of receiving a reliable answer.