Opening yourself up to criticism can be a scary thing. You could pour your heart and soul into your work, only to have it ripped to shreds by a few choice words in the comments section.
It’s not all negative though, if you do good work, often people will look for a way to positively appraise you, be it through great reviews or amazing testimonials.
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Generating a positive public opinion of your brand is a vital step towards brand management. The more people talk positively about you, the better chance your site has of rising naturally up the rankings.
People trust other people’s recommendations, especially when it comes to sales. Go on any e-commerce site and you’ll notice the results are heavily influenced by people’s ratings and reviews. Some sites even show you what others have brought as well, because people with the same tastes often share an interest in the same products.
The fact of the matter is people drive conversions. More importantly, people drive ideas. With this in mind it’s understandable why reviews are held in such high regard, and why some sites attempt to take, for want of a better word, shortcuts when it comes to getting great reviews.
By ‘shortcuts’ I essentially mean fabricated testimonials. Brands can hire reputation management companies (and sometimes slightly more grey-hat SEOs) to boost the brand’s image by writing brilliant reviews. Obviously this is search engine manipulation; something Google and Co. largely tend to frown upon.
This is why Google is now taking a stand. They’re updating their spam detection algorithms to identify and remove fake reviews on their own social network, Google+. The new algorithm will specifically target businesses Google+ Local pages, as these are where the reviews for businesses are typically stored.
In order to ensure the reviews on local pages are authentic signifiers of quality, Google are asking for “all reviews [to] come from first-hand experience”. The search engine giant are advising that businesses let users carry out their own reviews when they are ready, and not force them to review their experience whilst they are still on the premises. Businesses were also warned against bribing customers for good reviews with rewards or offers.
What can users do to ensure their comments aren’t removed? Well, Google have already said won’t be removing negative comments, so you’re safe if you didn’t enjoy your experience. If you want to give a glowing review though, be as honest and specific as possible, and try to avoid links in your comment. Talk about the exact place you went to, mention that member of staff’s name that made the trip so memorable. You comment will not only make the business look good, it’ll also make that specific place and person feel good as well.
It looks as if Google are doing a lot to encourage honesty across the web. Although they’re only starting with Google+ for now, if their algorithms are successful don’t be surprised to see them rolled out across the web in no time.