Using Contests Can See Your Google Reviews Removed
Google reviews are a key way for clients to learn about your services and hear about other customer experiences first hand. You may have been looking at your business’ Google reviews recently and wondering ‘how can I get more reviews?’. If you have been wondering about getting more positive Google reviews for your business, let this blog be a word of warning: do not use a contest to get more reviews! Let me tell you why.
While contests can be a great way to foster excitement and attention for your business, you need to be very careful with what action you are asking your customers to take. On social media, feel free to ask them to like, share and comment in return for a prize. You can even ask your clients to share their favourite thing about your business, tag you in a photo, or use your unique hashtag. But do not use incentives or prizes to foster client reviews. Just don’t.
Recently, a law firm in the United States did just this. They hosted multiple contests and giveaways that asked clients to author a Google review in return for entries into the contest. Before it was found out that the firm was using incentives to get more reviews, they had around 100 Google reviews. And now? Just one review. That’s right, because the firm was found to be giving away zoo passes in return for writing a Google review, the majority of their existing reviews were removed by Google. The firm’s Facebook page also has a high number of reviews (around 1000 5-star reviews), most of which probably also come from incentive programs.
While Facebook doesn’t seem to have strict guidelines about this type of activity, Google certainly does. They currently have written guidelines stating that businesses should not use reviews for advertising, should not include promotional or commercial content in reviews, should not offer or accept money for reviews, and should not solicit reviews from clients in bulk. It seems as though Google takes these guidelines very seriously as they were recently revised, so be sure to adhere to them.
While it isn’t clear whether businesses are allowed to offer contests or prizes directed at an individual rather than a group also violates these guidelines, it is still wise to be careful. In the case of the US firm, Google felt that this situation represented bulk solicitation of reviews. Because of this, the reviews were removed.
The firm never claimed whether they were trying to maliciously trick the system, or simply making an honest marketing mistake, but either way their actions were penalized. This is a great opportunity for you to learn from their mistakes – but don’t let this scare you too much. While you most certainly should not use incentives to get reviews, don’t be shy in asking individual clients to review your business (just do not do so in bulk).
I know that it seems as if Google has the strictest regulation on running contest for reviews, but think twice before trying to do this on other sites such as Yelp. Believe it or not, Yelp has even stricter rules and will send consumer alerts to users who are viewing a business that has violated policy. This can seriously damage trust between your clients and your business – so again, just don’t do it!