Online reviews can make or break your brand. This is why businesses feel the pressure to manipulate the review process through practices such as “review gating.” But this can cause more harm than good in the long run.
Keep reading to find out how review gating can undermine the integrity of your reviews and negatively impact your online presence and brand credibility.
What Is Review Gating?
Before we discuss why review gating is a harmful reputation management practice, let’s first take the time to understand what the term actually means. Review gating is a process by which companies cherry-pick positive reviews to display on review sites. This is usually done by requesting feedback privately and then directing customers to leave a review based on their response.
Review gating can be done in several ways, including selectively redirecting customers who answer “Yes” to questions like, “Are you satisfied with our service?” to review sites or by offering incentives to customers for leaving positive reviews.
But remember, filtering out unhappy customers to prevent negative reviews can adversely affect how prospective customers and search engines, like Google, view you. Even leading review and messaging platforms like Yelp are firmly against review gating.
What Is Google’s Policy for Review Gating?
Review gating prevents people from getting an accurate picture of how customers feel about your products and services. This goes against Google’s commitment to providing users with relevant and trustworthy information.
So in a bid to ensure that reviews reflect the authentic experience customers have had with the business, Google has updated its user content policy to explicitly prohibit brands from discouraging negative reviews or soliciting only positive reviews.
You might think it might be difficult for Google to track review gating, but that is not the case. We don’t know exactly how, but review gating can be detected by Google’s algorithm. It is safe to assume that consistent 5-star only reviews might be a red flag for Google and any potential customers. Additionally, other users can report reviews to Google for investigation.
If Google finds you guilty of review gating, the platform will remove all your Google reviews from the very beginning. This will subsequently affect search engine rankings, and you will lose customer trust. Clearly, review gating is not worth the risk.
How Does Yelp Deal with Review Gating?
Yelp has been very clear on the fact that its platform aims to highlight reviews from people who want to share their authentic experiences without being coerced in any way. This means there is no room for review gating on the platform. The review-sharing platform’s policy discourages soliciting reviews in any form, and you could be heavily penalized if you are found to be manipulating review responses.
Customers Value Honesty and Transparency
Besides being penalized by Google or Yelp, there is another crucial factor you need to consider before relying on review gating to improve your overall ratings—your prospective and existing customers.
Customers rely heavily on reviews before buying a product online, and sometimes, they even check multiple reviews before coming to a decision. If a potential customer only finds positive reviews about your products and services (or 5-stars on Google, but low ratings everywhere else), they are more likely to believe that the reviews are fake. This can ruin the credibility of all the reviews they find about your business. After all, once you lose your customers’ trust, it is gone forever.
The best way to deal with reviews is to be honest. Don’t try to filter out or hide negative reviews; instead, look at them as an opportunity to convert negative experiences into positive ones. You need to have a review response strategy in place to tackle negative reviews promptly and professionally.
How to Tackle Negative Reviews?
Your first response to negative reviews should always be public, so people know that you are willing to listen and proactively solve customer concerns. After this, reach out to them in person via phone call, email, or private messaging, and take the necessary steps to fix the problem at hand. Remember to follow up with the client after the issue has been solved, as this might inspire them to update the original review with a more positive message.
How you react to negative reviews plays a huge role in how your brand is viewed online. We have top-notch Reputation Management tools that can help your business stay on top of positive and negative reviews while allowing you to present your honest and authentic self to clients. Contact us for more information.