Thanks to the internet, we cannot review a vast number of products in a very short period of time. Whenever someone has a question about a product or service, their first instinct is to head to the web browser of their choice. They type in a few words, and in the blink of an eye, thousands upon thousands of people are providing them with information about the thing they are interested in. These reviews can lead to a good or bad online reputation.
That’s right, with everything that the internet is useful for, there is some bad that can come along with it. If you have bad reviews on the internet, you will undoubtedly suffer at the hands of people who leave scathing reviews. These reviews can cost you a business in the long run. Some companies have taken it upon themselves to provide customers with reviews on their website. The question is, where are all the negative reviews.
In this blog, I am going to dive into the dangerous world of review gating. I will discuss how companies are using it, why companies are using it, and how it affects their bottom line. So, join me for a short discussion on review gating and how it can hurt your business.
Before we get started, we must first understand what review gating is. Review gating is the practice by businesses to suppress negative reviews before they start. Essentially, enterprises instruct customers to leave good reviews on their page and customers with bad reviews to send them to an online form. The company only sees this online form. That means that anyone looking to find honest reviews about a product will only find good things being said.
The good part about this is that management is directly informed about negative things that are going on in their store. The bad part is that no one else can see this. Why is that bad? Well, if a customer has no idea about how a company does business, they may be in for a rude awakening when it comes time to purchase a product or use a service provided by that business. There is something to be said for public reviews. They do keep a business honest about the way they do business.
Examples of Review Gating
Now that we understand what review gating is, we can discuss business’s everyday practices to gate customer reviews.
The first one is the most common example. The customer will be given a comment card that they are instructed to use the internet for. Upon navigating to the company’s landing page, they will be greeted with a box and required to enter a sentiment question. With a complex set of algorithms, the program will let the company know if the customer is likely to leave a positive or negative review. If it is determined that you are likely to leave a positive review, your webpage will update to a place that you can leave a positive comment. Conversely, if the program feels you are going to say something wrong about the company, you will be directed to a form that you can fill out and let the company know of your displeasure with them.
Another method they use is by providing the customer with a reward for a useful review. Customers that leave a bad review will not be rewarded with anything. The way they do this is by providing you with a similar comment card as the previous example. You go to a website and are presented with an opportunity to leave a review. However, they inform you that you will get a percentage or dollar amount off emailed to you if you provide a useful review and your email address. This method works twice as well as the above way for two reasons. The first reason is they are now in possession of your email address (which they can use to send you mail or possibly even sell it to another company). The second reason is you are more likely to say nice things to be rewarded with a prize.
Earlier this year, Google has begun to punish companies with websites that use these practices. They can be challenging to track down, but they punish them severely once they know who they are.
You may be asking yourself how a website can be punished. It is quite simple. The website will be dropped in ranking. While most of the Google process is automated, there can still be operator input. They simply attach demerit points to your website for attempting to manipulate the results pages.
By this point, you must be asking what it is you can do to influence great reviews. It is quite simple; all you need to do is the right thing for your customers. Ensure that you provide them with the service you would expect if you were going into your business.
Remember, there are going to be a certain number of customers that will never be happy. They will leave a bad review if you don’t let them walk out of the store paying anything. Accept that you will have negative reviews. Customers expect that you are not going to have a five-star rating. In fact, having a five-star rating has proven to be more detrimental than having a three-star rating. Everyone knows that you can’t do everything right all the time.
Online reputation is based on how well you interact with your customers. Blocking them from real reviews is not going to do you a lot of good. Customers will eventually catch on to the fact that you couldn’t possibly have a five-star rating with the millions of customers that you serve. Additionally, Google will start to penalize you when and if they ever discover what you are doing. The risks associated with review gating are not worth it. All you need to do is do right by your customers, and the positive reviews will flow in.