Whether you’re a dry cleaner or a dentist, you need positive online reviews from people who have used and liked your goods and services. The more of them you get, the better off you are: they help drive new business, and help you rank in Google search results.

The quest for more and better online reviews has led some businesses to try to manipulate the process: engaging in shady practices that, in the long run, do more harm than good. These practices include paying for positive reviews, offering incentives to customers, and recruiting friends or family members to leave you glowing reviews.

Bad ideas, one and all. Trying to influence online reviews with contests or other incentives is against Google’s Terms of Service. When any business does it, it is almost guaranteed to result in Google deleting the reviews. They could also be fined by the Federal Trade Commission.

It’s tempting to think Google won’t find out, but the chances are they will. Someone will turn you in. It might be an unhappy customer, a former employee, or one of your competitors. But someone is probably going to notice, understand it’s against the rules, and notify Google. It happens all the time.

Strategies that run afoul of Google policy include:

  • Review contests. This strategy enters reviewers into a contest. Google explicitly prohibits offering incentives – products, money, or other prizes – in exchange for reviews.
  • Offering free or discounted services. Google forbids businesses from offering reviewers discounts or free services for their reviews, even if it’s something inexpensive.
  • Review-gating. With this practice, a business takes customer reviews, but only the positive ones are posted online.
  • Review swaps. You review my business, I’ll review yours: that’s the basic idea. It may not be a deal with the devil, but it too is against Google’s TOS, which says clearly that reviews should reflect a genuine customer experience.

Each of these practices will result in some kind of penalty from Google, usually the deletion of the reviews in question.

Google, as a search engine, loves fresh content. This is one of important things about reviews, and why you should be seeking new and positive ones. It just needs to be done within the guidelines. As we described in a previous blog post, there are simple, effective techniques you can use to boost the quality and quantity of your Google reviews.

Getting your practice noticed by potential customers is an ongoing challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. ProspectaMarketing is an Internet marketing firm specializing in helping dental practices reach their audience. We use the tools of Internet search marketing to reach key prospects looking for what your practice has to offer. Our unique and thorough approach provides visibility, financial accountability, and ongoing refinement and improvement. You can find out more by contacting Lane Anderson toll-free at 1-877-322-4440 Ext 101, by email using the form on our Contact Us page, or online at ProspectaMarketing.com.