So you’ve been diligently gathering up reviews as part of the marketing plan that’s propelling your personal training business to the top of Google’s search results.
However, a customer has just called you, because he left you a review on Google Local and he can’t see it anymore. What’s just happened?
There’s a good chance his review has been eaten by a review filter. In short, Google thinks it’s spam!
This can happen to almost anyone, and it’s definitely frustrating. The only way to prevent it from happening again is to make absolutely sure that you are following Google’s guidelines to the letter when it comes to the way that you get your reviews.
Now, if you followed the advice in my last blog post you shouldn’t be experiencing too many problems, as I was sure to give you advice that stays well within Google’s guidelines. But it’s possible you’ve seen some bad advice, or even come up with ideas of your own that might give you some trouble. So I thought it would be worthwhile to go over the things that might get your reviews removed.
As your business listing starts to gather better rankings and more attention SEO companies and reputation management companies are going to start coming out of the woodwork. Or, at least, the bad ones are–there are certainly good versions of both types of companies, but they don’t engage in telemarketing schemes.
If one of those telemarketers tells you that they’re going to generate lots and lots of great reviews for your business, run away. The only way they could possibly do this is by astroturfing, or faking reviews. This can have lots of negative consequences that go far beyond a dropped Google ranking: some attorney generals are even suing business owners who engage in this practice or who allow someone else to engage in this practice on their behalf.
It might be tempting to hand over your tablet or smart phone so that you can get the customer to leave a review while you’re there to make sure they do it. But this can get you penalized quickly.
If customers come to you that would mean that nearly all of your reviews are coming from the same IP address. Google has no way of knowing that you didn’t write those reviews yourself. And there may be subtle markers on your tablet or cell phone that tells Google that all your reviews are coming from what they would consider to be the “same place.” Just send out the e-mail that I suggested in my last blog post and let customers review you on their own time. Besides, you wouldn’t enjoy someone looking over your shoulder while you tried to write a review for them, either, so don’t do it to your customers. :)
Don’t even offer a $5.00 gift card. If someone realizes you’re engaging in this practice they might just go back to Google and flag all of your reviews as spam.
Besides, savvy customers have been known to start wringing concessions out of small business owners simply by threatening to leave a bad review. Since bad reviews can be so devastating you don’t really want to put yourself in a position of having to discount your services by 50% or more simply because someone feels like extorting you.
Instead, if a customer makes that dubious “offer” you can point out that offering them such a discount in exchange for a review is actually a violation of Google’s terms of services, so you simply don’t do it for anyone, period.
If you actually have employees at your fitness business then you want to make sure that they know that they should not try to write reviews on your behalf. While you might appreciate their show of support there’s a good chance that Google will figure out who they are and where they work. Our digital footprints are all broader and longer than we all like to think.
Besides, employees often leave the kinds of over-the-top positive reviews that are very easy to pinpoint as fake, which means that customers will be turned off by them rather than motivated by them.
Sometimes you do everything right and a review disappears anyway. Google has been known to “misplace” reviews on accident, and nobody outside of Google really knows why.
If that happens to you then you can’t really get stressed out about it. This is one of the reasons why you’re diversifying your review strategy in the first place, and one of the reasons why you’re sending your customers to multiple portals. It helps you maximize your chances of getting the word out there while minimizing the effects of a loss, or even a review that is less-than-stellar if you get one in spite of all of your precautions.
Remember, reviews are just one part of your marketing strategy, so you don’t want to get too fixated on them. They’re important, but you don’t have to become obsessively focused on them, either.