— Susan Bird - Kelowna based blogger and marketing strategist - recently spoke out against reputation management companies offering to write fake reviews for businesses. Although not always outsourced to shady reputation management companies, experts tell us that having fake positive reviews written is - sadly - not an uncommon practice.
According to Bird, as the world gets more and more transparent online, the reputation management industry is becoming more and more profitable, and - consequently - more shady as well. Prime target customers are businesses whose poor customer service records are catching up to them, all the way to individuals whose criminal mugshot past won't let them find employment.
"Most reputation management sales people make it sound like they are going to take those not so pleasant writeups down or make them disappear from the internet, but more often than not they can't do that. It's not like they own the sites this negative information is on" Bird says.
All these companies really can do - according to Bird - is create positive writeups on other sites and - using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics - boost those new writeups to the first page of the major search engines. Doing so they push the not so pleasant or negative listings off the first page. So when someone does a name search, chances of them seeing the questionable or negative listings are going to be very slim.
"There is nothing wrong with that and I have no beef doing that" insists Bird. "As long as the positive information being said is true, why not overpower the negativity with positiveness? It's simply a good business practice to shine the light on positivity instead of negativity."
"What I have a real problem with though is when businesses coerce their staff or their reputation management company to leave them glowing reviews to make them sound better than they really are. Review sites are meant to give consumers honest feedback on what others experienced at that place of business. It's just wrong when consumers have to question the validity of a positive review, and we're slowly getting to a point where consumers rightfully are questioning them."
Bird, who has a long history of working with SEODagger.com - a reputable Kelowna SEO company - said she is constantly asked by clients to flood their online review listings with positive reviews, but says she always turns them down saying her morrals will not let her do that.
"It's not just wrong," Bird continues "it's highly illegal. At least in Canada it is. By leaving a ton of positive yet fake reviews - to bury legitimate negative reviews - you're misleading potential customers. You're clouding their judgement which ultimately has them make a buying decision based on potentially deceitful information. It's a highly unethical practice that will sooner or later catch up to the business."
Bird went on to say that she enjoys helping businesses get more customers through legitimate SEO practices, but says doing so usually amplifies both the good and the bad of a company. Meaning, the only true way to improve a reputation online is to step up the game and consistently provide a better overall customer experience.
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