The Power Of (Real) User Reviews

    June 14, 2007

WebProNews recently introduced a “Comments” section at the tail of each article, and it’s been great to hear from our readers.  It’s also been fun to converse with company reps.  But every so often, there comes a comment – usually from an anonymous individual – that is just a little too biased, and perhaps a little too informed, to be believable.  This is bad.

Search Engine Guide’s Paul Zahn, author of an article titled, “Fake User Reviews Can Really Hurt Your Brand,” would probably agree.  In reference to those fake reviews, he writes, “This isn’t just search engine manipulation.  It’s user manipulation, and that’s personal.  If I go to Yahoo Local (Yahoo isn’t the only victim), there will be multiple listings for the same business with over 70 canned five-star reviews.”

For better or for worse, only one or two WebProNews threads have approached 70 comments in length, and – this is definitely “for better” – we’ve never gotten that many spammy remarks.  Yet, as Zahn points out, “If I were a potential customer and saw these results and testimonials, I’d run away.  When I get tired, I’d run faster and warn everyone I could along the way to stay away from that brand.”

Yet that doesn’t mean business owners have to give up on the power of user reviews.  Zahn writes, “To any business, please, please encourage your satisfied clients or customers to go into places like Citysearch, Yahoo Local, Yelp, or Insider Pages and give real reviews!”

He notes, “Some may only give you four out of five stars.  Some may include typos.  Some may even misspell your name!  This is all fine.  Consumers are smart.  As long as there is honest information about you, consumers will make their own decisions and gain that trust before they even call you.”

Heck, even consumers who aren’t smart (come on, we know they’re out there) can help your brand.  When someone writes, “shut up.  APPLE F*!@$*% ROCKS!!” after an article, it’s not necessarily constructive, but it’s evidence that someone strongly likes Apple.

Authentic reviews are good.  False ones are not.  Govern yourself, and your business, accordingly.