The Validity of 5-Star Google Reviews

The Validity of 5-Star Google Reviews

Guest writer Roy Lapa walks us through the ins and outs of feedback. We have all seen reviews posted online, but how can we measure the validity of 5-star Google reviews?

Can you trust them? Yes, with some precautions. Google actively updates, examines, and penalizes most false or biased reviews. Nevertheless, despite their best efforts to curb these actions, this behavior persists, and customers and businesses alike experience the negative effects.

Google wants its reviews to reflect the real experiences and opinions of its users and not be the result of either swaying or other forms of incentive. If Google discovers that a company offered incentives in exchange for reviews, it has the right not only to remove those reviews but also to suspend the company’s account. Here are three recent encounters I have had: 

Hotel Reviews vs. Hotel Experience

We booked a hotel for employees going on a work trip to a new region based on Google reviews. After the trip, when we performed a post-event review, one of the strikingly negative comments revolved around the hotel experience. Descriptions by the employees who stayed at the hotel depicted a dramatically different encounter than what we read within the Google reviews. As we investigated deeper, we found what seemed to be a lot of reviews from people who did not appear to exist. Though we did not do a full forensic dive, we concluded that the business had a substantial number of reviews which were not authentic. 

Marketers Give Advice on Paid or Influenced Google Reviews

Let us start with a definition of marketing from the American Marketing Association: 

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. 

Although the word ‘value’ is overused and rarely assessed, I am positive that customers would not value Google reviews unless they provided a complete representation, without bias, of the business they were considering engaging with. Unfortunately, I recently discovered the opposite within the marketing agency industry, and it is heartbreaking to see because it harms all professional and ethical marketers. Marketing strategies which focus on obtaining genuine reviews are a fantastic approach; however, be wary if the marketing recommendation you receive for your business includes any indication of achieving 5-star reviews as the primary goal.

Financial Consulting Firm Requests 5-Star Google Reviews or No Review at All

When a powerful group tells its members they are required to act a certain way or else, this is clear positional power at play and full of bias. This firm has an exceptionally large following, but in this instance, it has, unfortunately, lost focus on one of its foundational values of being ethical. Discouraging open and critical yet true feedback leads to several major negatives that have the potential to become monsters later. Here are two to contemplate:

  1. Focusing solely on the outcome will result in a win-at-all-costs mentality. The obvious downfall here is in crossing the ethical line.
  2. Short term gains in Google rankings and attracting more customers will eventually lead to long term consequences, such as being blocked by Google, being found out by customers or prospects, harming your reputation, and sacrificing your values.

 5-Star Conclusion

  1. Build a preferred online reputation on solid ground with real and unbiased reviews. 
  2. Make the process of collecting all customer feedback effortless.
  3. Create a system which will quickly respond to and manage negative reviews. 
  4. Update the Google review, if you are able, to satisfy an unhappy customer’s negative review.
  5. Alert Google right away if you have reason to believe that the review is fake.
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