We’ve identified the top three ‘reputation killers’ of review and feedback collection.

In an age of so-called “fake news”, the credibility of online content (and commerce) is on every consumer’s mind, and it’s changing the way they decide where to spend their money.

SEO and reputation tracking firm BrightLocal found in their 2017 Consumer Review Survey that more consumers will now go straight from reading a business’ positive online reviews to visiting said business (as opposed to reading more reviews or perusing a business’ website). This suggests that consumers are turning more to in-person experiences to help them make a decision.

However, online reviews aren’t losing any ground in popularity and trust.

Customer reviews detail an individual’s experience with a business, and modern consumers are hungry for this type of information when researching a purchase.

BrightLocal’s survey has shown a steady increase in consumers using online reviews to help their selection process–from 71 percent in 2011 to 93 percent in 2017.

In fact, the survey saw a significant jump in the number of consumers who place importance on a business’ response to negative reviews, and 77 percent of respondents admitted they disregard reviews that are 3 months old or more.

So keeping this in mind, why are these three ideas reputation killers for your business?

1. “Incentivize reviews or survey responses to gather more information”

Let’s be clear: the more reviews you gather, the better. 46 percent of BrightLocal’s more than 1,000 respondents ranked quantity of reviews as second most important factor behind number one: star rating.

Unfortunately, the strategy of incentivizing reviews or survey responses not only destroys the credibility of your business, it may actually be illegal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been known to punish businesses caught faking reviews or bribing reviewers. In 2015 the FTC filed a complaint against an auto transport company for promising customers $50 discounts for reviews, then failing to disclose this to the public and advertising themselves as the “best rated” company in the industry.

Amazon required individuals receiving free products in exchange for their feedback to clearly disclose this fact in their review. In 2016, it banned the practice of incentivized reviews altogether.

For ideas on “above board” review collection that’s more effective, see ConsumerAffairs’ ebook.

2. “You don’t need to focus on public-facing feedback”

Going back to our earlier mention of consumers’ need for experience-based opinions, this one is of critical importance.

Consumers give so much credence to detailed reviews (positive or negative) because the person writing the review serves as a proxy for your prospective client. In fact, BrightLocal’s survey found that within a year, review sentiment dropped from second most important to fourth most important factor for readers.

3. “Delete or hide negative reviews”

While negative customer reviews can feel like a major blow to your business’ reputation, they offer a unique and highly effective opportunity to demonstrate your customer service to the public.

BrightLocal survey responses showed significant growth in the number of people who likely to use a business due to positive reviews, and a significant drop in the number of people who said they would avoid a business with bad reviews.

In fact, 30 percent of BrightLocal respondents said that a business’ response to an online review was a key factor in their decision making process. Responding to a positive (and especially a negative) review is a golden opportunity to show prospective customers that your business is receptive to all its customers and will provide them with the experience they’re looking for.