Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:
You’re trying to grow your small, local business and notice some potential customers reach out to you because of your Google reviews. Sounds awesome so far!
But maybe the reviews aren’t coming in fast enough and you won’t hit your sales targets if you can’t match how many positive reviews your competitors have.
Or perhaps you get a negative review which makes your business look bad. Maybe it’s even fake because you either don’t recognize the customer or they’re lying about their experience.
Either way, you’ll want to do all you can to “bury” that bad review and inject some positivity into your Google My Business profile.
If any of the above circumstances resonate with you, you’ve probably asked yourself the following questions before:
According to online review statistics, reviews impact the buying decisions of 97% of people. As well, potential customers read an average of ten reviews before making a commitment.
So it’s natural to ask if you can buy Google reviews.
A common motivation for buying Google reviews is to make up for getting negative reviews.
Let’s dig into this motivation to figure out if you should buy Google reviews at all. Then we’ll discuss the downsides of buying reviews plus look at what the Google Reviews Policy says.
We’ll finish off by considering how you can invest in your reputation the right way!
Getting a negative review can feel like a disaster. You put in so much effort into building a company and providing quality service to your customers only to get criticized online.
And as soon as those negative reviews pile up, they’ll decrease your star rating and tank your website’s Google rankings. This hurts your ability to get more customers.
Receiving lots of positive reviews is a great way to offset negative reviews. But for many business owners, getting positive reviews isn’t exactly quick and easy.
But getting more reviews works best as a proactive approach to help put your business over the top on Google.
As a reaction to getting negative reviews, buying reviews will almost certainly backfire.
Google is smart enough to know when you’re reacting to recent negative reviews by obtaining a slew of sudden positive reviews that look fishy.
Simply put, Google’s machine-learning algorithms look for and flag “abnormal user activity” from customers and businesses.
When you get a negative review, first you should determine if it’s real or fake.
If you think it’s fake, make sure you know how to report fake Google reviews. Reporting the review to Google should always be your first course of action.
If a negative review is real, the best approach is to provide a response to the reviewer—as long as it’s courteous and sincere.
It’ll enable you to tell your side of the story for future customers to consider when they’re reading the review. And replying professionally and respectfully will leave a good impression.
For further guidance, check out our guide on how to respond to a negative review.
The Google Reviews Policy is Google’s terms of service for its platform for customers to leave reviews and for businesses to get reviews.
Last year alone, according to how Google enforces their Reviews Policy, Google removed approximately 55 million reviews and almost 3 million businesses for policy violations.
Since it’s aimed at two groups, customers and businesses, the Google Reviews Policy itself is split into two categories.
The first one outlines what qualifies as a real/appropriate or fake/inappropriate review from a customer. We explain this in our article on fake Google reviews.
The second part of the Google Reviews Policy prohibits what businesses can do for receiving and soliciting reviews.
So, what does Google think about buying reviews? Is buying reviews on Google allowed?
Here’s what the Google Reviews Policy says:
Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.
This policy means that you can’t prevent customers from leaving a negative review. Also, when asking for reviews, you can’t only ask those whom you think will write a positive one.
This latter point might sound odd, but it’s targeting a practice known as review-gating.
Review-gating is prompting someone to write a review after they’ve told you about their positive customer experience but not offering that same prompt to an unhappy customer.
This doesn’t mean you must ask unhappy customers to review your business, but if you’re asking already-satisfied customers, Google at least requires an equal playing field.
Don’t solicit reviews from customers in bulk.
This rule is pretty simple. If you’re going to send out review invites, don’t, for example, send a mass email.
And this policy could have implications for buying reviews as well. Many bought reviews are offered in bulk—which is a warning sign for Google’s algorithms to flag your account.
(By the way, NiceJob’s reputation marketing software to help you get more reviews doesn’t do either review-gating or bulk collection, so you can rest assured we’ve got your back.)
Don’t offer or accept money in exchange for reviews.
This rule is the big one that mostly answers the question if you can buy Google reviews.
And the answer is, as you can see, not really.
Specifically, you can’t offer liquid assets directly to customers on the condition that they’ll review your business.
This includes cash, gift cards, discounts and prizes or rewards with a monetary value; hence my use of the term “liquid assets.”
So we know that Google doesn’t take too kindly to buying reviews.
If they uncover that you are review-gating, bulk-collecting or directly paying customers for reviews, they can delete reviews and ban your company’s Google My Business profile.
And losing your Google My Business profile hurts your ability to rank on Google Search and disqualifies your business from Local Services by Google.
Not to mention the fact that without a Google My Business profile, you can say goodbye to online reviews.
As to the question of whether buying reviews is legal, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has fined companies for buying fake reviews in the past.
United States Code empowers the FTC to fine businesses for either “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce” or “the dissemination of any false advertisement.”
So if you directly pay for a review that you know or ought to know is also fake, you could face some financial woes with the government.
By now you might be asking yourself if it’s possible to spend resources on getting reviews without violating the Google Reviews Policy.
After all, as long as they’re playing by the rules of the game, shouldn’t business owners be allowed to do what they can to grow their business and get the reputation they deserve?
Let’s overview your options. Fear not, there are still ways to incentivize customers for reviews or to invest resources into getting more reviews!
We know now that Google prohibits the practice of paying customers directly for reviews.
But there’s nothing wrong with creating a promotion that offers to make a charity donation for every review you receive.
It can inspire customers who care about a particular cause and also create good press for your business. That’s a win-win!
Just be sure to still avoid Google’s other policies on review-gating and bulk-collecting and you’re good to go!
Not all review platforms like Google forbid the practice of buying reviews.
For example, Capterra—which NiceJob also integrates with to collect reviews—offers $10 gift cards to verified customers if they write a review for you.
And although Capterra is a paid service you’ll have to sign up for, as part of those services, they’ll cover the costs of the gift cards for you.
When it comes to the authenticity of reviews, Google only requires that reviewers be legitimate customers reflecting on an actual experience with your company.
So reviews that are fake because they’re written by either people who weren’t even customers or by those who make things up are subject for removal.
These types of fake reviews would obviously include reviews that you buy.
But what about investing in getting more reviews from actual customers?
Instead of paying customers directly, leveraging tools to help you get more reviews from your customers is the safe and smart way to win more sales and grow your business.
NiceJob’s reputation marketing software uses sophisticated technology to send your customers review requests that doubles your success rate from manual requests.
It also enables you to share positive reviews across social media and on your website to promote your reputation and increase your revenue.
So with NiceJob, you can invest your resources wisely to get more reviews—without the dreaded Google Reviews Policy anxiety!