One of the key topics of discussion amongst SEO’s and local search experts for the last few months have been customer reviews online – principally those appearing on Google and Yelp.
Google has had a policy about reviews that appear in Google My Business for some time, but it appears that they are now taking ‘enforcement action’ against businesses who are openly abusing GMB guidelines. This particular case of enforcement has just occurred in the USA, but similar actions in Australia are to be expected. The case involves a Law Firm in Louisville, Kentucky – Winton & Hiestand Law Group. They have been offering free family trips to the zoo in return for posting reviews on Google. The prior Google guidelines stated ‘Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor.’ This has now been updated to include the following two statements: ‘Don’t offer or accept money in exchange for reviews’, and ‘Don’t solicit reviews from customers in bulk.’
It is fair to assume that the vast majority of those people posting a review knowing they are going to receive a ‘prize’ would be inclined to provide 5 Stars, even though this wasn’t explicitly asked for by the offending law firm. This would really irk Google, but in our opinion the people who would have been really fuming are those competing law firms who were playing fair and not ‘incentivising’ reviews – for now they can breathe easy as all but one of the reviews have been removed by Google. Heads Up Australian businesses – don’t offer prizes or incentives for reviews – just provide old fashioned good service.
Read an in depth article about this at Search Engine Land