For firms that provide professional services, online reviews can have a significant impact on their success. People make up their mind whether to avail your professional accounting services based on the online reviews your business has received. While selecting an accounting firm, people will look at an accounting firm’s credibility, experience, expertise, and professionalism. This means that they will go through the online reviews before deciding to outsource their accounting services to you. Even though you have a good number of reviews in your favor, one negative review is sufficient to put doubt in a person’s mind. Therefore, you need to ensure that you provide excellent services and negative reviews are resolved. However, there are times when individuals or businesses may write fake online reviews about your firm that can affect your online brand image. Hence, you need to spot these fake online reviews and get rid of them.
You may wonder why these fake online reviews are written. The reasons for fake online reviews include blackmail, revenge, manipulation of ranking on search results, tackling competition, affecting your online reputation management, etc. Writing fake reviews are unethical and certainly no business should be involved in such practices. However, there are many instances where fake reviews are written and if these reviews affect your brand image, then you should be able to spot them first and then rid of them. But, before we get to how to spot review spam, let’s understand what a review spam actually is.
A review is termed as spam when it misleads viewers regarding the business and the services offered or provides incorrect information about the business and its services. Thus, a review spam can cost the business several clients and its online reputation. The following are examples of fake reviews.
A review is written by a competitor to help him and degrade his competitor’s image.
A review is written by the owner, an employee, etc. of the business and wants to create a favorable brand image by providing opinions which are not true.
A review is written by a former client who provides false feedback so that the company’s image is hampered. He may, therefore, provide inaccurate facts.
A review is written by a person just for the sake of helping or hurting a company’s image even though he has never dealt with the company before. In such a scenario, the person lies that he is a customer and has availed the services provided by the company.
A review is written when a company provides incentives to write positive reviews about it. The opinions are biased and do not reflect the true picture about a company and its services.
A review includes personal comments on a company’s staff, hate speech, etc. and so violates the guidelines of the review publishing websites.
From the above points, it’s clear that spam reviews include both positive as well as negative reviews. So, make sure that you do not get into any malpractices by adding positive reviews to enhance your online reputation. The best way to get good reviews is to provide professional and quality accounting services to your clients. If there are any differences between you and your clients, then ensure that you get them resolved before they start writing bad things about you on social platforms. Your reviews should be provided by a genuine client. The facts stated in the review should be accurate, reasonable, and fair. However, at times, you may still have clients who may not provide you with the best of reviews. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t discourage you. Additionally, these reviews should conform to the policies as stated by the platform where reviews are posted.
Let’s move on to how to spot these review spam.
If the review has the same word multiple times, then there is a high possibility that it is a spam. For example, if a review consists the words “bad services”, 3-4 times, then it is a sign that the reviewer is trying to degrade your online brand image by using the same words over and over again. A person who wants to say that your accounting services are bad will do so by saying it once or at the most two times. He will not spend his time wasting on using the same words repeatedly unless he wants to provide fake reviews.
Multiple Reviews At a Time
A clear indication that you have fake reviews is by looking at the time when they were uploaded or posted. When multiple reviews are uploaded more or less at the same time, then it means that the company may have paid to get these reviews. At times, your bookkeeping services may hardly have any reviews and then all of a sudden you see that multiple reviews are provided for a particular time period. Unless, there has been something major that has taken place such as getting featured on national news, received an award for your accounting services, conducted a PR activity or conducted a social media campaign to enhance your brand image, a sudden increase in your reviews seems suspicious. By checking the dates and the time they were uploaded, you can identify if the reviews were fake or not.
Check whether the information or the facts provided in the review are accurate. For example, a review mentions that your financial controller services are useless and inefficient. However, your accounting firm does not provide financial controller services, then it’s clear that the review is irrelevant and not real. Likewise, if a client mentions a specific transaction that none of your employees are aware of and you do not have any such record, then you can be sure that the review is a spam.
Same Reviews on Multiple Websites
Same reviews on different websites are identified as spam by Google because of duplicate content. Therefore, when you ask a customer to write reviews, make sure it is on one website.
Reviews with Links
Reviews that contain URLs can be termed as spam. This is because adding links may be a tactic used by marketers to assist them in their link building efforts. So, they add links only to boost their SEO efforts. Such reviews should get flagged and make sure you tell your customers not to add any links when they write a review for your accounting firm.
If any business or an individual threatens with a negative review only to blackmail you or exhort money from your accounting firm, then make sure that you take a note of it. You can use the documentation in case there is any negative review written by that business or an individual and get rid of the review.
If a reviewer does not provide specific information about what he disliked about your accounting services, then there is every possibility that he has written it only to harm your company’s image. For example, if a person writes “accounting services are sub-standardized”, then he should at least provide more information on what went wrong with the service provided. It can be rude behavior by one of your staff or late reports, etc. If the person doesn’t specify the reason he states the services to be sub-standardized, then you can be sure that the review is fake.
The major websites ensure that reviews do not contain hateful content or reviews that are based on personal attacks. However, if you find that a person has written a review that violates guidelines, then you need not worry about it. You can just report about such reviews and the publishing website will remove these reviews as soon as possible.
There are many other ways to spot spam reviews. Some of them may have fewer words such as “poor service” and does not specify why they mentioned the service was poor. Other reviews may have weird language choices. For instance, a Canadian-based reviewer may refer to as “the Province of Alberta” instead of “the state of Alberta.” If you are providing services in the local area, then it’s obvious that the reviewer is not a Canadian and so the review provided by him is not true.
Now that you know how to spot reviews, let’s take a look at how to get rid of them especially on large platforms.
If your accounting firm has been a victim of fake reviews, then Yelp offers guidelines for reporting such reviews. It considers quality very seriously and sets high standards when it comes to approving and publishing the reviews. Should you figure out that your accounting service has review spam, then do not delay in contacting Yelp. You can report a review and make sure that such reviews do not affect your online reputation.
You spot review spam on Google, then you can flag it by clicking the flag symbol on the review. You can use the owner response function to report reviews that violate guidelines on Google. In addition, you can contact Google My Business support and post your case in their forum for further assistance in getting the spam review resolved. A negative review on Google My Business can also affect your accounting firm’s ranking on the search results. Hence, it’s important that you get rid of review spam so that your SEO efforts are not affected.
Since Facebook is one of the largest social media platforms, it is able to attract quite a good number of reviews. The Facebook’s community standard protects businesses from any review spam. If you have too many review spam on Facebook, then you can turn off the reviews feature on your business page.
Other websites that include reviews such as Yellow Pages, Four Square, Super Pages, etc. all have their own guidelines to protect businesses from review spam and ensure that their online brand image is not affected. However, if you do not work on providing quality services with respect to bookkeeping services, tax services, financial controller services, auditing services, etc, then you are sure to get criticism on these large websites. As a result, not only the brand image is affected but attracting new clients for your business becomes difficult.
In today’s world, there are multiple other websites where businesses are being listed. You never know which website your client may visit and read reviews about your business. Moreover, if your business is listed on multiple websites, it is difficult for you to keep a track of reviews on all these websites. The best option for small businesses is to make sure that they at least keep a check on the larger websites and focus on getting rid of review spam.
Another way to counter fake online reviews is to ensure you have more than sufficient positive reviews. If you do not have sufficient time and the right expertise to spot review spam and get rid of them, then it is strongly recommended that you get in touch with an experienced digital marketing firm to assist you in this process. Remember the earlier you get rid of these review spam, the better it is. If review spam stays on the website for long, then it will become a challenging task to enhance your accounting firm’s image. Hence, to be on the safer side, taking help of a firm who has been dealing with online reputation management seems the best option for you.
Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches.
Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.