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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
Hey - It’s time to join the thousands of other dealer professionals on DrivingSales. Create an account so you can get full access to the articles, discussions and people that are shaping the future of the automotive industry.
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DJ Snyder

DJ Snyder

Exclusive Blog Posts

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Don't Trust Strangers to Write Online Reviews

We all want shining, honest reviews on every single business listing site online. Who wouldn’t?

People who have never heard of your brand and are seeking the products and services you can offer are going to search online. According to AdWeek, 81 percent of shoppers start their research online before making a purchase.

And online review sites are more influential than the information on your own website. Here are some statistics Neil Patel dug up.

There are tons of services online that help you outsource and crowdsource fake online reviews. Bloggers are often paid for creating Wikipedia pages and writing positive business reviews on Yelp, Google Maps, and other review sites.

While these services may provide results, the content is usually obviously a fake, paid promotional spot.

It’s like buying followers on Twitter. It may make you feel good, but nobody’s buying it. We all know you bought your following and it’s fake.

Instead, you should focus on encouraging current clients, business partners, employees, and the actual people you do business with to join in your online community. This is how truly sustainable online communities are built - not just by following the technical skills of SEO and web design.

Empty Promises and Reduced ROI

In every industry, there are black hat and white hat methods to get ahead. Black hat methods are against the rules and often illegal, while white hat methods follow all regulations and still get the job done.

Much like in your favorite movie, the white hat tactics build a more solid and sustainable foundation for your organization.

On social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, black hat methods can get your account banned, destroying all the time and effort poured into building your followers.

In software and hardware engineering, black hat techniques can get your company fined at a best case and get you imprisoned or killed in the worst.

Black hat SEO firms use site listing tactics that do raise your ranking and appear to be working. However, over time (even if it takes a few years), you’ll be discovered and removed from the listing - literally taken off the map.

BBC, JCPenney, Overstock, Rap Genius, Mozilla, BMW, WordPress, and countless other established brands, businesses, and organizations have been banned, lowered, or suspended from Google search results for various black hat tactics. Nobody is safe from the banhammer.

Google bans are particularly harsh, because YouTube, Blogger, Maps, Places, AdWords, AdSense, Gmail, Drive, Docs, and other online services are all interconnected, and some bans go beyond the service you offended.

Can you imagine being locked out of your email or cloud services because you used black hat techniques on Google Maps?

The money you spend on black hat SEO firms and snake oil salesmen will have an artificially inflated short-term ROI with no real returns.

The Right Way to Get Online Reviews

Instead of throwing money down the drain on black hat tactics, trust agencies that only employ white hat tactics online.

When you buy something, you look to a trusted opinion, whether it’s journalists writing online reviews or the opinion of friends, family, coworkers, clients, and other people in your network.

A whopping 90 percent of customers trust recommendations from connections, while only 30 percent trust messages from a brand.

Online review sites serve to bridge that gap between what you’re saying and what everyone else thinks. Although 28 percent of people still don’t trust online reviews, you can build a credible brand reputation.

For example, you can’t buy online reviews, but you can host your own to encourage people to rate your business on your hosted web page.

It’s also acceptable to print your profile URL for different review sites on receipts to encourage reviews. Asking in person is after a transaction, printing a reminder in newsletters and email blasts, and other PR-type activities are all perfectly acceptable ways of encouraging online reviews.

Experienced PR agencies know emailing announcements and media review units to journalists and bloggers is an effective way of encouraging online reviews beyond just review sites. A great review from a trusted critic for an established media brand with a large following is just as effective as a review on an a user-generated site.

In fact, these reviews are often even more in-depth, honest, and factual than you could have paid for yourself.

To find legitimate journalists, sign up for the biggest trade shows in your industry. Whether automotive, electronics, video games, apps, clothing, home and garden, outdoor gear, food, or anything in between, there’s at least a handful of conventions and trade shows happening that attract media.

Attending one of these events gets you access to media email lists you can contact to display your products or allow them to demo them on the show floor if you can afford to exhibit.

Otherwise, research the top-ranking blogs in your industry and get a hold of these influencers to get your product reviewed far and wide.

Conclusion

While online reviews are a great way to inform consumers and clients about the quality of your business, there are a lot of black hat techniques employed in the industry that can ruin your brand reputation and get you removed from listing sites.

Instead of outsourcing or crowdsourcing online reviews from strangers, work with transparent agencies that employ white hat techniques to draw real reviews the right way.

After a year or two of proper grinding, you’ll have a steady diet of positive, honest reviews throughout both online and traditional media.

What SEO techniques have you been using to stay at the top of the rankings?

Colin Thomas

Fake reviews are so obvious and obnoxious. I've seen some of the worst attempts to boost review stats. I've even seen dealerships employees writing reviews on accounts that have their name and photos listed. Even worse, I've seen (and been a part of) a dealership that paid their employees to write reviews and compensated them at $20 a pop for any friends of family members they could enlist to do the same, in some cases these reviews link back to the employee's social media profile clearly stating they are an employee of that dealership. The result is a seemingly high customer satisfaction from a quick glance. And unfortunately, many of the valid reviews that document the more accurate customer experiences and review bribery (this practice is alive and well) to customers get buried in the filtered reviews that are "not currently recommended"  I wish review sites like Yelp would  fix issues with those stores that build an online reputation based on fraud. People like this contribute to the misconception that our industry as a whole is untrustworthy. 

Stephen Bright

@ Colin Thomas. Unfortunately that is true. But I've seen that there are online services, where any company can get not just text but also video reviews for as low as $5. Which is really bad for the customers, who are looking for real reviews.

Colin Thomas

I know. I've seen them too. It's a quick fix and creates a long-term problem. As crafty as they are written most people can spot them from a mile away 

DJ Snyder

This post was inspired by a Facebook post someone made. They requested that every Facebook friend go and write a review for him. 

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