Are online reviews useful and reliable for SEO?
Online reviews are intended as an indication of how customers have experienced the services of a company or entrepreneur. But as many of us have noticed, they are not always reliable or representative. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Reviews are for sale
- Reviews are sometimes not specific
- Reviews are only a momentary snapshot but can remain visible for years to come
- Reviews can be manipulated
- Reviews can be written to harm someone
Table of Contents
A common Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) trick is to buy reviews. Despite the fact that search engines generally find out about this, unfortunately, this is still done a lot.
Providers of fake reviews usually use very cheap labor from third-world countries to write a positive review manually in turn. You can have this done for an App in the App stores so that it is higher ranked or for articles, but also for products, social media posts, or your site.
We strongly advise against buying reviews! This can cause huge damage to your SEO and even lead to a search engine penalty.
It is well known that many small restaurants and resorts ask their friends and acquaintances for positive reviews. They also add positive reviews under different fake email addresses and names themselves.
The chance that search engines will notice this is small, as long as you don’t apply it on a large scale. This form of obtaining positive reviews has little but does have a positive effect on the SEO of your site or your social media ranking.
Reviews are sometimes not specific
Many reviews sometimes only give an overall grade. Of course, this can never give a good picture of the perception of the visitor. It is better to ask for a rating of 1 to 5 for specific parts of your service or offer.
If you leave a hotel review, for example, the service and the room may be fine, but the food may be slightly less. By being able to give this up, you make it much clearer to future customers what you do and do not appreciate the location.
Also with an article, you would like to be able to indicate exactly what you do and don’t appreciate. Maybe you don’t like the style of writing or you think the article is too long, while you do agree with the tenor of the story.
Reviews are a snapshot
Locations and services rarely remain the same over the years. Nevertheless, a review from years ago still counts in your overall assessment. This can give a very distorted picture. Especially if, for example, a hotel or business has now been taken over by someone else.
In addition, a review is always a snapshot. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. Both the person who posts the review and the person who writes the review. If you know how to serve 100 people well, but you have a miscommunication with just that one person and therefore do not serve them well, this can lead to a negative review.
Many negative reviews are therefore written in anger and have little to do with the real situation. It is often an emotional discharge rather than a pure picture of reality.
Comments can be written to harm someone
Anyone can write a review to put the other person in a bad light. On many sites, all you need is a login with an e-mail address and this fake e-mail address is easily created.
In addition, entire armies of so-called bots are active to influence public opinion. The American elections of 2016 were a good example of this. Mainly driven by Russia, messages for Clinton received negative reviews and messages for Trump received positive ones. The latter was therefore shown more frequently.
In combination with purchased handwritten reviews, this can cause quite a lot of damage to one or the other party.
Regular reviews and mutual reviews
There is a big difference in reliability between regular reviews and mutual reviews. In ordinary reviews, one person says something about (the services of) the other. With mutual reviews, you both say something about each other.
This form of mutual review is much more honest because it is easy to prevent fraud by allowing two people who both rate each other negatively to have less weight in the overall rating.
The Airbnb platform, for example, has been using this for years. Both tenant and lessor fill in a review and they only see each other’s review when they have filled it in completely.
Prison sentence for a one-way review in Thai Koh Chang
In October 2020, an American customer of the Sea View Resort in Koh Chang, Thailand, was acquitted of 2 years imprisonment for 3 consecutive bad reviews he had written about the resort. This could have been partly prevented by a mutual review because the resort itself was also not satisfied with the guest.
After the 3 reviews, the Sea View resort – which, incidentally, had an influential Thai owner at the time – reported defamation and slander, which carries a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment in Thailand.
Do customer reviews affect your SEO?
If implemented correctly, customer reviews have an absolutely positive impact on your SEO. In addition, they can have a positive effect on your visitor behavior and positive reviews are more likely to lead to purchase or contact.
What are properly implemented reviews for SEO?
Properly implemented means that they have been specified by visitors and/or are shown automatically. The latter can be the case with a number of likes from a Facebook post that can also be displayed on a site.
Search engines must be able to technically verify that the recommendation is from a real person and that you did not place them there yourself. Search engines also want you to use code to indicate that these are reviews. You can do this by using schema.org.
In addition, it is important that the content of your reviews does not undermine the content of your page.
Search engines read a page from top to bottom. If 30 reviews tell something about you and you only start explaining in a few words what the page is about, search engines can get confused. For this reason, it is usually better to show only a few reviews or to create a separate review page where all the reviews are on.
Post or not post reviews on your site
Letting customers give reviews is an honest way to let customers express their feedback and appreciation. New visitors or customers benefit greatly from this. Unfortunately, there are also disadvantages. People will say less nice things and sometimes only out of hatred or jealousy.
If you accept reviews, this is part of it. Especially if you can give a review of your customers yourself. At the moment there is no fairer system for giving each other a review. Maybe that will happen in the future. Just because of the SEO value alone, it is advisable to always have customers write reviews. Even if they are negative. Learn from this and improve yourself thanks to this feedback.