The Dangers Of Fake Google Reviews For Your Business 

Dangers Of Fake Google Reviews

It’s tempting to create a fake review. After all, fake reviews seem like a great way to control your local reputation and improve your online presence. However, the consequences are serious. Not only are you breaching Google’s guidelines, but you are also breaking the law. 

Google reviews are essential for modern business. There is no getting away from that fact. For anyone browsing services or products, customers read reviews and absorb their tone. As the digital age marches forward, customers want to know everything about your business before engaging with you. Nothing tells the story better than a review.

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Good reviews can work wonders on bagging a potential client, whereas negative ones can wreak havoc. Sadly, it’s the negative ones that have the most significant pull for fresh eyes. Admit it, when hunting for a supplier or a company, you always hone in on those negative reviews. 

If only there were a way to control the reviews that people leave, right? Imagine a world where you can edit or delete negative reviews. You would be untouchable. Critic proof, even. 

What about going one step further and writing your own reviews for your business? Talk about having control! You could even slap some SEO terminology into the mix and ensure that Google (other search engines are available) understands that you offer certain services in certain areas. You’d be one step ahead of your competitors and gain complete command of your digital representation. 

Oh, Lordy. Wouldn’t that be sweet? 

Well, no. It wouldn’t. 

For starters, it’s not truthful or fair. 

Secondly, it is illegal. 

Thirdly, you can seriously damage your business. 

More importantly, you could end up in court with a jaw-droppingly hefty fine.

Google (other search engines are available) does not take kindly to anyone abusing their algorithm or defying their guidelines. You will suffer – perhaps irreparably so. Let’s take a closer look at the dangers of fake Google reviews. 

We Understand Why It’s Tempting…

Fake Reviews

When trying to gain and build an online reputation, it’s tempting to purchase Google reviews or simply create your own – using an alias or avatar. It’s an effective way to sit atop the Local Business Pack (also known as the Google Snack Pack) and sell your greatness to the public. 

However, chances are, your business isn’t drowning in 1-star reviews. You really do not need a knee-jerk reaction and spate of panic-sponsored review creation. 

And if you are trying to drown out the genuine reviews that claim you need to improve, you should not be spending your time and energy trying to cover up. Your business clearly needs to change. 

Not all 1-star reviews are warranted, though. We get that. 

Karen may have slung you a poor rating simply to appease her need to sound victimized when the service was perfect. But if you have suffered these comments, a prompt reply to that review tackling the complaint is far more effective for both SEO and user experience. Especially when compared to smothering the review with a bombardment of fakery. 

Besides, while curating your company’s reviews is ultimately appealing, you will incur the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other organizations. Try to quash the temptation to engage in unlawful Google review activity. It might help to lick an immediate wound, but you’ve set off a trailblazing domino effect that will eventually destroy you.  

Fake Reviews: The Financial Risk For Your Business

Financial Impact of Fake Online Reviews

Regardless of whether you are deliberately facilitating fake reviews, or remain naive and unaware of this ongoing activity, you are putting your business at serious risk. 

It can get costly, too. It’s not uncommon for small businesses to face legal action over fake reviews. One such example found an app creator fined $250,000 when an agency posted fake reviews on their behalf. Another case found car dealerships slapped with no less than $3.6 million worth of fines. When we say this is serious, we mean it. 

While businesses believe they are participating with these reviews to gain positivity, when it backfires, it backfires hard. Google has made it abundantly clear that review content should reflect a genuine occurrence experienced by a real person at a legitimate business address. 

If you defy Google’s guidelines with fake reviews that attempt to manipulate your SEO ranking, the bigwigs in California can remove your business listing entirely. Trying to gain visibility with fake Google reviews? Think again. This will potentially strip you of online trust and authority, and then backfire with a Google-enforced visibility score of 0%. 

The reason? Fake reviews are not just viewed as misleading, but they are classified as spam. And, once the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) figures out what you are doing, they will ensure that you regret ever being born. The FTC can even have you shut down for good. 

For example, back in 2019, the FTC fined an online weight-loss supplement retailer (an eye-watering) $12.8 million for employing fake reviews to manipulate digital property and mislead consumers. 

While you may not land such an extravagant fine, you will eventually find the FTC at your door. And the financial health of your business will undoubtedly suffer. 

Consumers Can Tell When A Review Is Fake

Dangers of Fake Google Reviews Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the average web surfer. Regardless of what others may say, people aren’t stupid.

If you end up trying to cram your fake Google review with SEO terminology, people will clock how obviously fake they are. This will not have a positive effect on your company’s reputation. Instead of adding appeal, you’ll create a business aurora of suspicion and distrust. 

For example: 

“This is the best back pain physical therapist within 30 miles of my zip code. I’ve been searching for pain relief in Huntingdon, and these guys are better than other physical therapists in Huntingdon”

This is not how a happy client would write their comments. Today’s consumers are beyond savvy, and they will detect fraudulent online reviews.  

Suppose a review doesn’t provide authentic and unsolicited feedback. In that case, it’s pretty clear that it’s been created from scratch by the business owner, or an agency acting on behalf of the business owner. 

Besides the FTC backlash and financial aspect, alongside demonstrating a lack of trust for your potential clients, you will lose sight of your actual customer experience. You will lose the thread of what it takes to be a successful business with a relevant online portfolio. 

You simply can’t lead a true professional existence with a misleading online brand reputation. It’s best to earn those reviews organically. Trust us on this one. 

What About Buying Fake Reviews With An Agency?

Dangers Of Fake Reviews

No. Absolutely not. It’s simply not worth the risk. Just stop right there if your business has included ‘buying Google reviews’ as part of a campaign or strategy. 

It may sound like a cost-effective way to gain digital standings, and rest assured that you will always rank with 5-star reviews, but your tinpot empire will crash around you. And burn. It will burn bright enough for all your competitors to see straight through your transparent circus of illegal business activity. 

While purchasing Google reviews from an agency will bring connotations of propelling up the relevant search results, and having customers queuing at the door, the stark reality is more long-term harm. 

Effectively, you are simply paying other people to damage your business for you. The agencies may promise good things, but once you’ve violated Google’s guidelines, you are on borrowed time. No clout from an agency is going to save you. You have been warned. 

Let’s boil it down. Fake Google reviews are illegal. The FTC strictly forbids “undisclosed paid endorsements” and will fine you however much they damn well please. There is no cap. If they want to make an example of you, then they will do so. 

Let me give you an example. And this is a real-world example. So get the popcorn out. 

A Real-world Example And Its Consequences

Fake Online Reviews

One business farmed out its SEO requirements to a firm run by a family friend. Through the binary smile and repeated promises on offer from the agency, the business owner felt relaxed. Everything was in safe hands. For the price they were paying, it all seemed like a good deal. 

The reviews trundled in, packed with information about the business location and how excellent the company was. Every consideration was lengthy and hugely complimentary, laced with the services people had enjoyed – right down to the finest detail. 

With every review that came in, the business promptly responded with a big ‘Thank You!’ – except, they didn’t remember any of the people who claimed to have used the company. Alarm bells should have rung, but the business trusted the agency. 

Google then got in touch to alert the business owner about their fraudulent activity. The reviews were fake, and Google was taking action. Practically overnight, the SEO rankings tanked. The leads dried up. All that money for the agency suddenly felt wasted.

Word of mouth was not kind, as besides the prominent digital fines, people had figured out that the reviews were fake. Untrue stories of business trouble, dwindling profits, and reputational slander became rife. 

As it turned out, the smiling agency created fake Google profiles, and utilized images from This Person Does Not Exist to provide a face for each one. These counterfeit profiles (bearing only one given review per profile) then crafted a review packed with relevant SEO keywords. It was all a con, and now the business was going to suffer. 

Now that Google had uncovered this illegal activity, the FTC were on the case. The damage caused was irreparable. And all for only $400 per month; the agencies ‘discounted’ bargain. 

Learn from this company’s mistake. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a large fine, and various persons from FTC wading in. You will struggle to recover.

If you think that you’ve been subject to a scam like this, get in touch with us. We can help you escape the trap, and get back to SEO health.

Calum Brown

Calum Brown

Calum has worked with SEO for the best part of a decade and is proud of it! He previously created and led Bauer's SEO strategy for their digital classic automotive portfolio and helped to launch America's largest collector car site for SpeedDigital. Having come from an SEO, marketing and editorial background, and having studied Business Information Systems at Edinburgh Napier University, Calum now dedicates his time to all things SEO. He takes great pride in helping Physical Therapy businesses find their perfect (local) clients and drinks copious amounts of tea doing so. Best not to feed him after midnight.

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About The Author

Calum Brown

Calum has worked with SEO for the best part of a decade and is proud of it! He previously created and led Bauer's SEO strategy for their digital classic automotive portfolio and helped to launch America's largest collector car site for SpeedDigital. Having come from an SEO, marketing and editorial background, and having studied Business Information Systems at Edinburgh Napier University, Calum now dedicates his time to all things SEO. He takes great pride in helping Physical Therapy businesses find their perfect (local) clients and drinks copious amounts of tea doing so. Best not to feed him after midnight.