Can You Buy Reviews for Use in Advertising?

Updated on: June 7, 2024

Sooner or later, digital marketers will confront a sweet temptation that promises great riches with little work—the allure of buying positive reviews. After all, increased online ratings not only attract more customers but also improve your online brand credibility in the eyes of Google and other search engines. 

Shortcuts to bulk customer reviews are not without their perils that could actually jeopardize your reputation more than help.

So, is buying reviews online worth the risk?

Why buying reviews for your business may backfire

For many websites and purposes doing so might get you removed or penalized by the platform. It’s crucial to understand the full extent of the potential consequences and to consider alternative methods for building your business profile.
 

Buying fake reviews could lead to consequences with Google and others

Google despises and actively hunts for fake positive ratings, to the extent that recent algorithm updates have prioritized improved detection of counterfeit reviews. Their ongoing efforts have proven successful, with 45% more fake reviews removed in 2023 than compared to the previous year. In extreme cases, Google may even suspend a business account in response to companies buying Google reviews. 

How Yelp deals with fake reviews or bought reviews

Other platforms, like Yelp, are even stricter with their policy toward companies that buy reviews. If they suspect that you’ve bought or solicited reviews, they may purposefully lower your visibility within their algorithm and make you jump through hoops to regain your previous standing.

How Facebook and Instagram handle fraudulent reviews

Meta has also increased their scrutiny of reviews to ensure authenticity. Their policy states that “Community Feedback must not be directly or indirectly incentivized, unless otherwise disclosed compliant with Meta’s policies . . .” meaning that any bought Facebook or Instagram reviews would be in direct violation.

How Amazon handles companies or brands that buy reviews

No conversation about buying reviews for online shopping is complete without an acknowledgement of Amazon. As noted in their Anti-Manipulation Policy for Customer Reviews, consequences could range from product removal to store deactivation to lawsuits. 

The key takeaway? All major review-publishing sites are now using advanced machine-learning capabilities to better identify bought reviews while also increasing the penalties for such practices. Paid reviews that may have “snuck under the radar” a few years prior are now much more likely to be flagged. 

Best case scenario, the purchased reviews are taken down but, at worse, your business’s presence within their platform is semi-permanently endangered.

 

Fake Reviews Come Across as Inauthentic to Online Shoppers

Today’s consumers are savvy at best, skeptical at worst. Years of daily internet exposure have inadvertently trained many users to spot the telltale signs of purchased reviews, especially when bought in bulk. Common indicators include:

 

  • Short reviews that feature repetitive language
  • Vague wording that suggests the reviewer didn’t actually use the product or service
  • Mass uploads of reviews in one day after months of inactivity
  • Profiles created exclusively to provide bought reviews without any other activity
  • Reviews from locations to which the products or services are inaccessible

 

In short, the majority of paid review services guarantee quantity rather than high quality, and it shows. The people paid to write reviews often don’t spend the necessary time familiarizing themselves with your unique offering and may not even have a solid grasp of the language in which they’re writing. The end result will be overtly inauthentic and could lead to online shoppers questioning your brand’s genuineness.

 

You Risk Getting in Trouble with the FTC

 

Marketers aren’t the only ones who acknowledge the undeniable power of positive reviews; even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has explicit rules against purchasing reviews, stating “This kind of deception and manipulation harms both consumers and honest companies.”

If you’re caught by the FTC, expect more than a stern finger-wagging. 2023, the FTC proposed a new rule that would fine companies up to $50,000 for purchasing or forging reviews, regardless if it’s on their own site or third-party aggregators.

A Smart Alternative to Buying Reviews: Acquiring UGC Video Content

Paid reviews and incentivized user-generated content (UGC) are not one and the same. Key distinctions that differentiate UGC video include:

 

  • Creators commonly disclose their relationship with the brand for reinforced transparency
  • UGC mostly entails videos or photographs rather than merely written text, requiring the creator to invest more time in the final result rather than solely focusing on volume
  • Some third-party platforms, like Amazon, allow the publishing of UGC as long as it is not presented separately from traditional reviews. This way, you can share perspectives from real people without potentially violating website policies 
 
Photo from Hamilton Beach Power Elite Wave Action Blender Amazon page

Additional ways UGC can further enhance your website and digital presence better than traditional reviews: 

 

  • Because of its multimedia nature, UGC can grant a more vibrant, thorough look at your products in real-world settings, even if compared against authentic written reviews
 
  • Brands can collaborate with creators to guarantee proper demonstrations of the products and to prioritize specific talking points
 
  • You can handpick UGC creators that best represent your brand voice. Here’s how to define what a ugc creator is and how they differ from influencers
 
  • You can strategically spotlight top-performing UGC across your website, ads and digital properties while traditional reviews provide less freedom in their presentation. If you need help creating ugc ads, CIPIO.ai is offering free ugc ads for a limited time to help demonstrate their value
 
  • Creators can publish the UGC footage for their followers to view, as long as any provided incentives are disclosed in adherence to the social platform’s and FTC’s policies
 

Simply put, UGC is a powerful tool for showcasing relatable use cases for your products and services, free from the risks associated with purchasing reviews for your website. To better understand the full potential, read Understanding and Using UGC Video.

How to acquire the right UGC 

 

While you can manually track down creators and cold-contact them about collaborations, this method is unnecessarily time-consuming and ineffective. For greater efficiency and results, consider either:

  • UGC agency – A UGC agency is a company that specializes in facilitating and optimizing user-generated content (UGC) campaigns for brands and businesses
  • UGC platform – a software that merges a creator marketplace with related features to help manage UGC creation and analysis
 

Luckily, CIPIO.ai offers both agency and software-based services. Our best-in-class UGC content creator platform provides both text and image-based search functions, enabling companies to swiftly find candidates within minutes. 

 

Additionally, it offers detailed creator statistics to assist brands in making informed decisions about whom to collaborate with. We also offer user-friendly, AI-enhanced video editing features, allowing you to optimize your footage based on performance data. Combine these with other platform features like real-time ad analysis and A/B testing, and you have an all-in-one UGC solution.

 

Learn about our UGC services

 

A smart alternative to buying reviews: organically earning positive reviews

Earning genuine positive reviews requires patience and dedication, but the lasting benefits far outweigh the dangerous allure of buying reviews. While building your brand reputation authentically can seem like an uphill battle, there are tactics that can help turn customers into advocates. 

 

Test and improve your review request emails

Most marketers know enough to automate post-purchase review requests, but many fail to collect data and test new tactics. Potential tests include changing when the email is sent, the subject lines, the body of the email, the review platforms you promote, and any forms you ask customers to complete. To find the winning review request strategy, track email open rates, clicks, and review completion rates so you can pinpoint potential barriers. If you’re looking for great email templates, we’d recommend a website like reallygoodemail.com who has tons of templates you can utilize. 

 

Incentivize reviews 

There are a number of ways you can incentivize customers to leave reviews, including:

  • Discount codes or gift cards
  • Earning points as part of a loyalty program
  • Small freebies
  • Entry into a raffle 
 

Much like review request emails, the offered perks can be analyzed through A/B testing to determine which excites customers the most. It’s important to follow FTC guidelines for incentivized reviews, including the fact that the reward cannot be conditional on the feedback being positive, nor can it be offered only to selectively chosen customers. Above all else, the FTC requires that you disclose which reviews were incentivized when they’re published on your website or other platforms. 

 

Important reminder — different review platforms have different rules toward solicited reviews, even if you didn’t outright buy them. Therefore, we recommend evaluating your preferred platforms’ policies. 

 

Make small efforts to personalize the relationship with the buyer

People like helping out other people more than they do face-less companies. Therefore, take every opportunity possible to humanize customer interactions. Ideas include:

  • If transactions happen face-to-face, train your sales and customer service personnel to request reviews. As a bonus, why not hold a teamwide contest to see whose name can be referenced most within positive online reviews? 
  • If you’re a small eCommerce business, add a thank you note to the package along with a QR code to your various business pages
  • Send a relatable video from the founder or the team with the purchase confirmation email, thanking the person for their business and explaining the value of a review
  • Crafting unique responses to reviews both positive and negative (while always staying level-headed) to show your appreciation for the feedback
 

Promote reviews on your website to organically earn more

Showcasing customer testimonials prominently on your website not only helps visitors better understand your offering but also encourages them to contribute their own feedback. Seeing the value in others’ reviews can inspire them to share their experiences, enhancing your brand’s credibility and fostering a culture of genuine feedback.

Improve your online presence with CIPIO.ai

CIPIO.ai is the ultimate end-to-end solution for catapulting your video marketing efforts. We match you with compatible creators to breathe life into your strategies, all the while arming you with the video-editing and in-depth analysis needed to improve campaigns. Moreover, with both self-service and managed-service offerings, we have a UGC solution for every type of budget

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