Laws and regulations surrounding the solicitation of online business reviews and testimonials in Australia.
Many small businesses in Australia practice a common marketing tactic, but they are completely unaware that it is illegal.
That practice is soliciting fake online business reviews and testimonials for their business by offering an incentive or reward in exchange for a positive 5-star review. The most popular platforms for this are Facebook and Google, although Yelp and a few other sites are also targeted.
The practice usually involves a competition with an awesome prize – to go in the draw to win the prize, people have to leave a 5-star review online. A lot of business owners are engaging in this tactic without knowing that under Australian Consumer Law (ACL), that is completely illegal, and can carry pretty hefty fines.
In addition to being illegal in Australia, it is also really really bad for your SEO. Both Google and Facebook are very intelligent systems that have built-in mechanisms designed to identify fake and solicited reviews.
FAKE FACEBOOK REVIEWS:
For Facebook, if they catch you running a competition on their platform that requires people to leave you a review – positive or ‘honest’ – they will delete your page. No questions asked, no cooling off period, no ‘second chance’. Just a straight out removal of your business Facebook page. Suddenly, any time, money or other resources you’ve invested in building your Facebook community have all been for nothing.
Even if you don’t run your competition on Facebook – if they notice a sudden influx in the quantity of reviews that you are receiving (as would happen if you were running a rewards program or competition), they will close down your page. If you have a number of reviews all originating from the same IP address, then they will close down your page.
Basically, Facebook will close down your Facebook business page if they notice anything even slightly dodgy about the way you are receiving online business reviews.
FAKE GOOGLE REVIEWS:
Having a number of positive reviews for your Google Business listing can lead to better performance in Google’s search engine and higher levels of organic traffic. Because of this positive effect that reviews have, many people have started trying to ‘game’ Google with fake reviews.
Similar to Facebook, if Google notices an influx of positive reviews all of sudden or if many of your reviews come from the same IP address then they will discredit those reviews. If the problem persists, then they may eventually blacklist your website entirely, which is the digital equivalent of your business being swallowed by a sink hole – there is no coming back from it.
Google Reviews and SEO Performance
Google reviews are an essential component in SEO, and they are highly influential in a website’s performance, particularly in competitive markets like Brisbane. When looking for SEO services Brisbane, customers often turn to reviews to gauge the quality and reliability of a company.
Positive Google reviews can enhance the visibility of an SEO company Brisbane, helping to attract more traffic and potential clients. Google’s algorithm takes into consideration the number and quality of these reviews, so the more positive and genuine feedback an SEO Brisbane service has, the higher its ranking will likely be.
However, authenticity is vital. Fake or manipulated reviews may appear to be a quick route to success, but they can damage more than they help. Search engines, like Google, have sophisticated algorithms that can often detect fraudulent reviews, leading to penalties and possibly a drop in rankings.
For those looking to grow their online presence, partnering with an SEO consultant Brisbane who encourages legitimate reviews is a wise choice. Authentic reviews not only optimise search engine rankings but also foster trust with your audience. By focusing on genuine feedback, businesses can build a loyal customer base, create brand advocates, and contribute to long-term success in a competitive online marketplace.
The right approach to Google reviews, coupled with quality SEO practices, can be the key to standing out in Brisbane’s vibrant digital landscape. Ensuring that reviews are honest and authentic is not merely a good policy — it’s essential for sustainable growth and a solid online reputation.
LEGAL REVIEWS AND TESTIMONIALS IN AUSTRALIA:
- It is not illegal to ask your customers or clients to leave you a review in Australia.
- It is illegal to run a competition or offer an incentive for your customers to leave you a positive review. You can run a competition but you cannot specify that they only go into the draw if the review they leave is positive.
- It is illegal to ask people who are not legitimate customers of your business to leave a positive review. This includes friends and family, as well as paying for ‘review’ services.
So basically – ask your genuine customers or clients to leave you genuine feedback and reviews. Don’t try to game the system, don’t try to blur the lines, and don’t try to ‘trick’ or ‘fool’ Google or Facebook, and your business will be fine.
If you want more information or would like to learn how BeKonstructive help our clients set up strong processes and templates for collecting legitimate reviews and testimonials from their customers, please get in touch.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND RESOURCES:
- New Guidelines for Online Reviews and Testimonials
- Managing Online Reviews by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- The Risks of Manufactured Business Testimonials – A real life example of a company that got themselves into hot water with the ACCC for encouraging their franchisees to create fake testimonials. They even went as far as to create a how-to guide for creating fake testimonials!
- Warning About Fake Testimonials as ACCC Fines Businesses