Last March, the Federal Trade Commission reported that they had levied a fine of $250,000 against the Legacy Learning and Smith company. The fine originated due to their use of online bloggers who were paid to produce reviews and endorsements for the products. The intent was to stimulate credibility among readers in order to generate purchases and clicks for the Legacy Learning and Smith company.
Since 2009, the FTC has been ramping up its efforts to put an end to this kind of paid endorsement. They explicitly underscore that this sort of back-scratching between paid reviewers (“critics”) and companies selling products and services is far from okay.
Being caught by the FTC and getting a heavy slap on the wrist (and the wallet) isn’t the only reason you should avoid this kind of blatant disregard for authenticity. You’re also lying to your customers.
Search marketing and local SEO in Alabama isn’t just about visibility, it’s about building real credibility. That comes from establishing and working on relationships founded in trust. When you sponsor reviews and pay for “critics” to talk up your products and services in local SEO boosting sites like Google Places and Yelp, you’re risking serious harm to your credibility.
Here are 3 Reasons Paid Reviews Are Bad for Local SEO (and your business…)
Consumer Savvy Continues to Grow
It’s easy for some business owners to think of their consumers as simple-minded people browsing, but the majority of your target audience is anything but a bunch of rubes. The more time people spend online, the more they’re able to sniff out disingenuous content. Start using paid reviews to bolster your local SEO and watch how quickly red flags go up. Your audience will avoid you like the plague.
Those who do business with based on those reviews, who then have a different experience, are going to feel extremely cheated. Thus begins the negative word of mouth and even more harm to your brand.
Associating your brand and your business with this kind of deceptive local SEO marketing might net you a short term profit, but it decreases your long-term visibility, return customer base and consumer loyalty.
If you’ve got a great product or service, you shouldn’t have to rely on local SEO based in fake reviews to market yourself
Dishonest Local SEO Marketing is a Gateway Drug
If you can’t see the ethical issues that reveal themselves in paying someone to deliberately mislead your consumers, then you’re leaving yourself wide open to utilizing more devious (and deceptive) marketing gimmicks.
You might think “this is OK, but I would never do X”, you’re lying to yourself. When it comes to business ethics, you’re either honest, or you’re not.
The Staggering Risk of Viral Negativity
Remember how quickly the videos spread that showed a FedEx driver throwing a television over a fence during one delivery? How far did that message reach? You might think that your average consumer won’t notice or care about your little local SEO dishonesty with some paid reviews, and you might not worry at all about the ethical implications, but you should know there are some savvy people out there who know how to get the word out.
And they’re connected in all the right ways, and can get the word out in just the right time that you could wind up with a viral backlash.
It might start with a simple blog post, but what if that blog is read by another more influential blogger who decides to name your business as a stark example on how NOT to approach local SEO marketing? What if that “how not to do this” goes viral across the web? You got the exposure you wanted, but not in the right way. Now no one will touch your brand.
If you want to focus on a Local SEO strategy, focus on quality content. Don’t pay for bad, biased reviews. That’s bad business, period.