I manage the online marketing for a small insurance company in Bradford Pa, Sundahl and Co. Insurance. While looking at the local search results the other day, I noticed that a local competitor was suddenly showing up with a number of reviews. It surprised me as the insurance market segment and this area of the country don’t really lend themselves to “organic” reviews. I have two insurance agencies that I have done work for, both market leaders, and between them they had garnered 2 natural reviews over the past 3 years.
Upon examination it became immediately clear that the reviews for this agent were purchased, faked or to otherwise procured without a real customer. In the past few weeks I have had several other experiences indicating the rapid commodification of reviews….
* I saw that my Honda dealer, with a mediocre service department at best, had started “buying” reviews.
* Stever, a local seo in Canada,
Someone (I can’t remember who) was kind enough to send me a link to a “3 positive reviews for $5″ offer at Fiverr.com and “a short review on your Google places account for $5″
* Brian Combs of Ionadas.com sent me a copy of a email spam that arrived via his contact form touting the benefits of positive reviews from a company called PostPositiveReviews.com. Their whole business model predicated on trading in reviews and back links.
When you look at their prices (assuming 1/2 for links and 1/2 for reviews), a review is essentially selling for $3 each. At Fiverr.com, some were cheaper, going for as little as $1.66 per review and some costing as much as $5.00. (Do they get better if you spend more?) The average: $3.22.
Capitalism is a funny thing. There is a tendency to commodify everything. You can see this in the ongoing efforts to privatize water sales. If air could be bottled and constrained, it too would have a price placed on it.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that positive reviews now have a market value. But still one has to ask why should a business pay for something that can essentially be had for free?
Fear? Lack of knowledge? Terrible service? Laziness? Maybe all of those things as it seems as all too many businesses seem to do it.
With a little thought (or just a little more money) most businesses could successfully execute and benefit from a review management process that garners real reviews. Even the worst business in the world has happy customers, no? My Honda dealer must have them as they have managed to stay in business for a very long time.
How hard is it to set up a review management program that is above board and approaches the process with integrity rather than greed and why don’t more businesses realize that?
Here are several articles that detail all a company needs to know to set up a review plan. It isn’t rocket science:
Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews
Responding to Negative Reviews – Your Prospects are the Real Audience
Asking for Reviews – UMoveFree Finds the Groove
Garnering Reviews – A Mom & (no) Pop Shop finally Hops on Reviews
Reviews: Lipstick on a Pig Leads to User Backlash