Online Reviews Best Practice Guide

Online reviews are essential for any business to succeed online. But, do you know your legal rights and responsibilities? How about how to handle a negative review so it promotes your business rather than tarnishes? We tell you everything you need to know to get you started.

Why are online reviews important for a business?

It’s pretty clear having online reviews is a make or break for your business. Almost every online business directory (such as Localsearch) and social media platform will give people a way to leave you reviews, so they’re easy to come by.

However, a surprising amount of businesses are unaware of their rights and responsibilities surrounding reviews. In fact, even having a review removed or paying someone to write you one can lead to legal action—and you don’t want that. So, we’re here to help.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • The legal framework around reviews.
  • Best practice for responding to reviews.
  • Information about having a review removed.
  • About online reviews and search engine optimisation.
  • How to receive more reviews, legally.

Please note, this is a guide only and does not replace professional legal advice. It is the responsibility of a business to perform their own research on their rights and requirements or seek professional advice.

Online Reviews and the Law

We’ll try and keep this short and sweet, because while this is serious and important, we know it can be a bit of a snore. Essentially, review platforms, businesses and the public as reviewers are required to abide by the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA). As this is a legal document, not abiding by the CCA can lead to investigation and further action on any party involved.

A breach of the CCA may include (but is not limited to):

  • Review tampering.
  • Creation of fake reviews.
  • Removing reviews without cause.
  • Publishing misleading reviews.
  • Paying for reviews outside of guidelines (see offering incentives).

Online Reviews and Professional Advertising Guidelines

In addition to specific review policies, businesses must be aware of advertising and review guidelines in their industry. For example, a health practitioner would need to be aware of the Guidelines for Advertising Regulated Health Services outlined by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). These guidelines can prevent consumers from having reviews published if they discuss clinical aspects of a medical-related business.

Businesses, Consumers and Review Platforms

Most review platforms will have procedures or filters in place to prevent misleading, fake or other review breaches from reaching a businesses listing or profile page. However, it is the business’s responsibility to monitor their reviews.

Each platform will have review guidelines or a content integrity policy with more information. Here’s ours!

Managing Reviews

We understand you may be a little hesitant to do anything with your reviews now you know some of the legalities, but remember how important they are for your business. The most important review management process you can ever follow is responding to every single review you receive.

It’s easy to reply to a 4 or 5 star review but what about those not-so-nice reviews. They hurt, we know. Firstly, remember that you can’t please everyone, so don’t take it to heart. Next, plan your response; once you’ve taken a few minutes to clear your mind. Remember our article on using negative reviews to improve trust in your brand? Keep this in mind.

Here are some tips for how to reply to a negative review:

Of course, if the review is fake or misleading, this is an entirely different matter.

How to Have a Review Removed

If you’ve ever tried to have a review removed from Google, Facebook or another platform, you know it can be hard. Basically, unless the reviewer is contacting them directly or you have proof of your claim, it’s almost impossible. Before you heat up, the platform is doing what they are legally obliged to do to protect you and your business—lawsuits are expensive. Reviewers have the right to an opinion, even if you don’t like it.

However, if you are legitimately doubting a review and it’s authenticity, here’s what you should do:

  1. Reply to the review (or contact the customer). Give them the details of who to contact in your business so the matter can be resolved off screen. While you’re sorting it out, people can see your positive response and how you handle negative reviews (remember, it’s not all bad). If the matter is resolved, ask them to remove their review or contact the platform to have it removed.
  2. Of course, if the reviewer isn’t cooperating and you have evidence, you should then contact the platform. You will need to provide evidence and request to have the review rechecked for authenticity. They may or may not be able to do this. Remember, they are protecting you so there may not be anything they can do for you as they also must adhere to policies.
  3. If the review was unable to be removed, you may want to seek professional legal advice on how to have the reviewer withdraw their submission. However, they may not be able to do so if you do not have substantial evidence of your claim.

Reviewers also have the right to pursue legal action if they have evidence of a business tampering or falsely removing their review.

Online Reviews and Search Engine Optimisation

Before we explain how online reviews work hand-in-hand with your SEO, we should probably fill you in on what it is, if you don’t already know.

You can learn more about search engine optimisation in our SEO essentials article.

According to Moz, reviews account for around 6.74% to 15.44% of how Google looks at your online presence. Google’s job is to find the most relevant answer to a searcher’s query. So, if a person is looking for a plumber near them, they’re more likely to give them one who other locals say are good—hence, your reviews.

We know what your next question will be…

How do I get more online reviews?

There is one very easy to get reviews; ask your customers. Thanks to digital technology, businesses can now use a customer relationship manager (CRM) to store their leads and customer data. An even niftier piece of technology is a review manager linked to the CRM, which can send out an email to customers asking for feedback.

In the email, people will be asked to leave a rating out of 10. If the rating is over 7, they will be asked if they’d like to share their feedback on a review platform, such as Localsearch, Google or Facebook. What about ratings under 7? Their feedback will be send straight back to you and they won’t be prompted to leave you a review.

“But isn’t this expensive?” Surprisingly, no, it’s not. It’s super quick and easy to set up and even easier to use. Find out more.

Conclusion

Phew, that was a lot of information. Hopefully it helps you be more aware of your rights and responsibilities as a business and where you can find more information if you need it.

Sources:

https://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/03/27/online-reviews-impact-purchasing-decisions-over-93-consumers-report-suggests

https://www.accc.gov.au/business/advertising-promoting-your-business/managing-online-reviews

https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2017C00369

https://www.shopify.com/retail/119916611-how-online-reviews-impact-local-seo-and-why-they-matter-to-your-bottom-line

https://www.invespcro.com/blog/the-importance-of-online-customer-reviews-infographic/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-abAb3m7z8U

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