Is the Competition Planting Reviews? Five Things You Can Do

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From Urbanspoon to MerchantCircle, there are plenty of review sites that allow customers to post reviews on restaurants, stores and service providers that they have visited or worked with. Most of these sites are free to use, and they allow customers to share both good and bad experiences.

While these sites provide additional information on these professional individuals or establishments, such as hours of operation, contact information and other necessary info, they don’t tend to have any type of monitoring system in place to determine the authenticity of each review.

While you would like to think that businesses invoke honest marketing practices, many use customer review sites in deceitful ways. Some companies hire people or bribe their employees to write raving reviews on the company’s behalf. Others often create fake identities and create negative reviews for their competitors.

Being defamed online can have a damaging and everlasting effect on your business. If your business receives a complaint on one of these popular review sites, you could end up losing out on great business opportunities. If you notice that the competition is writing negative reviews about your company, there are five things that you can do.

1. Nothing

While this is not recommended, it’s still an option. If you find that that negative reviews are being spread about your company through multiple review sites, you can sit back, ignore it and do nothing. Online scandals occur everyday, and soon enough, people will forget about yours the minute something else happens.

In order to determine if bad things are being said about your company on the Internet, you need to invest in some type of reputation management software or platform, such as Google Alerts or Trackur, which both monitor the Internet for the use of your company name. If someone writes a review on your company, whether good or bad, you will get an email alert to tell you what was said and where it was said while also providing you with a link.

2. Contact the person/company doing the posting

Before taking this step, you need to be sure of who exactly posted the reviews. Extensive research will need to be done on your end to find this information out. Guessing or making assumptions is not a good idea.
If you want to resolve the issue, you need to reach out directly to your competitor and have a real talk about why they did what they did and if they’d be willing to take it down. While this requires a large amount of effort on your part, it can get ugly if you’re not prepared.

Make sure that you have a clear and level head when discussing the situation. If you start attacking the competition, it’s going to cause a scene, and you will now be dragging other people into your altercation. If they refuse to take it down, don’t respond by stooping to their level and post negative reviews about them. Doing so will only make the situation worse.

3. Contact the site or webmaster directly

If reasoning with your competition didn’t yield your desired results, the next step is to contact the review site or webmaster and ask them to take it down. Most of these sites will require physical proof, so providing an “I know it was them just because” excuse will not make anything happen. Before they pull a review down, you will need to present them with solid proof you know who it was and you know that it’s libelous.

Sometimes it will take a long time to hear a response from these companies. Other times, you won’t hear back at all. Just keep reaching out to them and keep providing them with information to get them to remove it.

4. Flag it

Some sites, such as Yahoo or Bing, provide you with a option that allows you to flag the comment, which brings the site’s attention to the fact that you know it’s fake. Other sites may have a “not helpful” link on it too, and if you click this, it will tell the respective site that the content provided in the review does not have any educational relevance. While this may not get the review removed, it will provide information to the site that something about it is invalid or inappropriate.

5. Take legal action

Even if you don’t want to, taking legal action shows that you’re not afraid to confront the individual who wrote these items. Contact a lawyer and let them know that you want to sue a specific company for libel and slander. This will create a subpoena that forces your competition to show up to a trial or pretrial to go over the case at hand and allow a judge to help both parties work out the situation. If the judge rules in your favor, your competitors will be forced to take the content off the site, and they may even be slapped with a very hefty fine. Sometimes just taking the initial steps to bring the the event to court will scare your competition enough to remove it before taking it to trial.

If you find that your competition is posting negative reviews about your company, don’t sweat it. There are five things that you can do to alleviate the situation.