This post first appeared in Anthony Bullick’s Daily Post column

A recent Which? investigation turned its attention on what appears to be the very murky world of online reviews.

It found many companies, including in the UK, have been paying for positive fake ratings on platforms including Amazon and Google, with the tech giants seemingly unwilling or unable to do anything to stop it.

It’s not hard to understand why this practice might seem attractive: when looking to spend money on a product or service, a potential customer will look to see if anyone independent has verified its quality. 97 per cent of people have said they would read an online review for a local business.

But underhand approaches like this are almost certain to backfire at a later date. It may provide businesses with a quick, albeit fake, short-term fix, but the consequences are two-fold.

Firstly, if the consumer becomes suspicious, it doesn’t matter how many genuine positive ratings you have, any trust has been eroded and that likely means no sale.

It doesn’t take long to click through to a reviewer and see they’ve been writing about products and services over an impossible geographical area, for example.

In addition, as more is done to combat such actions, which will happen, organisations who have engaged in dishonest methods like buying fake reviews may face more damaging consequences than simply having them removed.

So, what should you do instead? What action should you take to ensure you’re not left at the mercy of highly-motivated negative reviewers instead of those who have simply had their expectations met positively?

Consider asking customers to write about their experiences on a particular platform like Trustpilot: if you’ve truly given fantastic service, your repeat customers will be more than happy to share their opinion.

You can incorporate suggesting this into your regular email marketing and social media as well as including a leaflet with anything you’re posting out. Another beneficial tactic is offering an incentive such as a prize draw.

These reviews can then be used elsewhere as case studies to reassure other buyers who haven’t sought them out.

Many platforms will give you a right to reply, so it’s also worthwhile keeping tabs on what’s been posted, thanking people for kind words and looking to make amends when someone feels a service hasn’t warranted all five stars.

Click to find out more about our online reputation management services.