Getting a Handle on Your Customer Reviews (Part 1)

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Dave Kelly
Nov 4, 2022
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On May 28 of this year (2022), the European Union (EU) published new regulations for all sites doing business in the EU who have posted reviews on their site.

While some might feel that these regulations are overly restrictive, in fact they make a lot of sense and adjusting your website review handling to bring it in to conformity with these regulations will actually enhance your website's ability to rank well.

Increasingly, government regulatory agencies (not just in the UK but also the US as well as other countries) are paying attention to posted reviews because online reviews have a tremendous power to influence buying decisions. Positive reviews can entice others to do business with you, whereas negative reviews can cause them to look elsewhere. Lots of positive reviews, and a lack of negative ones, reassure potential buyers that they too will be pleased with their purchase of your goods and services.

But unfortunately, fraud and foolishness are rampant.

Website Reviews: The Bad News from Overseas

In January 2022, the European Commission and national consumer protection authorities released results of an in-depth analysis of 223 "major" websites focusing on identification of possible fraudulent/misleading consumer reviews.

We quote from their press release: "Almost two thirds of the online shops, marketplaces, booking websites, search engines and comparison service sites analyzed, triggered doubts about the reliability of the reviews: In 144 out of the 223 websites checked, authorities could not confirm that these traders were doing enough to ensure that reviews are authentic, i. e. that they were posted by consumers that actually used the product or service that they reviewed." (Emphasis ours.)

Other findings included the following:

  • 104 out of 223 websites provided no information whatsoever about how reviews on their sites were secured or how they were handled. Of those disclosing that information, only 84 posted that information on the review page itself, while the rest buried it in their TOS pages.
  • 118 websites provided no information on how they screen out "fake" reviews - leaving consumers in the dark about the genuineness of reviews they read there.
  • 176 websites say nothing about "incentivised" reviews being prohibited by their TOS, or if they accept those reviews, there was no method of flagging/tagging them.

Very tellingly, they state (and we quote again from their press release): "Consumer protection authorities concluded that at least 55% of the checked websites potentially violate the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive which requires that truthful information is presented to consumers to allow an informed choice. Authorities also had doubts for a remaining 18%."

When over half (55%, see above) of the checked websites may be violating standards for presenting truthful information via reviews - Houston, we have a problem.

And before anyone takes a superior attitude, let's just say for the record that these statistics are probably not too far off the mark in other nations as well, particularly in the USA where government action in this area has sadly been lacking an effective response.

A Warning from the EU Actually Contains Great SEO Advice

So, let us ask you: How much thought have you given to just how your site is securing customer reviews? How transparent are you in disclosing the process to consumers who may be viewing them? Could your site be violating the law (or regulations enacted in the near future)?

In our next installments we will get down to the nitty-gritty of what you should be looking at, and areas that may need adjustment with your customer reviews processing. Making these changes now will increase site visitor confidence, will keep you from running afoul of government regulations and will increase your search engine "trustworthiness" as their algorithms evaluate your site for ranking purposes. So stay tuned as there is a lot more to come on this subject!

Written By Dave Kelly
Dave was one of the pioneers of the SEO industry, long before Google even existed, and before "SEO" was a meaningful acronym. Dave brings extensive & long-running experience to the PosiRank team.
Dave has also been behind some of the most well-known & cutting edge tools in the SEO space for the past decade, and PosiRank is no exception.
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