Online review sites and the reviews they host are a controversial topic within the deck building and remodeling industries—one that can bring out a lot of emotions and some harsh words. While many would prefer to do away with the sites, most notably Angie's List and Yelp, they don't appear to be going away anytime soon.
Critics of of the sites will argue that Angie's List has never turned an annual profit and that Yelp's business model is unethical. Despite these points, online reviews—regardless of what site they live on—can still make or break your business. While many users of these sites do post honest reviews, others do not or post negative reviews despite not actually doing business with the company.
Small business owners are wising up, though, and are finding ways to fight back against unfair and fraudulent negative reviews.
While most don't have the resources for a legal fight, it hasn't stopped them from happening. When Virginia contractor Christopher Dietz felt he was wronged by a negative online review posted by a former client, he took her to court and after two years of legal wrangling ended up with a split verdict from the jury. The client eventually ended up taking the reviews down after the court's decision was made.
Dietz isn't the only contractor or business owner to take such drastic measures. An article by Entrepreneur's Geoff Weiss explains why some small business owners are willing to take things to court:
"With anonymous complaints they deem untrue (at best) or commercially devastating (at worst), today, business owners are looking to take back power.
This month, the Supreme Court will hear a case brought against Yelp by small-business owner Joe Hadeed, who alleges that seven anonymous and fraudulent reviewers lacerated sales at his carpet cleaning company."
Aside from fraudulent and wrong negative reviews, small businesses also have to deal with fake reviews. These reviews can be either extremely positive or negative and often are written by people who have never used the product or service. They can also influence your standings on the website as the algorithms that control the websites are wary of things such as too many positive reviews and may label some of them fake based on certain criteria.
When it comes to fake reviews, there are three fairly easy ways to spot one: check the username and check their profile, check the style and messaging of the review, keep an eye out for marketing jargon.
Whether or not you decide to respond to online reviews is up to you. While there are many fraudulent and fake reviews out there, some of those negative reviews may be legitimate and are well worth the effort to correct. Just remember, the key to handling any online review, however, is to not take it personally.