What is Wrong with 3rd Party Reviews

What isn’t wrong is a better question.

This is a dangerous online service that retail business owners should deeply contemplate before signing up. I personally would avoid – 3rd Party Review Services all-together. You (your business) can do its own online marketing better and without the alimony check.

On the surface it seems like a good idea and valuable service to have more and better reviews online. People do use Yelp (albeit mostly angry people). 85% of consumers will look at reviews (if they are visible) to confirm the integrity of a business, so you might jump to the conclusion that you could use some help getting more and better reviews.

But when you actually look at how this works, this is a parasitic business model. It is not designed to help your business long-term. It is designed to cost you a small sum per month, forever. And it can only get more and more expensive as time goes on. And once you enlist, there is no going back.

You know Yelp as a horizontal review service. But you may not be aware of all the smaller players in the many vertical retail niches. In the automotive business there are Dealerrater and SureCritic, in the travel business there are Travelocity and Viator, to name those I’ve looked at carefully.

How it Works

These 3rd Party Review Services use your content to attain a place in search results next to your business listing. That means when someone searches for your business, they will also see the 3rd Party Review Service right below your listing. That person who was just about to click on your listing, may now click on the 3rd party service listing. Why would you want that?

You Just Haven’t Considered the Odds

This is a bad bet. They will get a percentage of the clicks you were going to get anyway. And a percentage of those user will look at the list of your competitors (nicely presented on the 3rd party website, with the very intent to divert them). So even if you have 5 stars, you may never see that user again. Are you still betting you will get more back in referrals than you lose? Read on…

I know I’m repeating myself, but realize these 3rd Party Review listings only give your online shopper a reason to click on anything but your listing, and that is going to lower the number of visitors to your website. A certain percentage will be permanently lost no matter how good your reviews are.

Its Gets Worse

The 3rd Party Review Service is more damaging than that. They often duplicate your content which is well known in SEO to be bad for your search rank. Often in your “relationship” with the 3rd Party Review Service, you are giving them permission to use your website content. Dealerrater is even so brazen as to duplicate your staff page, which then allows people to rate them individually! Think about where that is going – disinter-mediating your employees, so those with the best reviews can become “free-agents”? You may one day have to pay those employees more just to retain them – all because or Dealerrater. But we digress…

Read the fine print. NEVER allow your content to be duplicated anywhere, by anyone, no matter how good the intent.

Till Death Do Us Part

Once the 3rd Party Review Service attains a competitive search rank (position next to your listing) on the search engine results pages, they will then always drain a good percentage of your traffic awayforever more. It’ll be alimony either way. You will pay in lost visitors to your site or you will have to continue to pay the subscription fee just to get some of those visitors back. And that’s not all…

Should you stop using their service, you may no longer have control over the reviews that inevitably will accumulate on their site after you have terminated the relationship. As a consequence, you stand to compound the lost business should you end the relationship. Your competitor who continues with the 3rd Party will now get your prospective visitors. Its a dance with the devil in my opinion. Again, either way you go, you start this thing, but it never stops.

There Can Be Only One

All these 3rd Party Review Services will favor the highest bidder, or the business with the most/best reviews from day one. If you still want to sign up (for the leads presumably), you cannot arrive late to this party. The business with the most 5 star reviews will always get the lions-share of the “leads” and they will be hard to unseat from their top position. If your business happens to be “The One”, the odds may favor you – but you are still dancing with the Devil.

What To Do? (if you don’t want to go there)

They will steal your traffic and that means real $$$. A best practice when these parasites pop up in search next to your listing; call them and request they remove you business from their database. (they have plenty of sales people who want to hear from you) The call will do nothing of course, so be sure to get an email address for their legal counsel. This way you can follow up with something in writing, preferably from your lawyer, requesting to be removed from their database (and therefore the search results). This will take time, but eventually you can get them out of your search results.

Why Not Take Control?

Take more control of your Reputation Management sooner than later. You should already have some sort of campaign to increase your Google Reviews. But why not have the reviews on your website? Its very possible and not as expensive to implement as you might think.

The Long Game

You should encourage reviews that live on your website? Its very possible and not as expensive to implement as you might think. That is the ultimate solution.

Google will ultimately be the only reviews game in town. Google continues to develop their review business even if they say Google+ is going away (that is now history in 2018) – the reviews won’t. They have already removed most Yellow Page services from search results and I bet they intend to one day push Yelps out of business. (oops! they are back in the SERPs in a big way in 2015) At some juncture, Google will likely remove those 3rd Party services from search results along with Yelp. That will solve this problem for you, but when?

I have since published another article on thisThe Online Reviews Bait and Switch