There are White Hat and Black Hat ways of getting reviews and of skewing these reviews in your favor; decide which kind of method you'll use.
The importance of reviews in Google and Bing can't be underestimated in both the paid advertising areas of the SERP and organic results. A good review manifests itself as a set of gold stars and increases the CTR, allowing advertisers and online marketers to capture a greater share of the highly valuable, limited supply of click volume out there.
On eBay (which really is a commerce search engine), ratings and reviews have a big impact on the relative visibility of one merchant's listings over another. And while Google may no longer count the lift in CTR derived from the existence of reviews toward your Quality Score (they seem to have started normalizing the CTR lift from ad extensions in general), it's still great to be able to use reviews to capture additional click volume.
Reviews are challenging to get for nearly every online marketer or business with an online presence. There are White Hat and Black Hat ways of getting reviews and of skewing these reviews in your favor, and you'll have to make the call as to which kind of method you'll use.
White Hat, Grey Hat, or Black Hat?
At the same time, it's not quite clear whether certain review-generating methods are black hat, white, or grey. For example, my wife recently received a complimentary "thank you" bracelet with an order of apparel from an online merchant. Attached to the bracelet was a set of instructions on how to leave feedback/ratings and a request to leave a positive rating.
Black hat, white hat or grey? It probably depends who you ask. The letter didn't say you couldn't leave a bad review, but it simultaneously created an incentive (guilt) to leave a rating as well as a positive vibe about the company, creating a situation where the odds of getting a favorable rating go up.
Here are some other white, grey and black hat ways that business owners and online marketers are increasing the number of reviews they have and improving their ratings.
Rules for reviews are similar to rules for SEO links, so you'll notice some very similar tactics.
Choose Your Method with Care
Whichever method you choose, be aware that black-hat methods, even if they're not detected immediately, may come back to haunt you in the long run. This past week, a case in Virginia held that the identity of anonymous Yelp.com reviewers can be outed in certain circumstances. You need to keep in mind the TOS of the sites on which reviews can be left (and beware that these TOS can change at the whim of the review site).
Also be aware that some professions do not allow for the licensed professional to ask for a positive review, and may further require that if reviews are solicited, they are solicited in exactly the same way to every customer or client.
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Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.
Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.
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Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.
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12:00pm ET/9:00am PT