Being able to read consumer reviews before you buy a product or use a service is a great advantage of using the internet for purchasing just about any type of item, as we are able to do research, compare products and brands, and ultimately make very informed decisions before parting with our hard-earned cash. In fact, the customer reviews on Amazon – which still beat user reviews on just about all other online retailers hands down, are probably the main reason for the site’s enormous success.

Recently, review sites that have been created for the sole purpose of providing reviews are growing in popularity. In the UK sites like Reviewcentre.com and Trustpilot.com are becoming very well known; while Yelp still rules as the biggest and most important review site in the US. Due to the amount of traffic these sites are receiving, getting your website or business reviewed can be very advantageous – or it could be the death of your business if you get a bunch of negative reviews.

As far as SEO goes, although the big review sites have high authority and good PR, not all give you a link back to your website. But many businesses and SEO companies are focusing their efforts on building their own or their client’s profiles on review sites as part of their Internet marketing strategy. The reason for this is clear. Due to the high PR of these sites, reviews can often make it to the front page of Google for related keywords, often beating the reviewed company’s own website. In addition, the listings come up with stars beneath the title, which draw the searcher’s eyes away from other listings to the review.

Here is a good example: Typing in gaming related keywords brings up the following result. Although the result was not at the top of the SERPs, the listing stands out far more than those above it – inviting clicks from users who will hopefully then read the review and click through to the site.

However, there is a problem. If you look through review sites these days, it is rather apparent that many positive reviews are faked. Companies have glowing reviews from dozens or even hundreds of reviewers; and almost all the reviewers only have one review. Due to the benefits from a marketing point of view, it is no wonder people are going to such lengths to get their sites listed on review sites; but before you go rushing to write a bunch of positive reviews for your business or ask other people to do the same, take a moment to ponder what happened to a US company called Lifestyle Lift in 2009. The company was fined $300,000 by the Attorney General for getting employees to write fake reviews. More recently, a hotel group in Ireland had to involve their lawyers to get them out of hot water after they sent an email to members of staff that was later leaked. It detailed how employees would be expected in the near future to write reviews for the company on Tripadvisor. The employees were instructed that under no circumstances were they to use work PCs or login from their work IP address on their own computers to write their reviews. but to write from home or preferably use public WiFi. As no reviews were actually written, there was nothing to press charges over, but as writing fake reviews in the UK is technically illegal, the Hotel Group can count themselves lucky.

Perhaps a better internet marketing strategy is to encourage genuine clients to leave positive reviews. Many satisfied clients simply don’t think about going online and leaving a review but would be more than happy to do so; so whether you are an Internet marketer, a company owner or an SEO provider, rather than trying to push fake reviews through that could land you in trouble or lose incredulity for your website or company, try devising a system that encourages more of your visitors and clients to go online and leave a genuine review.