Online reviews help potential clients know what it’s like to work with you.
They help your law firm get in front of your target market.
And, good reviews can lead to more business for your firm.
Because of this, some less than reputable law firm SEO “companies” offer a service that provides fake reviews. Regardless of whether the fake reviews are generated via a “review swap” (which involves people or businesses agreeing to leave positive reviews for each other’s business without having actually benefit from the service or products offered) or the SEO company hires someone to simply farm out the process of writing positive reviews to lots of people who have fake accounts for just the reason, it’s a bad idea for Google My Business. It can seriously hurt not just your reputation. It can also mean that Google penalizes your Google My Business profile as well as your website.
How Fake Google My Business Reviews Can Hurt Your Reputation as a Law Firm
If clients and potential clients find out that fake business reviews were listed on your Google My Business, it can seriously damage the reputation of your law firm. They might question your competence. In their mind, a law firm must be pretty lousy if they resort to using fake reviews.
In addition, the FTC has been known to get involved with businesses who have made it a practice to use fake reviews. In fact, the FTC has an entire page devoted to online business activities, including reviews. The FTC considers whether someone has received something of value in exchange for a positive review. Fake reviews may cause the FTC to look into the marketing activities of your law firm. Even if you outsource your law firm SEO and marketing needs, it is your duty to provide proper supervision. Additionally, fake reviews (or fake “likes” as the FTC page states) has absolutely no incentive and is a deceptive activity. The purchaser as well as the seller could face serious problems.
What Are the Penalties for Fake Reviews?
If Google determines that you (or your law firm SEO company) is creating or even managing fake reviews on Google My Business, there are several penalties that may befall you. According to the Terms of Service, Google may:
- Suspend access to your Google My Business page or account;
- Suspend access to other Google services; and
- May contact law enforcement if they believe that the actions violated the law.
And these types of penalties can have severe impacts on your business. As Google is the biggest search engine in the world, if your business were to suddenly disappear from searches related to your services, it could be extremely costly.
By the way, these penalties occur for both businesses and individuals. If your Google My Business page is suspended, your law firm won’t be found in that manner any longer by potential or current clients. Your law firm also won’t be found through the use of Google Maps. Your website may also be penalized by either de-listing or by a severe drop in its rankings.
If Google things your fake reviews were part of a scam or that you’re committing criminal misrepresentation, they can call law enforcement. Then, things can get ugly for your law firm very fast.
Instead of Fake Reviews, Use Proper Law Firm SEO for Google My Business
We understand how tempting the use of fake reviews might be. The fact is, it’s a dangerous practice. Instead, focus on using proper law firm SEO for your Google My Business listing. To improve your local ranking, make sure that you use complete and accurate information about your law firm, verify your location, update your hours as needed to reflect when your office may be closed, add photos, and respond to real reviews. Always keep in mind that Google determines local rankings based on relevance, distance (from your law firm to the person Googling), and prominence. Using fake reviews could easily violate those factors.
Remember, just say no to fake reviews for Google My Business. Do not trust a law firm SEO company or individual who may offer you such a “service.” The penalties are just too high!