• http://www.seoinc.com/ Chris Barnwell

    They meant to say “In addition, we do not accept reviews written for money or other incentives (unless we’re holding a contest then it’s quite alright.)” ;p

  • http://www.planetc1.com/ chiropractic

    It’s a slippery slope and it also highlights the reality of departments that don’t communicate with each other. How is this fair for businesses in Portland but not anywhere else? The reality of getting everyone on the same page is unlikely.

  • Aaron Berlin

    I think there’s clearly a difference between the business being reviewed paying for the privilege, and the host of a data base of reviews encouraging people to favor their service over someone else’s. That’s not a conflict of interest, it’s just entirely in Google’s interest. It may be a literal violation of their policy as written, but it’s silly to claim this is somehow unethical.

  • Matt McGee

    Aaron, I don’t think I’ve made any judgments on the ethics of the situation, it’s more about the irony. I’ve pointed out that Google is doing exactly what they tell small business owners not to do — offer cash and prizes in exchange for reviews. If Google has that guideline because incentives can “undermine the trust” of a review, why is it okay in this case for consumers to leave reviews in exchange for a shot at winning cash and prizes? Either you believe that incentives can lead to less trustworthy reviews or you don’t.

  • http://mauricewalshe mauricewalshe

    “The contest and campaign are completely consistent with that objective, and do not raise concerns about conflicting interests that the guidelines aim to prevent.””

    um how exactly? also its whether it’s percived” to be against the guidelines which is as important.


  • http://www.pagezero.com Andrew Goodman

    There is a distinction, albeit slim.

    Anyone in the consumer reviews business knows there is a difference between (a) a service provider saying “write me a positive review for this incentive/discount,” and (b) the operator of a review site trying to increase the number of consumers who are interested in reading and writing reviews, through generalized incentives.

    Under this set of guidelines,

    OK: Yelp throws a party to get consumers excited about the local scene and to teach them how to meet like-minded friends online and to support businesses in general by writing reviews on the good ones. At this party, there is some free alcohol and food, and a door prize.

    OK: HomeStars holds a seminar for home improvement companies to help contractors understand how to manage their online reputations on Twitter, how to tweet positive reviews, and the like. At the event someone mentions that it is perfectly OK for companies to ask their happy customers to write reviews. Some prizes are given out at the event, to whip up a little excitement. They are paid for by a sponsor.

    Not OK: The hair salon gives you 50% off in exchange for a top review on a review site. A plant store hires people and pays them to write bogus good reviews about them as well as bad ones about competitors.

    The distinction is supposed to make contributing content more interesting to consumers, but to uphold the integrity and quality of individual reviewers’ contributions.

  • Winooski

    Andrew, thanks for the (as always) cogent explanation. I think Google passes the “letter of the law” test but fails the “spirit of the law” test. Luckily for Google, I don’t think that’ll be sufficient to raise the interest of the “Operation Payback” posse.

  • http://www.brightlocal.com brightlocal

    I have some personal insight this ‘type’ of initative –

    I used to work for a UK based local business directory.

    We tried to stimulate the creation of unique reviews from existing users and new users. We ran a big promotion with some sizeable cash prizes for the top contributors who wrote the most reviews in a month – there were also some word count, quality & non-duplicate submission criteria too.

    The promotion generated over 10,000 reviews in a month which increased the site’s total review count by 50%.

    However a handful of people (approx 15) wrote nearly 50% of the reviews and many of them were duplicate and spammy and it was a tedious process to check them.

    After the competition we saw review levels drop back to pre-competition levels meaning that we didn’t increase loyalty or attract many new high value users.

    Our conclusions from this activity were –

    – Competitions will always attract competition-hounds who are purely there for the prize
    – Quality & genuine sentiment suffer when cash is on the table
    – Motivation behind the review is totally wrong and this can harm rather than benefit local businesses
    – Not everyone wants to leave reviews or is comfortable having their name publicly associated with a review. Over the coming years more & more consumers will become comfortable with it as local reviews become more prevalent. But trying to force the issue before people are naturally ready can breed a negative association with reviews (i.e. “they’re all paid for!”) and actually discourage users from leaving genuine reviews.

  • http://www.metaltoad.com/people/ben B. Martin

    Being local to Portland I was able to see first hand how Google made it’s marketing push for Hotpot, if you’re interested I wrote up a review here: