If you notice a business has hundreds of reviews and all of them are positive, how likely are you to trust those experiences? In a case like this, the company could be practicing what’s known as review gating, which involves favoring positive reviews and preventing negative ones to carefully construct a good reputation online.

In this article, you’ll learn what review gating is, how it can hurt your business, and what you can do to ethically manage your online reputation. Then check out Weave’s review management solutions and how it can help your business (click here to learn more).

What Is Review Gating?

Review gating refers to the practice of seeking positive reviews while discouraging or inhibiting negative reviews, resulting in a misleading collection of positive reviews that don’t reflect the true customer experience. 

Since 2018, Google’s policies prohibit companies from review gating in order to protect consumers’ trust in the online reviews on their site. Google’s guidelines also ban incentivizing customers for reviews with discounts or free goods and services, fake reviews, and other unethical practices. Its aim is to ensure that the business information on Google represents an authentic experience at a business.

Examples of review gating:

  • Sending a text or email to ask if the customer had a negative or positive experience. If they choose positive, they get a link to leave a public review. If they choose negative, they get a link to leave private feedback that won’t be available to the public.
  • Incentivizing a customer to leave a five-star rating by offering a 10% discount code.
  • Asking customers to rate their experience and only requesting reviews from customers that gave high ratings.

How Review Gating Can Hurt Your Business

Gating reviews can have a devastating effect on your organization’s online reputation, which plays a vital role in your ability to gain new customers. If your reviews are artificially positive, potential customers won’t get an accurate representation of your business. When you lose consumer trust, it can be difficult to impossible to get it back.

Also, violating Google’s review gating policy can get you permanently banned from the site. Considering Google is one of the top resources for users looking for products and services online, a ban could have disastrous results for your business.

On the flip side, genuine online reviews give you positive and negative feedback to analyze so that your organization can learn what it’s doing right and what it needs to improve to become a better business. 

FTC on Review Gating

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidelines against review gating, insisting that business owners should be transparent about their online review practices, which is essential for gaining trust from consumers. 

FTC review gating guidelines ask that companies follow these basic principles: 

  • Don’t selectively ask for reviews from customers who had a positive experience. 
  • Don’t discourage or prevent customers that had a negative experience from leaving a review.
  • If you offer incentives for reviews, don’t make leaving a positive review a condition of the reward. Incentivizing online reviews at all can lead to bias and lack of credibility. 

The organization also believes companies should moderate their online reviews to verify authentic reviews and remove fake ones, but they shouldn’t edit reviews to sound more positive or only remove negative reviews.

FTC penalties for review gating or using other deceptive review practices can be up to $44,000 per violation of the Consumer Review Fairness Act.

Tips for Encouraging Customers to Leave Reviews Without Gating

A great tip for encouraging reviews ethically is to invite customers to leave a review after they purchase a product or service. The keyword here is invite; you’re not demanding a positive review, you’re asking politely. In our 2023 Healthcare Business Insights Report, we found that 70% of customers will leave a review for a business when asked to. 

Make it as convenient as possible for your customers to leave reviews by following these practices:

  • Include a link to your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) or another online review platform.
  • Personalize your review request with the customer’s name.
  • Use a friendly and casual or professional tone. 
  • Provide brief context to explain why reviews are important to your business.

Best Practices for Managing Online Reviews

Learning how to successfully manage your online reviews helps you cultivate a solid reputation and gain more new customers. In our free e-book, we provide answers to common business owner questions about Google reviews. 

Below, you can find out a few of the best practices for online reputation management:

Monitor Reviews

Review management tools like Weave help you check your online reviews daily, allowing you to authenticate reviews that could be fake and address negative reviews to offer solutions. Staying on top of your reviews helps you build customer loyalty and keep your company’s online reputation under control.

Respond Promptly

Responding to reviews is an excellent way to offer solutions to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer. At the same time, you’ll show prospective customers reading your reviews that your company is willing to acknowledge and fix your mistakes. 

You should respond to reviews quickly to ensure you can do damage control before the negative experience drives away customers. 

Don’t Try to Avoid Negative Reviews

While your business might strive to get five-star ratings, you shouldn’t prevent or discredit negative reviews. Not only is it unethical and potentially fine-worthy, but you’ll lose out on important customer feedback that can help you improve your business practices and earn those positive reviews you strive for.

Additionally, when prospective customers see negative reviews, it builds trust and shows them that they’re reading authentic reviews for your business. When users trust your customer reviews, they’re more likely to believe the positive feedback shared about your company on Google or another review site.

Watch for Fake Reviews

Even if you have dozens of five-star ratings on your Google review profile, it’s typically not difficult for consumers to tell when reviews are biased or inauthentic. It’s best for your reputation to carefully monitor for fake reviews and remove them immediately.

Learn From Feedback

Even one Google review can be the catalyst for positive change in your business practices, whether it’s a bad or good review. A positive review can show what your company is doing well and help you reinforce the practices that provide a good experience. On the other hand, a negative review tells you what you need to change in order to improve your customer experience.

Always Act Professionally

It’s never a good look for your business to argue with a bad review. When you respond to a Google review, you should always use a pleasant, professional tone to show customers that your business can recognize a bad experience without getting defensive or attacking the reviewer. 

Weave Review Management

With the Weave review management tool, your online reputation management becomes much easier. As your reputation management partner, Weave ensures that your review practices comply with the policies of Google, Yelp, and other third-party review platforms. 

We know that trustworthy reviews are highly valuable to customers and your business, so our review management tool helps you increase your online review volume with authentic, unbiased reviews. We help you send personalized, indiscriminate review requests to your customers.

Get Honest Reviews and a Stronger Online Presence With Weave

Weave is an all-in-one business management platform that helps you collect and monitor reviews on sites like Google and Facebook. We give you access to one of the most effective search engine marketing techniques with a simple tool that you can use to moderate your online reviews and send automated review requests. 

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