3 Things to Be Careful of If Your Website Allows Customer Reviews

search strategies for 2015
By @iqoncept / purchased from DepositPhotos.com

Customer reviews on product pages and on your site can be great to help conversions.  They can increase sharing, build trust and help to show what is good and not good with the products you carry.  The problem is that they can also cause damage to your company.

I always encourage clients to offer a section for their customers to leave feedback on products, however there are a few things to think about when selecting a vendor for reviews and that you should pay attention to.  Some of them you may already know, but here are three you may not have thought of.   

1.  Negative SEO to the comment

You probably wouldn’t think that someone could negative SEO your site by using comments, but I actually found this happening to a friend via a spam comment with a spam bot the other day.  Some customers or possible competitors can be using this (even if they don’t know it) for negative SEO on your company.  The spam bot comments went to irrelevant and probably relevant blogs and spammed them with comments.  This could potentially hurt the store’s SEO on product pages, and it also looks bad for his store to spam bloggers if they are relevant and he ever tries outreach for backlinks.  Luckily he is an advanced SEO and set up a lot of tracking to catch this and find out where else the spam bot hit.

Here’s what the spam bot did and why it didn’t hit his radar.

He has webmaster tools and his SEO Software set up to track www. and not the http://url.com because his site automatically redirects to the www. version.  Because the links were set up to hit the http://url.com version of his site and pages, the links didn’t show up in his reporting so he wouldn’t have known what was happening, especially if he got hit by Penguin.  The comments also had a name or product name and didn’t mention his company name at all so alerts wouldn’t have helped.  Neither of us had thought to keep track of the other versions for backlink checking before, but now it is something that I am going to be adding to all of the clients I do SEO for, especially the ones that allow customer reviews on their product pages.

If your site has already been hit by Penguin, does not have much authority or not many backlinks, this could have caused real damage and finding the backlinks would have been very hard to do.  The only way we caught it is because it hit my blog and I recognized his url when looking through the spam comments folder on this site.

2.  The software you are using may start to use affiliate links to monetize traffic.  (internal links, links to other sites, etc…)

I think auto monetization tools are amazing ways to monetize your content as a website owner.  I also highly recommend them to Bloggers and content site owners.  However, some plugins, url shorteners and companies monetize through affiliate links by using these tools to monetize the internal, outbound and backlinks to websites that have affiliate programs.  I don’t think I’ve seen any review and comment services that allow auto monetization tools to monetize their customer review software, but that doesn’t mean they may not do it in the future.

If you have a customer that leaves a comment on product A and links to Product B which is complimentary to it, and the service you are using is an Affiliate or monetizes their traffic with an auto monetization tool that is in your program, this could potentially turn that direct link from your website into an affiliate link and you may have to start paying commissions on these links and sales.  I have not come across any commenting and review software yet for ecommerce stores that use this, so I wouldn’t be worried.  However if you use these services on your site, especially if they are free software, keep track of the referring urls from auto monetization tools in your affiliate program and also read how the service makes money and monetizes their software.

3.  Try to find a way to block the third party content without hiding anything from Google or to move it.

One last thing to think about with your SEO is keyword density, content and if the reviews and comments section of your product pages are indexable by the search engines.  Although reviews can help to build trust and increase conversions, they can throw off your keyword density if you want to rank the page.   Depending on the code they can also add in extra H tags, etc… which can also throw off the way the search engines see your page.

Customer reviews can be amazing for increasing conversions by adding trust and increasing total sales.  Unfortunately some SEOs are finding ways to use this for negative SEO.  You may also have auto monetization tools start working with them which could end up costing you money on people that are already customers and on your site.  You should definitely think about allowing reviews if your products could benefit from them, but think about how to protect your site from negative SEO and possible cannibalization from your service providers.  Reviews are a great marketing tool, but you have to make sure you are using them the right way.

*Images are purchased from Deposit Photos and modified PowerPoint stock art.

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