Fake Reviews: Not Worth the Risk

Fake Reviews Hurt EveryoneMonths ago I wrote an blog about feedback page where I mentioned that through SEO, not only does your business become more findable for new clients who need your goods and services, you also become more findable by SPAM artists and shady salesmen who either try to lure you away from your current SEO provider or offer some other empty promises.

Even I get them all the time! I get emails almost daily telling me "Your site can't be found on Google, talk to us about SEO". Obviously it's just someone canvassing using some automated SPAM tool, no one's actually take the time to look at my site's rankings or even the subject matter.

A new one I'm seeing is people offering to sell positive reviews for boosting Google Places placement.

Having too few reviews or want to boost your online presence?

We can improve your online reputation by posting positive reviews on major review sites.  People go there when they want to find good, reliable services in which they can trust.

Having positive reviews on those sites will drive more people to choose your business and will make your name stand up from all of the other competitors.

Our services include:

- Improving your reputation by posting good reviews and other links;

- Suppressing negative reviews or other links that might damage your reputation, with positive ones which you can control;

- Increasing your online popularity by creating websites and offering SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services.

Find out more about how we can help by visiting our website at [...].

You can contact us at [...] or call us at [...].

Thank you for according us your time and understanding

This may seem tempting for a small business owner, especially someone just starting who wants to build authority, or someone who has some bad reviews they want to push out of the spotlight in their local listings.

Don't Buy Fake Reviews

I totally get it, it makes sense that it's something someone would want to try. By getting rave reviews on sites like Judy's Book, Insider Pages, CitySearch, etc. you can get business from people using those sites and boost your Google Places ranking as Google picks them up. What could possible go wrong?

Why Wouldn't you Buy Fake Reviews?

It's Just Wrong!

Kind of a no-brainer. It's cheating! If you're running a business, it's likely you took some sort of business classes including training on ethics. Ask yourself how would your customers feel if they knew your reviews were fabricated. Even if they were happy with your service, it's likely it would sour their opinion. If you've got so little integrity that you're going to go to the trouble of getting false reviews, what else are you willing to compromise on?

You could get penalized by Google Places and lose a potentially high ranking spot

It has to be said, Places isn't exactly one of Google's most robust products. It can be gamed, isn't always fair in it's placement, and it can be a real pain when trying to change listings or get rid of duplicate listings. It's a lot better now that it used to be! Google is improving their products all the time, and you can bet this is one area that's under constant development. What they may be unable to detect today could be a big red flag tomorrow.

Fake reviews stick out like a sore thumb!

Just as it's easy to spot a negative one star review on Yelp from a competitor, falsified reviews can be spotted a mile away because they'll be:

  • Grouped together over a very short period of time, or even posted all on the same day
  • Be badly written by someone who clearly speaks English as a second language, or even...
  • So perfectly written it's obvious a lot of time was spent on it and it just doesn't sound natural
  • Created using profile names like "Tom", "John", or "Sally" and other such names. Yes, there's plenty of real John's leaving reviews, but when you've got a chunk of reviews all from names like these, it's obvious
  • Reviewers have left no reviews for anyone else
  • Reviewers leave reviews for services all over the country. If one individual reviews a dentist in Murfreesboro, TN, a lawyer in Wichita, KS, and a carpet cleaner in Cheyenne, WY, something's up.
  • Over use of "keywords" in reviews are another signal. Here's an example: "This San Francisco Lawyer is the best lawyer in San Francisco out of all the attorneys in the San Francisco Bay Area".

Fake Reviewers Will Get Caught!

As frustrating as it is for honest marketers, people using these tactics will get their come-uppance either at the hands of a Google update or users "flagging" reviews and notifying moderators of the problems. Every places page has a "Report A Problem" link at the bottom of the page. Don't go reporting competition willy-nilly, but if it's screamingly obvious someone is trying to game the system, go ahead and make a report to the Places team using this link.

What You Can Do to Get Real Reviews for Your Business

Encourage your real customers to leave honest reviews for you. Create a feedback page on your site and direct your clients where you'd appreciate reviews. It's not wrong to offer an incentive for reviews either, like a discount or some kind of cheap prize. As long as you'll offer the same incentive to reviewers whether the review is good or bad!