Fake Reviews Companies

February 22, 2012 By Ted Paff

We are asked many times each month about companies that claim to post (and/or repost) reviews about a business onto Google Places and/or Yelp. Actually, these companies typically claim much more than that but lets stick with these for now.Sock Puppet

Legit or Not?

Uh…no. Not even close. Here are Google’s Terms (here are some other Google Terms)  and Yelp’s Terms. There is plenty more but trust me…no.

Some history

Once upon a time, Google accepted and indexed into Google Places/Maps reviews from 3rd party reviews companies including Customer Lobby, Yelp, CitySearch and many others. Mid-2011, Google stopped indexing legitimately gathered reviews from 3rd party reviews hosting companies. Since then, Google has been very clear: if a review is not the first-hand personal experience of the person entering the review, it should not be posted  AND  there are no longer any reviews from 3rd party reviews companies that will be indexed into Google Places (they still index the links to the 3rd party review content but not the text).

Some enterprising individuals decided they could make a business out of posting reviews on behalf of other businesses into Google Places and/or Yelp. They use a variety of techniques (intentionally not listed here to prevent future spammers from getting any bright ideas) to get past the initial spam filter. More on this in a minute.

How do you spot the fakers?

There are plenty of these companies around. Search and you will find them. Typically, they do not come out and say “Google doesn’t approve of what we do but we are happy to charge you for it.”  So how do you spot these companies? In general, they do not have:

  • detailed information on their website about what they actually do and the techniques they use to do it.
  • a blog that allows open public comment/questions.
  • reviews about their own business.
  • information on specific clients of theirs (so the Google police don’t track down the techniques TOO fast).

What is the Downside?

  1. Your reviews will eventually be taken down by Google and/or Yelp. It often takes their algorithms  a while to catch up but they do. When the reviews do come down, good luck getting your money back from the “reviews” company that was hired to put them there.
  2. Spam Google/Yelp at your own risk. Google has a habit of punishing “evil doers”  and they think review spam is evil. Will they take your listing down? Will they demote it to page 17 of the search results? Is it worth the risk to find out?  You have been warned.

Where do we stand

Customer Lobby will not lie, cheat or steal.  Period. We will not repost your reviews into Google Places or Yelp or other sites unless we have an explicit content agreement with those sites. We will not violate the Terms of Service of other businesses or web sites including Google and Yelp. We will work as hard as we can to help our clients but will always do it ethically. Its sad to have to state that in contrast to others but its a fact.

5 Responses to “Fake Reviews Companies”

  1. J. Story

    This is a great article. I used to work for a company that helped businesses get reviews and this was always a big frustration for us. There are so many companies out there that will put reviews onto Google and Yelp for you but eventually you will get caught and when you do you risk being blacklisted from Google meaning potential customers won’t be able to find you on the worlds #1 search engine. It’s not worth the risk so stick with a legit company like Customer Lobby or another 3rd party provider.

  2. Graham Womack

    Great post, Ted. A lot of my philosophy for managing comments on my blog has come from what I learned from you.

  3. Harry Dowling

    I am very concerned at the misuse of google places reviews. Worse still, I don’t find google to be very active in monitoring and eradicating abuse.

    I am a psychotherapist in private practice in Surrey UK. Most of my colleagues have no reviews but one in particular has garnered 7 in a very short space of time. A relative of said colleague (according to her website) is handling her SEO. Examination of the reviews and the other postings of their authors show some interlocking arrangement.

    Google has been prompted but no action has been taken so far. Or should I expect action only after a long investigation period?

    I am not posting here the (to me ) offending places page but am happy to supply details to anyone who wants to investigate.

  4. Ted Paff

    The ‘interlocking arrangement’ you mentioned is all too common. Often, these are fake Google accounts that are maintained by SEOs or business owners wanting to cheat. Google moves slowly on these issues but the right thing usually happens…it just takes a while.

  5. Harry Dowling

    Ted, I am reassured by your reply. I shall have to be patient.

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