TABB Solutions discusses liars in online reviews, our second in a yearlong series on liars, cheats and thieves.
TABB Solutions – Liars in Online Reviews
Consumer reviews are now part of everyday decision-making. Yet, the credibility of these reviews is fundamentally undermined when businesses commit review fraud, creating fake reviews for themselves or (against) their competitors.
There are two ways for a business to share their “reviews”. The first way is through posting testimonials online on their website, and the second way is online through avenues like Google+, Yelp, Yahoo, Citysearch, etc.
Online fictitious testimonials are fairly easy to spot. A real testimonial has contact information, at least a full name, title, and business name (if applicable), if not other contact information such as an email or phone number.
Let’s say the ABC Company does SEO (or any other B2B type business)
TABB Solutions proudly presents an online testimonial for ABC Company.
A Roofing Company
ABC Company is the very best blah blah blah.
Now stop and think. I could write these all day (we’ll get to that in a moment) and no one is the wiser. There is no chance for anyone to follow up or verify the testimonial other than calling every roofing company in the city and asking “is Sally there?”
In fact, it’s really not a testimonial at all, even though it’s placed there on the “testimonial” page. A testimonial is a reference. You don’t fill out references on a job application without full names, emails and/or phone numbers.
And in most “references” we don’t even get the full name of the reference. Why? FAKE.
The second way is post an online review on sites such as Google, Yahoo, Yelp and others.
An estimated one-third of all online reviews are fake, according to Bing Liu, a data-mining specialist based out of University of Illinois, Chicago. No surprise. Take a look at Craigslist or hang out on Twitter long enough and you’ll find them. People and companies that offer to write fake online reviews for your business.
Fake reviews are essentially ad copy disguised as word-of-mouth testimony. They may be written by the business, a third-party service specializing in false testimonials or customers getting a kickback in exchange for a glorious five-star review.
Just ask Todd Rutherford, who earned up to $28,000 a month penning “reviews,” and is now a skeptic when it comes to online reviews: “When there are 20 positive and one negative, I’m going to go with the negative. I’m jaded,” he told the New York Times.
Rutherford founded GettingBookReviews.com, a now-defunct Web service that was paid to write over 4,000 fake reviews, before his Google advertising account was suspended, and Amazon started deleting his reviews.
NY Attorney General Sting Operation Nets 19 SEO Firms
Then there was a landmark court settlement in New York not long ago. The NY Attorney General set up a sting operation under the cover of a frozen yogurt business in NYC.
Officials posed as the owners of a Brooklyn yogurt shop that had garnered negative reviews online. Fake reviews, were then commissioned from SEO reputation management firms that paid people in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Eastern Europe, for as little as a few dollars for each fake review. That also explains the bad English which makes the business that paid the SEO company, look unprofessional. The investigation found the SEO firms even wrote fake reviews of their own businesses.
The investigation found that SEO companies were using advanced IP spoofing techniques to hide their identities, and had set up hundreds of bogus online profiles on consumer review websites to post their “reviews”. These companies advertised for fake “reviewers” on listing site Craigslist and Freelance.com. (Update) Even on Twitter, as TABB Solutions logged onto our Twitter account this morning only to find we were followed by a SEO company whose tagline on Twitter is “Get paid to review local businesses!”.
One SEO firm required their fake reviewers had to set up a Yelp account that was at least three months old and to have written at least 15 reviews before they were commissioned to write their fake posts on Yelp (in order to fool the software meant to weed out fake reviews).
Agreements were reached 19 SEO firms along with a charter bus operator, a teeth-whitening service, a laser hair-removal chain and an adult entertainment club and other businesses. The Attorney General office found evidence that dentists, lawyers and an ultra-sound clinic had all commissioned fake reviews as well.
During the investigation they found the charter bus operator even paid his own employees to write online reviews.
More often, when you see just one negative review, those have likely been penned by a competitor. Generally, if you take a deeper look at their online profile, you’ll find that often, these “reviewers” have only reviewed one business. Hmmmm….
TABB Solutions wants you to know that Online Reviews, Testimonials and Black Hat SEO firms are a haven for liars, cheats and thieves. Don’t get bit.
Speaking of liars, cheats and thieves, check out our first post on Ripoff Report.