Fake Online Reviews – “Black Hat SEO” Technique Exposed


fake online reviews

The New York Attorney General’s office announced in a press release on September 23, 2013 the results of a sting operation it launched a year ago which nabbed 19 companies who were flooding the internet with fake reviews of numerous businesses.  These “reviews” were posted on sites like Yelp, Citysearch and other review sites.

Total fines assessed against these companies came to $350,000.

The companies in question were paying anywhere from $1 – $10 per fake review. Reviews were written by freelancers in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Eastern Europe who were hiding their identities by “astroturfing.”

By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.

The majority of the companies using this cheesy “black hat SEO” technique were “SEO/Reputation Management” firms. We have written about black hat SEO in some of our earlier blogs.

According to the press release, “A highly-cited Harvard Business School study from 2011 estimated that a one-star rating increase on Yelp translated to an increase of 5% to 9% in revenues for a restaurant.”

Imagine how negative fake reviews impact some businesses!

Attorney General Schneiderman said, “This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution.”

You can read the NY Attorney General’s full press release by clicking here.  NOTE: Obviously, we have no control over how long the AG’s office will keep this press release up on their site.

White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO

SEO firms that are foolish enough to engage in such black hat techniques are going to pay a heavy penalty when they are eventually caught. Not only in terms of money, but in reputation.

Sadly, there will always be some in the SEO and Reputation Management industries who try to cheat when attempting to push their clients’ websites up the search engines’ rankings. But they will get eventually get exposed, and even blacklisted, once Google and other search engines catch on to them.  And their clients’ websites will drop down quickly in the search engine rankings.

Rather than just quote from the NY Attorney General’s press release, we are keeping this blog fairly short. We urge you to read the full press release on their site so that you understand why you need to use SEO pros and webmasters who run legitimate enterprises, and engage ONLY in “white hat SEO.”

fake online reviewsHow do you know if they are legitimate?  Well, for starters, ignore their reviews on Yelp and other review sites!  But do read their client testimonials. And better yet, see if they will refer you to a couple of current clients whose websites you can visit.

Lastly, if they promise you the moon in no time at all, know that you will probably end up with a piece of gravel.  Good SEO really works, but it won’t happen in a week.  And REALLY good SEO is an ongoing process.

First you fix up all the things that need fixing which, in some cases, can be quite a bit. That gets everything heading in the right direction – up the search engine rankings. Then you continue tweaking to ensure results are stable.

Bottom line: Good white hat SEO and original, quality content on your web pages will get you up there.  Black hat SEO will just bring you down.  So if that’s the case, why would anyone consider black hat SEO to actually BE search engine “optimization?”

Written by Bob Nelson

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to RESULTS PROFESSIONAL MARKETING and a clickable link back to this page.

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