Fake it till you’re behind bars. That’s the new saying these days. When it comes to online reviews, that seems to be the business model for far too many companies lately.
On Monday, September 23rd, the New York State Attorney General announced that an extensive year long investigation had been conducted and uncovered nearly two dozen companies buying fake online reviews for sites like Citysearch and Yelp. 19 of those nearly two dozen companies have been found guilty of scamming customers with fake reviews and will have to pay combined fines totaling $350,000 for their fraudulent acts. For more information, check out the article from The New York Times.
Below is an image of a "consumer alert" that Yelp has instituted in an effort to stop fake reviews.
Yelp will slap the offending company with the "consumer alert" for all to see. There will also be a link showing the consumer exactly which reviews are fake, as well as the company’s emails trying to hire reviewers. Yelp states that the alerts will be posted for 90 days (longer of the company continues to post fake reviews). For more information, check out our previous blog on review filtering.
You might be wondering why online reviews are causing such a fuss. The statistics will surprise you. In today's world, one negative customer review online can cost you 30 new customers. (Convergys, Mar 2012).
Getting reviews is difficult…that’s why companies have been paying for fake ones. In fact, it’s even harder to get them to stick due to review filters. For instance, if a customer never posts reviews and decides to post one, Yelp will often consider it falsified and pull it. It's unfortunate that this situation happens but Yelp's filters are sensitive and ultimately, Yelp is trying to provide the best content possible to consumers. It's a tricky situation and a total catch 22 but buying positive reviews is not the only way to improve your online reputation.
Here at Chatmeter, we operate by an entirely different code of ethics. We don't believe in paying for reviews or associating with fake ones. In fact, we have helped many customers find fake reviews from competitors and get them removed from the web. We are honest, open and transparent about online review monitoring and our goal is to help your company create the best web presence possible using ethically responsible methods to do so. We’re monitoring millions of pages, locations, and reviews so we’ll be watching as well.