Web Rep Shortcuts Lead to Hefty Fines

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NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman fines 19 businesses for fake reviews.

From Adland:

After a year long undercover investigation, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman came down hard on companies who participated in the act of soliciting fake positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Google Local, Citysearch and more.

“Astroturfing,” is the act of soliciting someone to write fake reviews for cash. All in told 19 companies were found guilty of the practice and ordered to pay 350,000 in total fines. One company alone owed nearly 100,000 of that fine.

I guess because it’s easier to pay the low cost of 1 to 10 dollars per review than, you know, improve your business.

Schneiderman’s office posted an example of someone soliciting this kind of job:

“We need a person that can post multiple positive reviews on major REVIEW sites. Example: Google Maps, Yelp, CitySearch. Must be from different IP addresses… So you must be able to have multiple IPs. The reviews will be only few sentences long. Need to have some understanding on how Yelp filters works. Previous experience is a plus…just apply –)we are a marketing company”

We have discussed this subject in the past, and our position is unchanged; there are no shortcuts.  Companies that promise that they have some “secret sauce” that will wipe negative reviews from search engines and review sites are not revealing the full story, are putting a band-aid on a gaping wound, and opening your company to like fines and penalties.

Multiple studies conclude that online reviews can make or break companies.  According to one survey, 90% of consumers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions.  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. Cornell researchers have found that a one-star swing in a hotel’s online ratings at sites like Travelocity and TripAdvisor is tied to an 11% sway in room rates, on average.  Gartner projects that by 2014, between 10% and 15% of social media reviews will be fake. 

To address your web reputation, monitoring for more than marketing is critical – be prepared for and ahead of the storm.  Learn more about Monitoring for more than Marketing.

Read the AG’s full Press Release Here


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