Business directory site YELP is suing fake online review site BuyOnlineReviews.net for damages and trying to get the site shut down after the site violated several site conditions and conducted illegal activities.
The site promises to generate fake positive reviews for a range of local directories and sites including Google plus, Citysearch, InsiderPages, Local.com, SuperPages, Foursquare, YellowPages and Yelp.
The site sells fake reviews for less than $25 a review and allows users to purchase up to 100 reviews, desperate or corrupt merchants are required buy a minimum of three reviews. The site offers to post fake reviews on sites from different IP addresses, locations and leaked at time intervals designed to make reviews look real. Sites such as Yelp which are affected have a huge incentive to try and remove these fake review sites to preserve consumer trust. 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal reccomendations, it is important for these sites to maintain consumer trust and if the authenticity of reviews was brought into contention this could affect the sites credibility.
Below is extracts taken from the FAQ section of the site which highlights the sites openness to the actions it is taking to violate sites such as YELP’s terms and conditions by posting fake reviews.
“Q – What Exactly Does Your Service Provide?”
“A – We provide real reviews that highlight all of the best features of your business.”
“Q – What are the benefits of buying reviews?”
“A – Buying reviews has many benefits. It lessens the impact of bad reviews that may have been posted. Good reviews raise your chance of being featured on Yelp local pages in your area, it also creates new content that can raise your rank in Google local searches.”
” Q – After I order how long before I see my first review?”
” A – If you are providing your own reviews we will generally have your first review posted within 24 hours. If we are writing your reviews add 48 to 72 hours to that estimate.”
The openness of the site to the activity it is undertaking highlights the companies’ belief that it is doing nothing wrong. This has led to YELP adding a consumer alert to the company which will have negative impacts for the company. It can be easy to spot fake online reviews, a few examples are:
- The reviewer’s profile is anonymous.
- The reviewer has only posted one post on a review site against a specific company/brand/individual and has not reviewed any other sites.
- A reviewer has placed hundreds of reviews, and all these reviews are negative.
- The review uses scare words in the title of the review such as “Scam”, “Poor Service” and “stole money “or other similar phrases.
Many companies have issues with managing their online reputation however several reputation management firms are engaging in ‘black hat’ tactics which raises concerns of ethical reputation management.