Last year, Igniyte was asked by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to contribute to an investigation into fake online reviews.
Following this, the CMA produced an investigation report in which they detailed the action they would take against any website or company found to be in breach of the guidelines set.
Last week, the CMA announced they had taken action against Total SEO & Marketing Ltd, an online marketing agency which the CMA had found to be posting fake online reviews on behalf of its clients.
The action enforced
Between 2014 and 2015, the CMA’s investigation found that the agency had written over 800 fake positive reviews for 86 small businesses across 26 different websites.
The agency has agreed to take steps to remove these fake reviews and confirmed that they’ll cease to write any more.
As well as this, the CMA has written to their client’s to warn them that they could be breaking the law themselves by allowing a third-party to post fake reviews on their behalf.
What you need to know
Quite simply, fake reviews – positive or negative – are a no-no. If you’re an SEO, marketing or PR agency, don’t write any fake reviews on behalf of your client, even if they ask you to.
If you’re a company, don’t commission a third-party such as an agency to write fake reviews for you, similarly don’t let them persuade you that this is a good idea – it’s against the law and it’ll be you who gets fined.
The CMA’s Senior Director Nisha Arora commented:
“Search engine optimisation companies, PR and marketing agencies provide a valuable service to businesses, but they must do this lawfully. Our enforcement action against Total SEO makes clear that posting fake reviews about clients is unacceptable.”
Abide by the rules
The impact this enforced action will now have on Total SEO will be substantial; the news is public that the agency has been posting fake reviews, so its reputation will be significantly damaged.
As well as ruining existing client relationships, it’s potentially harmed the agency’s chances of taking on any new clients, as the government article about the enforced action is ranking page one for a search for “Total SEO”, so it’s up there for all to see.
In short, it just isn’t worth it. There are so many ways to deal with negative reviews now that there should be no excuse to cheat it.
It’s not just the CMA that are spotting fakes either, as consumers we’re becoming incredibly savvy online and research has shown that consumers view five-star reviews as too good to be true. We’re not that easy to fool, we can spot fakes.
Placing fake content online about yours or someone else’s business doesn’t fix real business issues in the long term – it simply masks them, so it is worth taking note of the negative reviews about you and actually address the issues at hand.
If you’d like to find out more about encouraging positive reviews and dealing with negative reviews to your advantage, get in touch with us for a chat.