New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, cracks false online reviews by setting up a fake yogurt shop in Brooklyn. There were 19 firms that responded to commission false reviews on websites such as Google, Citysearch, Yelp, and Yahoo. They were fined $350,000.
Schneiderman stated, “Consumers rely on reviews from their peers to make daily purchasing decisions on anything from food and clothing to recreation and sightseeing.” He says that 90% of consumers claim that online reviews influence their buying decision. A study from the Harvard Business School even indicated that a one-star increase on Yelp equaled to a 5% to 9% increase in revenues for a restaurant.
What does this have to do with SEO? Some search engine agencies routinely offer writing fake reviews as part of their search engine marketing strategy. Schneiderman called these deceptions, “worse than old-fashioned false advertising.” What was once a website used to give genuine compliments and complaints, alike, has now been altered to reflect only positive reviews.
On the other end, Yelp said that the company was taking steps to protect the integrity of their reviews, even if they had to take legal action. Yelp applauded the actions of the New York attorney general’s office and looked forward to cooperating with them.
This investigation is only limited to companies in New York, but it might spread its focus in other locations. Although New York took it’s actions, review fraud doesn’t appear to be going away. What is your view on how widespread false reviews are? What will its impacts will have on a consumer’s trust of review sites such as Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo, and Google?