SEO Companies Get Stung by Fake Yelp Reviews
If a Search Engine Optimization company approaches you about writing fake Yelp reviews for your business, please say, “No, thanks.”
Nineteen SEO companies were recently caught in a sting operation conducted by the New York attorney general. They will have to pay $350,000 in penalties for posting fake reviews on sites like Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch.
According to BusinessInsider.com, these SEO companies hired freelancers in places like the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe, paying them $1 to $10 per review.
Short-term gains… but at what cost?
Some companies hire SEO companies to write fake reviews as a way to game the system, and help them get more business. It can work. A Harvard Business Review study found that a one-star increase in rating leads to more than a 5% increase in sales for independent businesses. That’s appealing to a struggling company, or one that wants a jumpstart in business.
But when I hear stories like this, it makes my blood boil. Because I know these SEO companies are taking advantage of struggling businesses, who want to generate sales fast. Some of these businesses don’t even realize that the SEO company is writing fake reviews. (Or hiring someone else to do it for them) All the business wants is a Page One listing on Google and more money in the bank. Who can blame them? Isn’t that what we all want?
Here’s the thing. Marketing shortcuts like fake Yelp reviews don’t pay in the long run. Sure, you may get a temporary bump in the Google rankings. And you may gain a star or two on Yelp. But review sites are savvy. Yelp runs its own sting operations to flush out fake reviews, and has filtering software. If Yelp finds a suspect review it posts an alert on the listing that looks like this:
When consumers see this alert you can be sure that they’re going to think twice about doing business with this company. What’s worse, they may tell their friends about it too. And what once seemed like a great idea to boost sales, has now become a major PR disaster.
Patience is a virtue
So, what do you do if you’re just starting out in business, or you’re in a competitive field? You’ve got to have patience, for one thing. It takes time to build a reputation. In the beginning, you need to concentrate on providing the best product or service you can. And you can encourage your customers to post authentic reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Places.
Companies should engage in a variety of marketing techniques to promote its products/services. Take advantage of low-cost options like social media. You can engage in activities like:
- writing a blog
- managing a Facebook page
- recording videos for YouTube
Companies can launch an email marketing campaign. Offer a free report on your website in exchange for an email address, and then send out a monthly or weekly newsletter with useful information that your target audience needs.
And you can create listings on free local directory sites like Google, Bing and Merchant Circle. Check out Hubspot’s list of 50 local business directories. It’s a handy resource.
Companies also need to make sure that their website is optimized for search. Web pages need unique keyword-rich title and description tags. And the company website itself needs unique, keyword-rich content.
A business can also improve its own sales by claiming its business listing on review sites like Yelp, and making sure the information listed, such as hours and location, is correct. This strategy can generate more legitimate reviews without gaming the system. Review Yelp’s practices so you understand exactly how the system works. It will help keep your stress level down, so you can concentrate on your business and your customers. Your sales will grow when you deliver high quality products/services along with excellent customer service.