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Why Fake Yelp Reviews Don’t Pay

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.”


It’s illegal.

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, 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:

Yelp Consumer Alert for Fake Reviews

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.

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About the Author
Known as The Insightful Copywriter, Gloria Grace Rand is also an inspirational speaker, author and host of the Live. Love. Engage. podcast. Prior to launching her SEO Copywriting business in 2009, Gloria spent nearly two decades in television, most notably as writer and producer for the award-winning PBS financial news program, “Nightly Business Report.”

Gloria turned to writing as a way to communicate, since growing up with an alcoholic father and abusive mother taught her that it was safer to be seen and not heard. But not speaking her truth caused Gloria problems such as overeating, control issues, and an inability to fully trust people. After investing in coaching & personal development programs, and studying spiritual books like “A Course in Miracles,” Gloria healed her emotional wounds. Today, she helps entrepreneurs develop clarity, confidence and connection to the truth of who you are, so you can create a business that has more impact, influence and income!

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