Last October, 2013, the Fair Trade Commission of Taiwan slapped Samsung a hefty fine of well over $300,000 for posting fake reviews about their products and competitors. While this was going on, BlackBerry quickly denied claims of hiring third-party services to create fake reviews about their messenger app.
Officials and consumer watchdogs are alarmed at the steady increase of fake online reviews in various industries. Americans rely heavily on online reviews to look for good products and services, with at least seven out of ten looking at the reviews first before buying the product or service.
Now, Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of review website Yelp, is taking a stand against fake reviews. More than five million people visit Yelp every day, all of them looking for credible testimonies on products and services. In an interview with The Telegraph’s Sophie Curtis, Stoppelman shares Yelp’s crackdown strategy.
The heart of Yelp’s anti-fake review endeavor rests on a special team of accomplices that root out businesses paying top money for positive reviews. Stoppelman says:
“The way we have decided to combat that is we have a team that is dedicated to running sting operations. So we pose as review writers who are interested in selling reviews to whoever would like to buy them,”
The stings have begun to show noticeable signs of their effectiveness. While their debut in 2012 only managed to catch eight businesses, it only took half a year to issue a whopping 285 Consumer Alerts. Currently, Yelp’s sting operations are limited to the U.S. only, but it hopes to expand to Europe thanks to a recent acquisition.
Where SEO Stands
Search engines also frown upon fake reviews, with Google equipped with an algorithm designed to hunt them down. The effect is prevalent in local internet marketing plans, given that local businesses are at the forefront of Google’s warning. Google even cautioned businesses against offering incentives to customers in exchange for positive reviews.
Yelp’s stings will continue into the future, which is why businesses must adjust to the changing doctrine of local marketing. If your business is affected by negative reviews, take them to heart and deal with them appropriately. Ask local business marketing companies such as Aligned Right Media to formulate your clean marketing strategy.
(Article information from “Yelp CEO: how ‘sting operations’ are cleaning up reviews on the web,” The Telegraph, January 14, 2014)