Recently New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman settled with 19 different SEO companies over a lawsuit brought against them by Yelp, a local search website that allows readers to leave reviews about the companies listed:
"NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that 19 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. "Operation Clean Turf," a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General's office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices."
Astroturfing is the practice of masking sponsors of a message to give the appearance of it coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant. It's easy to see why it's dangerous to consumers. You don't care about the opinion of a Bangladeshi person who's never seen a Vitamix when deciding whether to purchase that Vitamix. You want to know what true consumers of the product think of that product. This is also of huge concern to sites like Yelp and Amazon who suffer loss of trust when black hat SEO companies piggyback on their websites, polluting their reviews for their own ends. Google also doesn't like it much, and in their newest algorithm, Hummingbird, they have only increased their demand for transparency, accountability, and good useful content. If Google targets you or your clients for cheating, they will be merciless in downgrading their assessment of your sites, thereby shoving them to the very last search engine pages. Your clients may be very interested in "managing" bad online reviews, but if they knew about the risk of page rank annihilation, they prefer you to use better, more up front strategies to market their companies.
Corporate Conversions is committed to using white-hat, Hummingbird compliant methods to get your website on the front page of Google and other search engines. We don't take those kinds of risks because they don't benefit you, your clients or us.
+Max Friar is a co-founder of Corporate Conversions, LLC. Max enjoys comprehensive website audits and analysis and helping clients with full-scope SEO solutions. Max resides in Grand Rapids with his wife, Cori, and three children, Brenna, Max, and Jack.