Why Local Businesses Should Not Buy Fake Reviews on Google Places

One of the most prevalent problems on Google Places and just about any similar site is that some businesses tend to buy or pay a service that posts fake positive reviews on their listings.  That or post negative reviews on a competitor’s listing.

Reviews are very important to a Google Places listing as it will give the listing a higher ranking while also leaving social recommendations that other people could use.

This is why fake reviews present a problem.

1. You could get banned or suspended.  One of the biggest reasons to avoid buying fake reviews is the fact that Google will suspend your Place page or ban your business if you are caught doing it.  There have been a lot of businesses who lost their Places listing because of fake reviews.

2. You could get penalized.  If you do not get suspended or banned outright, you could be penalized in a way that your Places listing would never rank high ever again.  This will continue even if you manage to get rid of the fake reviews and get real ones on your listing.

3. It makes reviews in general less credible. You can work hard so that your fake reviews appear genuine and escape detection, but leaving fake reviews would only make reviews on Google Places less credible.  This hurts not only your business but every business on the service because people will no longer believe the reviews left there even if they are honest ones.

4. It is unfair business practice.  You may be getting good reviews, but if, in reality, you provide awful products and services, then that wouldn’t be right.  Not only will you turn off the customer, but you are tricking them into buying from you, even as a competitor has a better product or service.  Deceit and competing unfairly are never good business practices and, in time, your customers will resent you and wouldn’t come back to you for anything.

5. For some industries, fake reviews could get you in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission and your own certification boards.  Especially if you are a doctor or dentist, fake reviews on your Place page could be construed as misrepresentation and you could get into legal trouble for it.

6. It is fairly easy to catch.  It’s funny how some businesses still buy fake reviews when it is fairly easy to detect.

Most companies providing fake reviews usually use the same Google users to create reviews for different companies.  So it is very easy to detect.  Just take a look at the reviewer’s list of reviews and you are bound to find an odd pattern, such as leaving reviews for companies across the country in days or weeks.  Surely, you cannot review a dentist in Arizona, an auto detailer in Colorado, and then a plumber in Texas.

As you can see from this image, fake reviewer John Steel has reviewed businesses in Australia, Idaho, Texas, New York, Hungary, and even in the United Arab Emirates.  And that’s just a small part of his 32 fake reviews.

Once you find a reviewer like this, you will find another user who is reviewing the same companies.  For example, a fake reviewer reviews ABC Corp., CDE Enterprises and EFG Hardware, so for sure there will be another user that reviewed the same company.  Why?  Because fake reviewers usually offer their services as a package, where companies need to pay for multiple good reviews.  And we know that every review for the same business needs to come from different people, thus the need for third-party reviews provider creates multiple fake accounts.

Coming from the John Steel page, click on random businesses and you will find that these businesses are reviewed by the same people.

In this example, you would see that John Steel and S reviewed at least three businesses together.  A further look showed that other businesses were reviewed by the same group of people: each user reviewing businesses across the world days within each other.

7. It affects your credibility as a business, product or service provider.  Who would want to do business with somebody who cheats?  Fake reviews is prima facie evidence that you cheat your customers, even before they come knocking on your door.

And the thing is, there will always be people who will out you once they detect that you have fake reviews on your listing, so it doesn’t take much to turn people off.  In the long run, it’s not worth the time and money; instead use those resources to give real people a positive experience so that they are more likely to write you a genuine review.


This post is brought to you by Chris Barnwell of SEO Inc.  We offer a variety of services ranging from SEO for small business to Search Engine Optimization for enterprise clients.  Connect with us on Google+.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks Chris for highlighting this problem. My wife is a local psychotherapist and her Google Places ranking has recently been affected by 2 local therapists who’ve obtained top ranking in her category by posting 7 Five Star reviews on their Places account. It’s easy to tell the reviews are fake as they follow the same pattern as you illustrate above plus they use that stilted, fake review language that’s pretty easy to spot.

    The fact is that my wife gets many of her new clients from her web presence so to add to your list:

    8.) You’re stealing. When you knock somebody who legitimately earned their ranking on Google off or down the list then you’re potentially stealing from that individual or organization.

    My question is, what’s the best way to deal with this? Take it directly to Google? Send the offending party a note requesting that they have the fake reviews removed (or else)? Notify their licensing board?

    By the way, Google offers a way to flag reviews as inappropriate but do you know of any other ways to bring ‘offenders’ to Google’s attention?

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