Fake Online Reviews Cost 19 SEO Companies and Their Clients Dearly – 5 Tips to Doing Reputation Management Correctly

Yesterday the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced that 19 SEO firms and their online reputation management clients had agreed to pay in excess of $350,000.00 in fines for false advertising and deceptive trade practices by posting fake online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch. The posting of a fake online review was determined to be a form of false and deceptive advertising known as “astroturfing”.

The undercover sting operation, known as “Operation Clean Turf”, revealed that the fake reviews were obtained by paying individuals in Bangladesh, Eastern Europe and the Philippines from between $1 and $10 per fake review.  It was determined that the reviews would be relied on by consumers in making purchasing decisions and thus constituted false advertising and deceptive trade practices.

1. Don’t Post Fake Reviews

While this may seem blatantly obvious in light of Operation Clean Turf, it still must be stated. Any form of online marketing which is deceptive, fraudulent or misleading should be avoided.

2. Engage Disgruntled Customers

In the event that you do have an unhappy customer, attempt to engage that customer directly and offer to make things right.  Offering a refund, or a discount on a future purchase, or an exchange can go a long way towards smoothing things over and getting a customer to change his or her opinion of your business.

3. Approach Site Owners Directly

In the event that negative press appears on a website such as a discussion forum, it never hurts to simply ask the site owner or administrator to have the negative thread removed.  Oftentimes, simply pointing out to the site owner the harm being caused by the post, as well as your efforts to rectify the situation with the unsatisfied customer can result in the removal of the negative information.

4. Encourage Satisfied Customers to Post Reviews

Encourage all of your customers to post reviews of your business.  While nobody can satisfy every customer, presumably you are still in business because you have mostly satisfied customers.  Encourage these customers to review your business online.  Caveat: do not offer customers incentives for posting favorable reviews or provide suggested language.  If you are doing your job as a business owner, the favorable reviews will come.

5. Hire Only Reputable SEO and Reputation Management Firms

Do your research and due diligence before hiring any SEO firm or reputation management agency.  Find out how long they have been in business, ask if they outsource their work offshores, and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions about the specifics of the strategy that they plan to employ on your behalf.  Remember that you get what you pay for, and if it seems fishy or dishonest, move on to the next agency.

What do you think about the posting of fake online reviews?  Do you have any additional suggestions for business owners seeking to enhance their online reputation?

The official press release from the New York State Attorney General’s Office, including a list of the 19 SEO firms and clients involved, can be found at http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-agreement-19-companies-stop-writing-fake-online-reviews-and

By: Matt Foster

Could Google Fiber push Austin, TX past Silicon Valley in terms of technology?

Google finally made their highly-anticipated announcement today about their next stop on the Google Fiber tour, and that’s right, you guessed it, it’s Austin, Texas. Google made their official statement just hours ago, revealing that Austin will be the second recipient of their super-fast 1 gigabit Internet and TV service “Google Fiber.” So how fast is this 1-gigabit service? Faster than most of us can probably even imagine, at about 150 times the speed of your average broadband Internet access speeds in this country. Not only will the 1-gigabit Internet service be available, but Google Fiber also offers a 1-terabyte Google drive space, TV service and a DVR that can record up to 8 shows at once!

Not only are the Internet speeds faster than we can begin to imagine, but they’re also offering a free version of 5Mbps download, 1Mbps upload speed with an initial $300 setup fee, for a guaranteed 7 years of service. While the free version’s speed may not get the tech nerds excited, this is a great feature for Austinites who are living without Internet access, or may still be using dial-up.

While Google’s goodwill and fantastic prices may be making headlines, as an established Austin SEO Company we can’t help but wonder what Google Fiber will mean for Austin’s already prosperous technology industry. Kansas City, Google’s first city chosen for Google Fiber has grown an amazing technology industry, thanks in part to Google Fiber. The Wall Street Journal even listed Kansas City as an “Information Hub” in 2010, saying:

“In 2009 the number of tech companies rose by 5% to 2,900, trumping the growth rates of well-known hubs like Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin, Texas.”

Austin already tops most top 5 charts as one of the most innovative cities in the U.S., so will Google Fiber take them to the top? Austin, Texas, also referred to as Silicone Hills, has been hot on Silicone Valley’s heels in the past few years. In 2010, Forbes listed Austin as the one of most innovative cities in the United States with about 2,900 patented inventions, the second most per-capita. Austin can also thank the University of Texas’ School of Engineering, which ranks ninth on the U.S. News World and Report list of best engineering schools and produces over 1,000 undergraduates per year, many of whom stay to work and live in the innovative city. According to the director of the school’s career center, employers actually come to Austin because “they can get quality and quantity.”

Google Fiber is just one more reason for job-seekers, job creators, and the nation’s bright and innovative to move to Austin, Texas. Google Fiber will continue to build on Austin’s momentum and will help make things possible that we haven’t even dreamed up yet!

Author: Allison Schnur is the Senior Project Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

“Much Adoodle about Nothing?” What Kind of Backlash Should Google Expect from the Chavez over Jesus Doodle Decision?

Just one day after Google’s decision to honor the birthday of the founder of the National Farm Workers Association, labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, nearly half the world seems to have an opinion. While the choice to honor a devout Christian on one of the most significant Christian holidays has been downplayed, up-played and outright villainized, it remains to be seen if Google will suffer long-term consequences from its decision to ignore the Easter holiday and one of the most significant historic figures of all time.

Originally created in 1998, you can see a timeline of Google doodles at google.com/doodles, which began as a simple homage to holidays with cheeky and childish images, but became decidedly worldlier and more educational throughout the years. Google users have come to expect a new doodle on National holidays, as well as the lesser known holidays and significant dates. The Google doodle has also become Google’s way of expressing their sense of creativity and opinions in a fairly uncontroversial way; until now, that is.

Now the question remains, was Google’s choice to ignore Easter simply an attempt to uphold its duty to remain relevant on a global scale? Or were they consciously making a political stance in honoring a left-winged activist just one year after President Obama declared March 31st as Cesar Chavez day? Or, even more realistically, were they just flaunting their power with their now reported 86% search engine market share? Proving that they no longer have to answer to anyone?

Whether you’re a devout Christian or not, most Americans agree that Google had to foresee the backlash coming, and that they could have potentially made a solid stance on their religious and political views (something many large companies have been doing this past year, especially surrounding the gay marriage issue). So the question remains, will the devout Christians be flocking to use Google’s biggest competitor, Bing, who celebrated Easter with their simple and far less controversial Easter egg background? Or will the frustrated users eventually come running back to Google, whose market share is directly reflected in their mastery of search engine optimization functionality?

Google did release a statement to the Washington Post that read, “We enjoy celebrating holidays at Google but, as you may imagine, it’s difficult for us to choose which events to highlight on our site. Sometimes for a given date, we feature an historical event or influential figure that we haven’t in the past.” Fox News was quick to point out that Google has never honored Jesus in the past, on either Easter or Christmas.

In Google’s defense, however, the Chavez family released a statement showing their appreciation for the honor. They stated, “coincidentally, his birthday this year falls on Easter Sunday. We understand the concern that some people have, but for many there is no contradiction. Cesar lived the gospel according to Jesus Christ: he helped the poor and outcast.” Could Google have actually thought they were actually taking the least controversial route? At this point it seems that all we can really do is speculate and watch as the aftermath unfolds.

Author: Allison Schnur is the Senior Project Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.