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

Reputation Management and Search Engine Optimization

Every successful company understands the importance of reputation. People buy based on an expectation of quality and service. If your reputation takes a hit, you can bet that your sales will feel the pain. Unfortunately, for some companies, their reputation can be damaged through slanderous or untrue statements, and rebuilding their image can take months or even years.

While reputation management is not a new concept for companies, many companies are realizing that the internet has made their clean-up efforts more difficult. One negative incident among years of dedicated service can nearly take a company down, especially in a rough economy, where competitors are watching your every move. For this reason, many SEO companies can help you clean up your online reputation, by highlighting your years of quality service and reviews.

Strike While you’re Hot – It’s important to get started as soon as your online reputation has taken a hit, because you will undoubtedly be releasing your own press releases regarding the negative accusations. Embedding links in these press releases will help highlight your response to the negative incident, and how your company plans on handling it. Most consumers are forgiving with a company’s mistake, as long as they take responsibility for the damage and move forward to correct it.

Keyword selection is key – Selecting the right keywords is the most important factor in repairing an online reputation. Even if your company is using a reputable search engine optimization company and highlighting select keywords, you will need to readjust your strategy. Since the negative press is most likely popping up when consumers search your company or brand name, those are the keywords that you need to focus on. Your SEO Company’s goal will be to continue driving brand-friendly hits up, while pushing the negative press down.

Build Up and Push Down – Link building is extremely important to clear up your reputation, since your negative press has already pushed itself to the top of your company’s results. Your SEO Company should be continuing with the positive SEO, while minimizing the negative. It’s important that your website and blog are being constantly updated, especially if you are in the works of correcting any harm. Another great way your search engine optimization company can build links is to go to the source of the negative press and ask them to include updates of your press release and the steps your company will be taking to remedy the situation.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.