Don’t go faking your online reviews – it’s a criminal act
AT least don’t go faking your online reviews in the US. For this might surprise a few people in this thriving little business, but faking a review online is actually a criminal act.
A year-long investigation by New York prosecutors has found 19 local businesses guilty of faking reviews on sites such as Google and Yelp, a practice that has now earned them over $350,000 in fines and penalties.
As part of “Operation Clean Turf,” investigators from the office of the New York Attorney General posed as yogurt shop owners from Brooklyn, and asked leading search engine optimization (SEO) companies for help in improving their presence online.
There’s all sorts of things one can do to manipulate results on the internet. Pay people to link to your website for example, this used to work. It creates a link that makes Google think your site is more important and thus raises you in the search results. Unfortunately Google has cottoned on to this and if they find out you’ve been doing it then you sink back down to the bottom of the results.
The rise of the recommendation sites has led to this other stuff. If people are going to read reviews to tell them where to go and anyone can submit a review then obviously people are going to submit fake reviews. It might cost $10 or so to get a decent one written and placed (that is about the right cost for a good one, bad ones are much cheaper) and you only need to get one or two customers to make that sort of price work. But, as above, at least in the US, this is illegal.
Someone will no doubt come up with another way to game the system soon enough. But for the moment…