Great reviews at places like Google Local and Yelp can help your search engine rankings and encourage shoppers to buy your products or services. Is it any wonder, then, that some businesses have succumbed to the temptation of soliciting fake rave reviews? Of course not. And a mini-industry has appeared to satisfy that temptation.

5-Star Reviews

5 Star reviews are great, if they're real.

The more fake 5-star reviews that are handed out, the more you need to rise above the competition. It’s like an arms race in counterfeit superlatives.

The New York Times recently wrote about an attempt to deal with this.

Determining the number of fake reviews on the Web is difficult. But it is enough of a problem to attract a team of Cornell researchers, who recently published a paper about creating a computer algorithm for detecting fake reviewers. They were instantly approached by a dozen companies, including Amazon, Hilton, TripAdvisor and several specialist travel sites, all of which have a strong interest in limiting the spread of bogus reviews.


I’m sure Google is working on this as well. In my opinion, trafficking in mendacious online reviews will come to bite you in the butt. Google is very unlikely to stop at disregarding the fake reviews it finds — more likely it will penalize the site employing such tactics. Back in 2006 we wrote about Ricoh and BMW cheating for higher rankings and getting completely banned from Google for more than six months.

We don’t know if Google has fake review detection in place, or how effective it is, but you can rest assured that they will develop a very effective system for it in the future. And when they do, a lot of websites will suffer for employing those dishonest tactics.

Your website can’t afford a serious Google slap-down.

Some may be tempted to create fake reviews to dampen the effect of a negative review that appears about their company online. Don’t. There are better ways to deal with negative reviews, though, some of which we discussed in this blog last year. If you feel you really need some good reviews to counter the bad press, ask your most delighted customers to give you a review — but make sure they do it in their own words.