Online Reputation Management Blog

Online Retailers Fight Negative Reviews – What’s the Cost?

Online ReviewsCustomers today have a sense of freedom and power they didn’t have a decade ago when social media was still in its infancy.  But as social media has become a part of people’s daily lives, more people are turning to business review sites like and, as well as social sites like Facebook and Twitter, to post comments about a company or product.

Many purchasers will often read customer reviews before purchasing a trip, a toy, a smartphone or even making a reservation at a local restaurant.

There is an ongoing debate about the limits of consumers’ free speech rights and companies’ efforts to quash negative online reviews due to a recent incident over a customer review about  KlearGear threatened to fine the customer $3500 if she didn’t take down a negative posting about their company.  She had written the critique on

According to a recent article in TechDirt, “Lots of quasi-legal action has been taken over negative reviews left by customers at sites like Ripoff Report and Yelp. Usually, it takes the form of post-review threats about defamation and libel. Every so often, though, a company will make proactive moves (usually bad ones) to head off negative reviews.”

In the Kleargear imbroglio, a consumer complained that her husband had ordered a number of products from and 30 days later the products allegedly had not yet arrived.  The consumer tried to call the company to check on the status of her order but was allegedly not able to reach anyone, so she wrote about her experience on RipoffReport.   After the company saw the post, the consumer was threatened to either take the negative review down or be fined. [Read more…]

NY Attorney General Goes After Astroturfing and Fake Online Reviews

Online Reviews - Reputation RhinoNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced that 19 New York companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties.  As part of an undercover investigation, representatives from the Attorney General’s office pretended to be the owner of a yogurt shop in Brooklyn and solicited several New York SEO companies for help in addressing negative reviews on consumer-review websites like Yelp, Google Places and, as part of their reputation management services.

The Attorney General’s office noted that several reputation management companies used IP spoofing to post fake online reviews and some sought to buy online reviews from freelancers located outside the U.S. who would write and post positive online reviews in an effort to evade filters and algorithms designed to prevent fake reviews.

Over the past couple of years there has been increasing focus on the importance of online reviews. A Harvard Business School study from 2011 estimated that a one-star rating increase on Yelp translated to an increase of 5% to 9% in revenues for a restaurant. Cornell researchers have found that a one-star swing in a hotel’s online ratings at sites like Travelocity and TripAdvisor is tied to an 11% sway in room rates, on average.  Gartner projects that by 2014, between 10% and 15% of social media reviews will be fake.

Kudos to AG Schneiderman for trying to clean up the mess! [Read more…]

Fake Reviews on Yelp

Yelp and other online review sites encourage people to review restaurants, retail establishments, healthcare providers, hotels and more.  Nowadays, you don’t always have to be a celebrity or powerful politician in order to get people to listen – blogs, social media site, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other online destinations are where consumers share their thoughts, ideas and opinions.  The attraction of these review sites is that the reviews are not advertisements or spin developed by clever marketing or PR professionals – these are honest and legitimate comments… usually.

Many people look to sites like Yelp to help them book a restaurant for a special occasion or make a hotel reservation for a trip they have been looking forward to for months – after all, if you can’t trust your peers, then who can you trust?  Yelp, Travelocity, TripAdvisor, OpenTable and other social media channels need honest reviews of customers to drive traffic – and people look to these sites to help guide their most important purchasing decisions.

Business owners and sales managers are fully aware of how powerful these customer reviews are and know that certain star ratings and customer comments can have a meaningful impact on their business – good or bad. That is why when Yelp officials found that some of its businesses were “buying” good reviews – it struck at the very heart of Yelp’s business and brought into question the integrity of their entire business model.  Today, Yelp is one of the most powerful “review” sites with 30 million reviews, according to the New York Times.  Consumers need to know that the reviews are honest and real and when Yelp officials discovered that several companies were “manipulating” results and paying or bribing customers to write fake good reviews, Yelp officials went on the offensive.

Yelp officials wrote in their blog, “… the allure of a page full of five-star reviews can turn even the most ethical business owner starry-eyed and persuade some to attempt to game the system by paying for reviews…this pretty much breaks every rule in the book, not to mention it’s just wrong to mislead consumers with fake reviews. To combat this, we’ve put on our detective hats, tracked down these rogue solicitations and are now giving you a heads up…”

An example of a business manipulating reviews came from a Texas business owner “…who purchased 200 online reviews in an attempt to artificially bolster his business’s online reputation,” reported Yelp officials.  As such, Yelp has put up a “consumer alert” flags on business sites they believe to be buying online reviews.

Yelp is not the only social media site that found it needed to go searching for “fake reviews” – the New York Times reported that “…TripAdvisor has put up similar warning notices, but declined to say how extensive its effort was…In general, however, review hubs have tended to deal with fakery very quietly, even as the problem has grown.”

Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review sites are policing their sites more vigorously.  Their model depends on honesty – if people start to doubt the legitimacy of the reviews, then the purpose sites will lose their perceived value.  As a Yelp blog reported: “We want to make sure consumers are making informed decisions… the large majority of businesses on Yelp play by the rules and work tirelessly to provide the best customer service and products to their clients. We salute their efforts and entrepreneurship. They inspire us to work even harder to protect the site from faux reviews, so that they have a fair opportunity to bask in the glow of their shining stars.”