The development of the world wide web, is arguably among the greatest human achievements of the 21st century. Today, young and old all over the world use the internet and rely on it to navigate their daily lives. This has changed the face of business as we knew it before, now a business’ online presence greatly influences their success. Getting company online reviews is an essential part of running a modern day business as they can directly impact the number of sales or feet that enter a business’ doors. Unfortunately, this has created a new form of scamming that puts consumers at risk daily. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) spam is a type of online spam that manipulates search engine results to display inaccurate information. Online reviews are just one part of SEO spam. Since company reviews are important in attracting new customers, it is essential to not only identify these spam reviews but to handle them as well. Let’s take a closer look at how to spot online review spam and what to do if you have been a victim.
Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for:
Not every online post will be grammatically sound and free of spelling mistakes, but website reviews filled with these should raise a red flag. Scammers often employ people from non-English speaking countries to write fake reviews. They create convincing profiles by taking random stock images of people online and using them as profile pictures for these accounts. The pictures can be convincing, but a website filled with language errors from different users can break their cover and show you that a scam is looming.
If a website is filled with an overwhelming number of positive reviews, you should dig deeper and to try find older reviews. When a business has received many negative online reviews, potential customers are made aware of their lack of credibility. These businesses then pay spammers to write positive reviews to boost their online presence and legitimacy. If there has been a sudden increase in positive reviews, it’s best to stay on the side of caution avoid being scammed.
Although comments from around the world are not a rare occurrence, if a business only has reviews from far and wide, they could be paying spammers to write their reviews. Chances of them paying people in their area are low, so the more local the reviews, the greater the likelihood of legitimacy.
SEO spam affects individuals and businesses alike. In most cases individuals are scammed, but legitimate businesses can suffer from fake reviews too as it decreases their online credibility. At the first sighting of a scam, businesses and users should report and list suspicious conduct for removal and flag them with the website in use and their search engine. In doing so, they protect themselves and future users.
Search engines have some form of a responsibility to protect their users from unruly scammers, even though these may not be completely effective, a responsibility remains to make a conscious effort to improve accuracy and user experience. This is why Google has created a platform for reporting fraudulent websites and businesses. Anyone can now report fraudulent activity by submitting a Business Redressal Complaint Form that provides information about the business name, URL and location. In cases of fake reviews, users should contact Google My Business directly on their social media platforms such as Twitter. Shutting down fraudulent businesses and websites is in Google’s best interest as it helps them improve their customer service and increase accuracy – so users can rest assured that their complaints are important to search engines.
Businesses may also respond to these reviews, though be careful not to keep the communication online. If a business is one that may have records of customers (whether via credit card records or other form of customer sign-in method), they may respond with stating they are unable to locate that reviewer in their system and to please call the location to resolve the issue. This helps potential customers see the reviews are more than likely fake reviews. This is especially important as it is not guaranteed that Google will remove the spam review since it is hard to prove. We do not recommend this for all negative reviews – only for those who truly may not be a customer. Potential customers not only look to see what the bad reviews are, they also see how the business responds to handle the negative review. Responding to all negative reviews as if they are spam will have the opposite effect as potential customers will think that is the response to real negative experiences.
It can be incredibility difficult for businesses to stay ahead of SEO and online review spammers. Contact Connectica today to create an effective SEO strategy and learn more about ways to protect your business from spammers.
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