Hit by Competitor Spam Reviews: The Plot Thickens

I seem to be mired in competitor spam reviews these days. The second bad review in as many weeks showed up this weekend on Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry’s Place Page. At first glance it appeared legit. The complaint, that it is pretentious to require appointments, is untrue and probably comes from a misreading of Barbara’s recently placed announcement on her website. She noted that during renovations and expansion construction from the 12th to 24th of this month she would be closed except by appointment.

The second review made an owner- response to both negative reviews imperative.  I had not previously responded to the original bad review thinking that the reviewer might go silent. That did not happen. I think Puresheer and EarlPearl are right in that sense… the spammer is unlikely to go away and defend our honor we must.

The answer I chose to use was Kevin Baca’s (of Customer Lobby)  excellent edit of my original response. I modified it slightly (per CathyR’s suggestion) and removed the words “fake review” to avoid a Google snippet disaster.

This is Barbara Oliver, owner of the company. You are right in that there are business owners out there faking reviews. I’m from the old school of small business ethics that insists on earning a good reputation over time with excellent customer service. I give my word that the reviews here on my Place Page are 100% legitimate and left by my real customers. I personally remember each of the wonderful transactions they are mentioning. As you can imagine, we really appreciate the time they took to do this. I invite you to come to our shop to see for yourself our beautiful jewelry, fair pricing and the fabulous shopping experience we provide for each of our valued customers. Barbara

The “perp” though, while trying to be sneakier and leaving a seemingly real second review, seems to have tipped their hand. I was actually “buying” their review of Barbara and Andrews Jewelers until I got to the marketing happy talk left on behalf of the third jeweler.

Responding to the appointment critique was much easier and offered the opportunity to both differentiate Barbara’s services and extol her expansion. The problem is though that it appears that the writer is developing a taste for this sort of thing, however small time.

Should we contact the other jewelers in question and initiate a dialogue? Should we just keep responding and ignore the likely source knowing that they are adding to our review count? Should we consider some third course of action? Perhaps a firm, carefully worded letter from our attorney?

What now?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Hit by Competitor Spam Reviews: The Plot Thickens by

25 thoughts on “Hit by Competitor Spam Reviews: The Plot Thickens”

  1. Mike: As Yam suggested I’d keep reporting it to Google again and again. You have high visibility. Reportedly a lot of Googlers read this blog going up to the top at local.

    One of the spam/attack reviewers wrote 3 reviews on jewelry stores in one day. Seriously, who would do this???? Google take note

    If I were a jewelry store customer and found a great store why on earth would I go elsewhere? How on earth could I write reviews of multiple such stores all on one day?? Who on earth would do this but a spammer or more precisely an attacking competitor????

    Google: If business websites are going to spam your SE with inappropriate damaging comments…why don’t you just degrade their google rankings??? You continuously downgrade google.com spammers. Why not Google Places spammers???

  2. I still standing behind my aggressive suggestions & it seems that if it looks & smells like sh#t that is sh#t.
    You are handling a spammer here, Mike. He’s losing business because of your great LSEO work & Barbara’s great service. Don’t let him pollute your listing without responds & good reviews from your end.

    I forgot about the best tool to remove spam (BTW)- Post more & more articles on your blog about this issue & hopefully Google Maps guides will do something about it. As we did with the locksmiths’ spam that eventually got kinda’ sorted.

    Yam Regev

  3. Mike: One other reason or potentially effective way to remove the spam reviews based on an experiment I ran.

    Two of us ran politically motivated reviews on a business. One of the reviewers had an active review count in Google.com. The other review account was totally new.

    Over time all of the reviews by the new reviewer were removed. The reviews written by the person with a history of reviews remained.

    The most recent spam attack reviews were written by a new reviewer. I’d keep contacting Google about the spam reviews as Yam suggested in the earlier thread. Of course I’d keep printing away here as Puresheer suggested.

  4. I see that my lantsmen are all for aggressive action. At this point, I am in full agreement and responded to both reviews.

    The question for me though is how to really resolve the matter. I think it might be time for some offline (ie real world) work to get a cork into this.

  5. Wow, sorry this is happening. This is a perfect example of why it is so important to be proactive about gathering reviews in case you become a target. We started taking reviews seriously after we noticed a company in a neighboring town doing this same stuff (leaving multiple negative reviews for competing businesses and positive reviews on his own-up to 37 reviews in one day for some “users”!!!) to area businesses from his town to ours. If you have some time to kill, it makes for some interesting research on just what Google will accept (the older pages contain the most interesting user histories). http://maps.google.com/maps/place?q=panama+city+parasail&hl=en&cid=17616605283385186832

    Thank goodness Barbara has you and has been steadily gathering reviews so these 2 don’t affect her much. The questions, of course, is whether or not this person will stop. I would shy away from a personal confrontation as that could cause things to escalate…it is possible that a strongly worded cease and desist letter from an attorney may cause them to rethink their strategy, and so I lean towards pursuing that course of action.

  6. Hi Mike,

    I noticed the google places listing has the website you created listed for third party reviews along side with insiderpages..That’s pretty cool.

    Did anyone else notice this?

    Is there an article or blog earlier that explains how you accomplished this?

  7. @Heather

    Thanks for you sage advice. I agree that a letter from an authoritative 3rd party would be the most sensible path… way too many emotions otherwise.

    See Andy’s response. If you search on the phrase “Rich Snippets” here you will see the history of these reviews.

    Thanks for the reply… been glued to the phone and was meaning to answer Darrel but I just didn’t get to it. Thanks.

    As to “all the wackos” or more likely just one, it sure is “exciting”. Glad you liked the most recent response.

  8. Thanks for the mention, Mike! I am glad you liked the edit.

    As for the reviewer developing a taste for spamming, you might be right, but I’m not sure it is a problem yet.

    Star ratings aside, none of Barbara’s reviews actually reports a negative customer experience.

  9. Great post. They way I deal with negative reviews for clients is to get them to response as you have listed. In their own words. And not get worked up about it, or take it as a personal attack or offense. I always tell them to use it as a focus to get them to push more people to leave reviews (which the real ones _should_ be positive), out weighing the negative ones by a large margin. Aaron

  10. Thank you Chris for answering me and thank you Mike. I always stopped by this website every once in a while for about a year. Always good info here.

  11. Unfortunatly i think spammy and false negative reviews will become more common, with google taking reviews into account.
    The review sites and or the search engine need to come up with method for validating reviews and weeding out the false ones.

  12. On the topic of false reviews, anyone seen the opposite tactic used, where a business falsifies a bunch of positive reviews to boost their position?

    I’d love to call those idiotic businesses out for their shady practices. My particular favorite is this one. http://maps.google.com/maps/place?q=trust+seo+miami+company&hl=en&cid=13986861516765086203 Notice a bulk of the reviews all occurred on the SAME effing day. It’s SEO companies like these that give our industry such a bad rep.

  13. Ah sidenote: I want to edit the above comment so that there’s no link going back to them follow or nofollow, I just don’t want them linked!

  14. Pashmina: Aside from the 1 day explosion of false reviews I’d bet anything that the reason search phrases for (city name/webdesign/ web marketing/search marketing etc) phrases don’t generate universal search with maps/places pages/ places records is because seo’s figured out how to spam G Maps.

    Hence Google doesn’t want them showing in google.com results.

    At least that is my $0.02 and guess.

  15. I had a competitor leave himself 7 fake 5 star reviews in one week and then leave me a bad review the same week. I have not been able to get the review removed so far. I wish google would take these things more seriously.

  16. Ah, the tyranny of reviews. I believe the authenticity of reviews will be a major issue in the next few years as more consumers make more decisions based on them, and the system gets ‘gamed’ the way SEO did about 10 years ago until Google got a handle on it. Someone needs to develop a methodology and mechanism for authenticating reviews, otherwise their value will disappear as confidence in them disappears.

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