This always happens in the digital / online field: the moment we create something useful, relevant and that contributes to making our lives easier, there’ll be thugs trying to benefit from it by trying to hack the system. In SEO we’ve seen it since the very beginning, with “keyword stuffing”, “black hat seo”, “link farms” and all kind of foul plays that Google engineers have been shutting down for decades now with their famous updates. (link)
Unfortunately, Google reviews are no different. We could have a trustworthy way to recommend the best businesses among peers, but there will be those who in stead of investing time in improving their businesses, they will spend their energy trying to hack the system. Which let’s be super honest here:
Not convinced? Check out this recent piece from Time (yeah the one famous for the covers) about the War on Fake Reviews.
Spammers selling these services know that their schemes have very short legs, but for a brief period of time they’ll get enough money from stupid businesses looking for shortcuts who will end up being penalised for using these dark techniques. Bottom line, they exist becase there is demand for these services, that’s the real problem.
I’ve been in digital Marketing since 2003 and the businesses who do better are the ones who understood what the game is about: doing things right for your users, not try to fool them. That’s what platforms, specially Google, favor. Do it for years with the help of professional honest SEOs and rankings will never be a problem for you, I promise.
So, what’s the latest from the black hat world? The latest trend is to attack businesses with 1 star fake reviews asking for amazon gift cards in exchange.
The worst part is that more and more hackers around the world (using India or other developing countries in a shameful way) are starting to do it, as we are seeing in the Google Business Profiles users forum.
At some point Google has acknowledge that this is happening:
Although it’s great that Google makes public that they are aware of this practice, we can all agree that it required a specific treatment: for instance, a special category when flagging these scam reviews, so they can be processed faster:
So, if you are attacked by one of these hackers:
- Don’t comply! Otherwise they’ll keep doing it.
- Don’t believe the India pity story
- Report it to Google via de GBP Forum
And hopefully the work that Google is doing to improve the fake reviews algorithm will start improving its performance soon.