I knew that eventually Google would address the growing problem of SEO firms selling services to create fictitious Google+ Local reviews, and finally they have. Here is a quote from Google:
“For business owners:
- Be wary of an SEO or reputation management service that promises to generate reviews for your business. We’ve seen companies make up fake glowing testimonies — and we’ll take them down.
- We don’t take down negative reviews for simply being negative for anyone, regardless of any other relationships with Google. Instead, we encourage you to utilize the owner response functionality to respond to the review and address the user’s concerns.
- If a third party claims that they know how to remove reviews from Google, don’t believe them. Google does not work with any third party reputation management companies and we certainly don’t remove reviews unless they violate our guidelines.
- Don’t set up a computer or tablet device in your place of business for customers to leave reviews on site. Consider sending a reminder e-mail so customers can review on their own time.
- Remember, we don’t allow you to give customers free gifts or discounts for leaving reviews.” Read the full disclosure for business owners and SEO on this Google page.
Based on what I see, it appears that Google is not only scanning for fake reviews, but actively and aggressively targeting Local Pages that use them, but interesting enough appears to be tracking the IP address. Take a careful look at the section that says don’t put a tablet or computer in your place of business – that means IP tracking.
Additionally Google has turned to crowd sourcing to catch the offenders. If you know a competitor is doing this or suddenly has tons of reviews magically you can report them to Google for review.
“If you see a review that violates our policy guidelines, you can report the review to us by clicking on the gray flag icon next to the review in question. You’ll be taken to a form where you can tell us why you’re flagging that review. Please note that we won’t follow up with you individually, but we do review every piece of content that is flagged.”
This information is very important for website owners. I know of several who have been approached by firms selling these exact review services. They are stating that they set up individual Google email and Yahoo accounts just for your review creation, work to mask the IP address and then create a glowing supposedly untraceable review. Be wary of these types of services, is it worth being banned from Google+ Local pages to try to scam Google?