I’m not a big fan of most consumer review sites, but it’s good to see Yelp cracking down on fake/paid consumer reviews – and in a less than subtle way.
According to the New York Times, Yelp engaged in a sting operation to catch businesses who offered payment for reviews by “elite” Yelp users.
The guilty parties will now sport a notification along with their listing for several months, stating the nature of their sins.
In some instances, there was a substantial amount of money involved. One company was prepared to pay $200 each for favourable reviews.
What this drives home is the fact that good reviews are pretty much money in the bank for a business if that review is posted on a popular site.
I’m not clear on the situation in the USA, but in Australia fake/paid testimonials are not only unethical, but illegal behavior – but unfortunately it can be hard for authorities to clamp down on it. Still, while it may be tempting to engage in this behavior, resist it – if you are caught out it could be curtains for your business.
Yelp’s crackdown on 8 businesses is just the tip of the iceberg on that site – and elsewhere. In one sector I monitor I’ve seen plenty of fake Google reviews and it’s a worry when the products associated with those reviews are worth thousands of dollars. I’m sure plenty of consumers are caught out.
Just as whiffy are the fake negative reviews and those from Perpetually Outraged Consumers who are very quick to start screaming when they don’t get their way and exaggerate whatever grievance, real or perceived, they may have.
With any luck, people will start understanding that ‘drive-by’ reviews – positive and negative – really aren’t worth a pinch of poop. The most trustworthy reviews are the ones from people we know.
Word of mouth marketing via trusted networks is going to get a whole lot bigger in the years ahead.