NY Attorney General Punishes SEO Companies

New York State Attorney General Schneiderman announced an agreement today alongside 19 other SEO companies to cease writing fake reviews and pay nearly $350,000 in fines today.

(thats about $20k a piece)

From the Attorney General’s official press release:

“Operation Clean Turf,” a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.”

A Wake up Call for SEO’s

This should be a huge wake up call for online reputation management companies everywhere.

In part of the sting, “representatives” from the AG office contacted online reputation management companies and posed as small business owners.

The ORM companies revealed and described in detail how they would post fake reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google and Citysearch.

This is the 2nd time a major news release has hit in the past 7 days.

Just last week, Yelp announced that it was suing a small business for posting fake reviews online.

The Start of a Consumer Centered Internet

This case is a first step towards consumers being able to trust online reviews, but there is a very long way to go.

We live in a world where you cannot trust product or business service reviews at all.  At least I don’t trust them anyway.

Anyone who knows anything about the inner-workings of Yelp and Google can easily post dozens of fake reviews on these sites and alter the public’s view of their company.

Crackdowns like this might only be a small drop in the bucket in the scope of the entire internet, but it is a start.

Doing reputation management is one thing.  Bulk-posting fake reviews en masse is something totally different and in my opinion not ethical.

Our Stance

Elite Strategies does not condone, nor does it participate in the creation or posting of fake reviews.

We have always kept industry ethics at the forefront of our mission, and use our core values as a way to set ourselves apart from the competition.

Quite often, we turn down contracts such as this from companies who ask our help in doing these tasks.

Patrick Coombe
Patrick Coombe is the founder and CEO of Elite Strategies Llc. Patrick takes a hands on approach to managing Elite Strategies and loves to get involved with technical projects relating to clients inbound marketing needs.
Patrick Coombe
Patrick Coombe
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