Joined
Aug 2, 2012
Messages
103
I made the unwise choice to work with a website developer in India. Her work was shoddy, I terminated the contract and Upwork awarded me a partial refund. After the contract had terminated she then entered my development site and destroyed files. I provided upwork with log entries showing she indeed is guilty. Upwork terminated her as a freelancer in the last few days based upon my proof.

Today I received a negative review from someone who has never been a client. I found his profile on LinkedIn: a marketing strategist on the East Coast. I handle social security disability cases in Dallas Fort Worth/North Texas. How do I handle this??
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
483
Sorry to hear about that awful experience, Standenman, and the review you've mentioned does sound a bit suspicious based on the details you've mentioned. This article of mine outlines your options for reporting review spam on a variety of platforms:
https://moz.com/blog/review-spam
Hope it helps!
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
752
I have seen a HUGE number of fraudulent review issues on the Google forums lately, just crazy amounts. Unfortunately, Google only sides with the business owner when the text of the review makes it obvious that it should be removed (conflict of interest, racism, swearing) or if there's an obvious pattern to the reviews. I wouldn't expect someone to use 5 apple phone repair shops in the same month for example. For a little more insight on this issue, Joy wrote a good article on the state of things.

If all you have is a hunch, legal threats or something will be about your only chance to get things cleared up. I would LOVE to see Google start getting more deliberate about preventing spam reviews, but... for now, I don't know that there's much you can do, aside from gathering some new reviews to bury the bad one.

Make sure when you respond to the negative review, that you aren't defensive or accusatory. It's your chance to display the customer service side of your branding to new clients with questions about how you handle problems with clients. It might be worth it to get someone you trust to help write a level headed response if you're too upset to stay objective with it yourself.

Feel free to PM me the review, or post it in the Google Business forum and tag me if you think Google would agree it's fake. I'd be happy to escalate it up the line for you if it looks fake to me too. 'they're not a client we've worked with before' isn't an excuse Google accepts though, just as a word of warning.
 

Dino

1
Joined
Jul 19, 2012
Messages
93
@Mirriam, read your post. Very nice work.

As a part owner of an eco-retreat in Bali, my partners and I know exactly who stays with us and who doesn't. We are getting a lot of random ratings, usually 2-4 stars from people we know for certain never stayed with us. Our customer service is so high-end that even a 4 star rating is cause for concern and a 3 star actually hurts us.

Upon investigating some of these reviewers, we found that most of them are rating a lot of different businesses at random, but leaving no reviews or short, 2-3 word reviews. I see several reasons for this:

1. An SMB creates a fake Google profile to give a positive review of their own business, but needs a review history to look more legitimate so they randomly rate other businesses to make themselves look real.

2. Same as above, but to give legitimacy to a negative review of a competitor.

3. The Google Local Guides program. To increase the usage of its review platform, Google awards Local Guide status to anyone with a few reviews. Guides get points for the more reviews, ratings, photos, etc. they post, much like comments in the Google community help forums. Too get to a higher level, Guides just need to write more reviews, give more ratings, post more photos.

I suspect a lot of Guides are posting ratings and short reviews for the points and to gain a higher level as a Guide. The higher levels come with a few perks, but nothing earth-shattering. But perhaps a rating from a Level 6 guide holds more credibility than a Level 1 or 2 Guide, or from someone who isn't a Guide at all. This would entice spammers to rate thousands of businesses they've never been to, just to get to the higher level.

The Google Local Guides program just had a change in their point system a few months ago, which may partly account for the flood of negative reviews lately.

Solutions to these problems are fairly simple. An algorithm could easily detect thin review content and obvious spam patterns. Google Local Guides could implement some kind of Trusted Guide program. When a Trusted Guide submits a problem, for example, it could get elevated for higher scrutiny.

An immediate solution is unlikely; however, because Google is getting more and more of reviewers who are helping it gather business data. The increased activity also helps it to compete with Yelp and other review platforms. I think the best we can do for now is work within Google's current framework and to keep making a stink about it in forums like this, Google support communities and with articles like Mirriam's.
 

djbaxter

Administrator
Administrator
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3,302
3. The Google Local Guides program. To increase the usage of its review platform, Google awards Local Guide status to anyone with a few reviews. Guides get points for the more reviews, ratings, photos, etc. they post, much like comments in the Google community help forums. Too get to a higher level, Guides just need to write more reviews, give more ratings, post more photos.

I suspect a lot of Guides are posting ratings and short reviews for the points and to gain a higher level as a Guide. The higher levels come with a few perks, but nothing earth-shattering. But perhaps a rating from a Level 6 guide holds more credibility than a Level 1 or 2 Guide, or from someone who isn't a Guide at all. This would entice spammers to rate thousands of businesses they've never been to, just to get to the higher level.

The Google Local Guides program just had a change in their point system a few months ago, which may partly account for the flood of negative reviews lately.

Solutions to these problems are fairly simple. An algorithm could easily detect thin review content and obvious spam patterns. Google Local Guides could implement some kind of Trusted Guide program. When a Trusted Guide submits a problem, for example, it could get elevated for higher scrutiny.
This is accurate. And rather scary.
 

Dino

1
Joined
Jul 19, 2012
Messages
93
Thanks, DJ.

My girlfriend and I compete with each other to get more points in Local Guides. We have fun doing and it gets us out to more places, but neither of us write reviews for places we haven't been to; however, I can easily see that practice getting out of hand.

It may not even be spammers trying to post good reviews for their business or bad reviews for a competitor. I think many people just like playing the game and getting to a higher level. It certainly has opened the door to a lot of potential problems.

What is heart-breaking is that a lot of businesses (like mine in Bali) heavily rely on guest feedback. These fake reviews do real damage. It's negligent and reckless to allow them so easily.
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2012
Messages
103
Thanks to all for your comments. I am sure this is the work of an upwork freelancer that I got removed from Upwork because I proved she destroyed my development site. This action was just taken by Upwork, and here comes this bogus review in days - too co-incidental. I found the picture used in the initial review on linkedin and sent that person an e-mail telling them about the incident. No response, but now I see that the reviewer no longer includes his picture. name of my business: Denman Law Office in Dallas TX. Reviewer is Juan Lulli's Google plus account has no info, but lists 6 reviews. This guys pic was in the initial negative review: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juanlulli/. I CANNOT allow this person to continue to attack my business. Does anyone know a good lawyer?:)
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
483
Hi Dino,
I share your sinking feeling that the proliferation of local guides may not be stemming, totally, from quality reviews. Some are certainly legit, but others make me say, "Hmm...". I'm glad you voiced your take on this. It sounds like others are having the same gut feeling. Thanks for reading my article!
 

djbaxter

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Jun 28, 2012
Messages
3,302
There's really no screening of Local Guides.

Reminds me of the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian (1979), where Brian (Graham Chapman) is trying to join the "People's Liberation Front" and is being questioned by John Cleese.

Brian says, "I hate the Romans!"

John Cleese asks, "How much?"

Brian says, "A lot!"

John Cleese says, "Right! You're in!"
 

bhartzer

Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2013
Messages
76
If you have a Google review that you suspect is spam, then you need to report it through the 'normal' way: flag the review. You can also respond to the review, saying that you don't have any record of them being a customer (or something similar).

Google's internal policy is that they won't do anything unless it's flagged by 5 different Google accounts. I've personally verified this with Google engineers, in person, when I at Google recently.

So, you need to get 5 different Google accounts to flag the review. That's going to be the fastest way to deal with that review spam.
 

bhartzer

Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2013
Messages
76
Surely you have at least 5 friends that have Google accounts? They'd need to search Google, find the review, and flag it.
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2012
Messages
103
Yes but no one but me knows this review is illegitimate. So if I just get family and friends to flag the review won't Google be suspicious?
 

bhartzer

Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2013
Messages
76
If you respond to the review, publicly challenging it, then it will be seen. If five people flag it, they're just marking it--Google will ultimately make the decision whether or not it should stay. I'm assuming that they have a lot more data about this particular person (who left the review), even their activities and location. For example, if the person has never been to your location, then that might raise a red flag, especially if Google has no record of that person ever being in your State or city.

By the way, if the person who left the review only has a few reviews (or only 1 review), there's a better chance that Google will see it as spam and remove it.
 

bhartzer

Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2013
Messages
76
By the way, standenman, it looks to me like you have multiple Google local listings--you might want to look into that. ;)
 
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Aug 2, 2012
Messages
103
A second bogus negative review has hit me. This is a real serious attack on the business I have spent years building. Review by "Sydney Slater" and "Juan Lulli" - 2 persons I do not know and have never been clients. I know who is doing this - a freelancer I used on Upwork. I terminated the contract due to shoddy work and overbilling, and she subsequently entered my development site and destroyed files. I showed Upwork the evidence of her conduct and they terminated her from Upwork. She now has nothing to lose in attacking me. PLEASE if anyone is willing to help me in flagging these 2 reviews I would be very, very grateful!

By the way, it is also not clear to me what category needs to be selected in flagging the review.
his post contains hateful, violent, or inappropriate content

"This post contains hateful, violent, or inappropriate content
This post contains advertising or spam
Off-topic
This post contains conflicts of interest"
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
752
'Conflicts of Interest' is the most appropriate here. As I said earlier though, even with a number of flags it may not accomplish much if the text of the review and past behavior of the reviewer both don't hint at any underlying foul play.
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2012
Messages
103
Received 2 patently obvious false reviews at Denman Law Office by a "Juan Lulli" and a "Sydney Slater", names completely foreign to me. These same false reviews were left at avvo.com, an attorney site, and I got them removed at avvo without problem - was told that they both came from the same IP Address. Yet Google has told me that these reviews do not violate their policy! Funny isn't it that if I had my clients submit legitmate reviews from a desktop computer in my office Google would be all over it! I have spent THOUSANDS with google adwords over the years. Makes me sick.
 

SmallBizGeek

Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2017
Messages
53
One of my clients received a negative review from someone who had never been a client. The review came at around the time a similar local business was publicly named and shamed for malpractice on national TV, so it made me wonder if this was them trying to damage the credibility of legit rivals.

It prompted me to begin investigating and writing about it. I've written before about genuine reviews being deleted, whereas this is the opposite end of the spectrum.

My client responded to the review in a level-headed and reasonable way, but he really is very upset. The reviewer used an alias (not a real person's name) to post the review, but later changed this alias to a person's name.

I looked at their account activity and noticed that although they were supposed to have reviewed 6 location, only 1 review was present, suggesting the other 5 had been removed by Google. That's good!

I've also been looking at ways to compel Google to take action on fake content via a Legal Removal Request, citing laws, rights and regulations here in the UK. You'll have a tougher time going this route if you're in the USA, so I hear, because a court order is needed to force Google to take action.

But Google is coming under increasing pressure to become more responsible and fulfill obligations in protecting individuals. For example, the "Right to be Forgotten" ruling by the European Courts means that EU citizens can ask that certain search engine results be deindexed if it is causing damage to their reputation.

That makes me wonder if false reviews can be considered damaging content, since these are tied to SERPs.

I've been gathering some information on the subject for a blog post I'm writing to help out my client (and anyone else with similar woes).

Simon Wadsworth of Reputation Matters says the UK government intends to crack down on fake online reviews.


The UK government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) could implement tough policies concerning such issues by making the posting fake reviews illegal. At least one company has been publicly reprimanded for posting over 800 fake reviews.


The UK Competition and Markets Authority has investigated online reviews and endorsements.


In their 2015 report (PDF) they say they had "become aware of a number of concerns about the potential for reviews and endorsements to mislead consumers and distort their decisions. We were concerned that, if true, this could lead to detriment for both consumers and businesses."

Page 4 of their report mentions the fake negative reviews problem:

"Businesses or individuals writing or commissioning fake negative reviews. This may be carried out by businesses trying to undermine their rivals or by individuals acting maliciously or for personal gain. The practice may affect consumers’ choices. We have also heard, particularly from businesses in the hospitality industry, that small businesses can be badly affected by fake negative reviews."

Apparently, these sorts of practices may breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs):

"...we have heard about a number of practices in these sectors that potentially breach the law. We are concerned that these practices may lead to good businesses that play by the rules losing out because other businesses do not."

Footnote 3 in the report says that their investigation does not influence the courts and shouldn't be used as a legal basis.

However, there's nothing wrong with educating yourself on the matter because it might help you to compel Google when and if you need to cite your rights.

Go and read the report. Print out and keep.
 
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