Fake Yelp Reviews

19 Companies Are Fined By State Of NY For Fake Yelp Reviews

“Astroturfing” or Fake Yelp Reviews?  Say it ain’t so.  Yes.  If there is a way to manipulate the internet and internet marketing world we can be sure that someone will try.  And according to this ABC News report.

Approximately 3% of online reviews are written by companies hired to write fake reviews

I have been writing alot about the importance of getting positive reviews on Yelp to help your Local SEO and increase your overall Web Presence.  Does this news change that?

No!  If anything it reinforces how seriously people are taking these review sites.  Serious enough that the Attorney General of NY has issued 19 companies fines totalling more than $350,000 for creating fake reviews.

ABC News Fake Yelp Reviews Report

Is it just me or does that 17 year old girl look far to happy about being exposed on National TV for getting paid to lie?


Why Is The State Of NY Involved

“In a 2011 Harvard Business School study, a researcher found that restaurants that increased their ranking on Yelp by one star raised their revenues by 5 to 9 percent.” (source: NY Times)

Eric T. Scheiderman, the NY attorney general says “What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising,” “When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.”

It is also reported that many more states are currently involved in their own sting operation.


Black Hat SEO

I have written a couple times in the past, and begged my clients, to not get involved in this type of behavior.  Yes, it is possible to artificially boost your search rankings and online reviews, this is called Black Hat SEO.

Using deceptive or manipulative practices that are not within the guidelines of the website to artificially boost a companies rankings or ratings.

I knew that if caught your positive reviews would be removed, or worse, your company would be removed.  I had no idea that it would become a Government matter with heavy fines involved.

Many of the companies that are listed in the case are what are called “reputation-enhancement firms.”  or SEO companies.

There is a section in the report called:  “Undercover Investigation of “Search Engine Optimization” Companies”

In recent years, the reputation management industry has exploded as businesses have become increasingly concerned about their online reputations. So-called search engine optimization (“SEO”) companies routinely offer online reputation management as part of their services.

The investigation revealed that SEO companies were using advanced IP spoofing techniques to hide their identities, as well as setting up hundreds of bogus online profiles on consumer review websites to post the reviews. The investigation found that many consumer-review websites have implemented filters to detect and filter or delete fake reviews, with Yelp’s being the most aggressive. (source: search engine roundtable)

 This is not SEO as I see and practice it.  This is deception.


Getting Positive Yelp Reviews is primarily about offering an amazing product or service, with amazing customer service.  Then reminding your clients that you are on Yelp and would love for them to share their experience.  It is not about hiring someone to tell people that.

By |2015-11-03T20:51:46+00:00September 26th, 2013|

About the Author:

Jason Fox - Real Estate MarketingBusiness: We build WordPress Real Estate Websites with IDXMe: #GoHawks, #BringBackTheSonics, #MaybeNextYearMariners, #ILoveMyKids #SeattleSunLover #SeattleWaterLover #BFFBlog: Focuses on Wordpress Websites, Content Management, SEO Services, SEM Campaigns, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing, Beautiful Design, IDX, and more.


  1. Mark September 26, 2013 at 10:36 am - Reply

    I would think the percentage of fake online reviews is much higher than what ABC said it was. Sadly, some people believe anything they read on the internet without looking much further than the first page of Google.

    • Jason Fox September 26, 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

      I think it is much higher on other review sites that do not have such a stringent algorithm as Yelp.

      • Matthew Smith September 26, 2013 at 10:49 am - Reply

        BY the way – The review I gave Jason was hands down my review and his company pretty much ROCKS!

  2. Matthew Smith September 26, 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

    How is this different from paying for likes ? I do not agree with these practices but this is nothing new and will always go on, either online or offline. Do your homework and check with friends,family or other review sites.A great example is the BBB and how when you pay you get an A and the states do nothing about that. Leave the government out of it. If Yelp or any other site wants to police it they can and remove or ban the company. IMHO

    • Jason Fox September 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm - Reply


      Thank you for your input.

      I agree it is not a perfect system by any means. I think about it purely in terms of generating traffic, leads, and sales. While I know there are many frusterations that people have with reviews sites, I also know that many businesses are generating a ton of business off them and my goal is to help my readers accomplish that goal.

  3. Brian Piccolo September 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    This all well and good to go after fake reviews, however no one mentions going after review sites (yelp) for “filtering” real positive reviews. As a business owner my self it is paramount that people see real reviews positive or negative, most are filtered simply because they do not have a history of reviewing places or that they are not active enough on the review site, If someone had a positive experience with my company and writes a honest review it goes in to the “filter” and does not get shown or effect my rating, until they actually become avid users of the review site, for some reason this does not seem to matter if it is a negative review. How is this an honest way of being a review site?

    • Jason Fox September 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm - Reply


      Thank you for your input.

      I remember when I first started advocating my clients use Yelp and was not familiar with their filtering. After about 6 months I would get phone calls everyday complaining that I had wasted their time. That all their positive reviews “just disappeared”. I did not recommend people use Yelp for years after that.

      The reason I started again… is not because I think that there are less frustrations. They are still there. It is simply because there is money to be made from these sites… and I want to help my clients accomplish that goal.

  4. firstpageofgoogle.doodlekit.com December 14, 2013 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Τhis is a good tip particularly tо those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very аccurate info… Many thаnks foг sharing thіs one.
    A must read article!

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