Fake Google Reviews Will Hurt Your Business…

Recently I read an article from PPC Associates titled How To Spot Fake Google Reviews, obviously I was enticed to read the post as gaining reviews for local businesses is one of the best ways to affect rankings and help set your business apart as a trusted partner.  I often talk to my clients about the importance of reminding their customers to write reviews about the service or product they received.  In fact I had one client that took this to heart and emailed his past clients asking for reviews…and to my surprise he garnered 15 reviews which shot his business to the first page for a highly sought for keyword.  But the reason the above article caught my attention is explained below.

Fake Reviews Are Black Hat SEO

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It’s can tempting as a SEO company to help your clients position out by writing a few fake reviews for them. After all you might think that your helping them get to the first page, they get business, and you look like a hero, right?  Wrong.  Fake reviews are black hat.

Earlier this last summer I met with an insurance agency that wanted to get to the first page for the keyword string “Auto Insurance Portland”.  One very well known company here in town known for their outrageous commercials and well known slogan was the first Google Places result for the search.  After looking at this company’s place page, it became pretty clear that whomever was handling their SEO was involved in Black Hat tactics to get their client to the first page.  The biggest factor was Fake Reviews.  Whomever had posted these fake reviews didn’t even try to hide the fact they were fake.  Instead of writing a review, they had just stuffed a bunch of keyword strings (keyword stuffing) into several different reviews.  Keywords such as:

  • SR22 Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Car Insurance
  • Auto Insurance Portland
  • and on, and on…

were repeated over and over again in all these reviews.

So after reading the article on How To Spot Fake Google Reviews, it made me think of this well known insurance company.  So of course I went to Google to see how this companies Black Hat SEO Tactics were working.  And to my surprise, this company has been been removed completely from the results on “Auto Insurance Portland”.  I did find their Google Place Page after doing a name search and found that not only did Google remove all the Keyword Stuffed reviews, but they also placed the page back into “unclaimed” status.  One lone review still remains…and from what I saw it still stinks to high heaven, I’ll let you decide for yourself below:

suspected fake google review screen shot

I decided to block out the company’s name for obvious reasons.  But it seems to me that whomever wrote this review is trying for rankings for:

  1. Insurance Beaverton Oregon
  2. Auto Insurance
  3. Homeowners Insurance
  4. Business Insurance
  5. SR22 Insurance

Moral of this story?  If some SEO Company promises you rankings, find out how they plan to do it.  I’ve always tried to use the rule that if a Google employee asked how I gain rankings for a client, how would I feel when I told them the answer?

Important factors for small business website rankings

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According to Google there are over 200 different factors that they grade on to determine how a website will rank within their Search Engine Results Page for any given search.  Given that they grade on over 200 of them, and the fact that most small businesses don’t have the resources to hire a team of SEO experts, I will list the 6 factors that I have found are a must for any small business hoping to achieve rankings in their area, and more importantly, results that turn into sales.

The below list is by no means all inclusive…

On Page Search Engine Optimization

On page search optimization is the practice of getting your site ranked though changes to your website. There are many ways to accomplish this, some good, some bad, a.k.a. White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. Generally writing good quality content with frequently searched keywords (careful to much keywords also known as “Keyword Stuffing”), cross linking, adding relevant keywords to meta-data, and providing fresh & updated content will increase the frequency of the Search Engines Indexing your site.  Having a good understanding of how the search engines index your website also helps with your website optimization.  You can read more about this in my prior post about Google Caffeine.

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Off Page Search Engine Optimization

Off page search engine optimization conversely is everything you do to raise your ranking with the search engines outside of your website. Link building is a popular strategy for this. Another tactic is submission of correct content and information about your business to sites that the search engines consider “authoritative”, ensuring you have links to your website posted on these sources. It’s a good practice to make sure you link to sites with a good Page Rank. This will ensure the search engines look at your website favorably.

Link Building

Developing good quality inbound links to your website is probably one of the most effective ways to improve rankings with the search engine. This is often the most time consuming component of SEO, but can yield large measurable results. Directory Submissions with differing anchor text on each, Link Searches is another useful, but advanced exercise in which we let the search engines find the sites for us to link to. Article writing, forums and blogs are also quality ways to get inbound links.  Often, many small business owners skip this as it takes time, patience and work.

Ratings & Reviews

Never under estimate the power of consumer reviews. A study done by ComScore showed that up to 87% of consumers purchase decision was based upon reviews, and 97% of those said that they made a purchase based their decision a review. Also notable was the fact that consumers were willing to pay up to 20% more for quality services based upon favorable reviews. It is essential for businesses to generate positive reviews from consumers for local search ranking. Read here why Google changed its review index

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Local Search Optimization

Local Search, in my opinion is the best search optimization technique for small business. Local search is nothing more than a query that includes a local factor, such as “Plumbers Portland OR”.

According to Google 20% of the searches they receive are local. Want to know how big this is? Every day 600 million local searches are done on Google alone. Try to get that kind of traffic anywhere else, it’s not going to happen. Clearly Local Search should be a priority for any small business.

Quality Content

Fresh Content, Blogging, Article Submissions and Forums are all great ways to promote via the web, and can spotlight you as a trusted industry leader. They’re also excellent ways to get your business indexed for obscure searches or front end keywords related to your business. Blogs, Articles and Forums are also great ways to generate inbound links to your web property. Blogging takes work on the business owners part, as such commitment and dedication are keys to it ultimate success.

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