Albany, New York–The Attorney General’s Office of New York has announced that several SEO companies will pay fines ranging from $2,500 up to $100,000 for post fake reviews on various review sites. The SEO companies have reached a settlement with the N.Y.A.G., agreeing to stop publishing fake reviews.
Over the past year, the attorney general’s office in the state of New York has been investigating 19 different SEO firms. The companies wrote and published fake reviews on sites such as Yelp. Several other small businesses were involved in the investigation as well. All totaled, the defendants will pay in excess of $350,000 collectively for posting phony reviews.
Reviewers Fake Out SEOs Posting Fake Reviews
The New York AG’s investigation began when officers began contacting SEO firms posing as a yogurt shop needing to combat negative reviews left on different sites. Named “Operation Clean Turf”, the investigation found that several of the SEO companies were using IP spoofing, along with hundreds of bogus profiles in an attempt to bolster their clients’ online image.
Review sites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch were some of the many online properties targeted by these SEO firms, which involved writers from as far away as Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe. The companies were paid $1 to $10 per phony review, which violate state laws concerning illegal and deceptive business practices as well as false advertising. “Consumers rely on reviews from their peers to make daily purchasing decisions on anything from food and clothing to recreation and sightseeing,” Attorney General Schneiderman stated.
An All-Too-Common Practice
The practice of posting fake reviews isn’t new to-be-sure. However, law enforcement officials across the country are beginning to openly combat the problem as it erodes public trust. Legitimate businesses are sometimes wrongly harmed by phony reviews. SEO companies writing and publishing fake reviews are doing little to help their clients as such practices also harm the businesses they serve in the long run.
Small business owners have long complained about the validity of reviews posted on sites like Yelp raising concerns the feedback is largely phony and might be a tactic for the review company to lure more advertisers in exchange for enhanced crackdowns on fake reviews.