A recent article featured on Search Engine News (“Businesses Sabotaged by Negative Reviews”) discussed some online tactics that are unfortunately becoming more common, and may become more prevalent should Google not take action soon.
The article summarized the problem a moving company in New York recently faced, after a lot of negative 1-star reviews began to pop up on the Place Page for the company. The business owner repeatedly flagged the reviews as inappropriate to have the reviews removed by Google. Then, the owner contacted others within his industry and learned they were having the same problem with reviews, many of which were quite similar. After a Google search targeting a specific phrase from several reviews was conducted (“NOBODY DO BUSINESS WITH THIS COMPANY”), the owner and his industry friends found that over a hundred moving companies across the U.S. had been hit with similar reviews. Soon after, many of them were contacted by reputation management companies that claimed they could remove the negative reviews, and even add positive reviews about the company for a fee while promising they have a special relationship with Google, which they of course do not have.
You may be asking yourself what actions Google is taking to prevent such reputation ransoming from occurring. The article reports that they are aware of the situation and are working to remove the fake negative reviews. However, it is taking some time for them to be taken down, which can be harmful for business affected by these unfair and deceptive practices. Obviously, Google should explore options regarding what can be done to ensure such false and malicious reviews are not published, and whether or not a review process can be implemented so potential customers and clients do not read untruths regarding businesses.
This story serves as an important reminder that there are many untrustworthy companies out there looking to prey on others who may not be aware of their dishonest practices, which is why you always need to be careful of who you are doing business with. Working with a company that engages in what you could essentially call black-hat tactics can only serve to hurt you.
It is also critical that you pay close attention to your online reputation, as failing to do so can be damaging, as this story shows. You should work hard to make sure you receive actual positive reviews from your clients, and you should never have to pay for them. Simply ask your clients to review your law firm on Places, which should serve to push down the negative reviews, if any are present. You should take any negative review seriously and work to fix any addressed problems. If you believe any review is fake, immediately contact Google.
You should also keep in mind that Google is constantly evolving, and is now more than ever promoting user-generated content (UGC), as a recent Mashable article noted. Customer reviews are being given very high rankings in search results, meaning you should do what you can to increase the quantity as well as the quality of the reviews your clients write about your law firm.
Additional source: http://mashable.com/2011/08/23/ugc-seo-google/