Business ratings and reviews giant Yelp has intensified its efforts to crack down on fake business reviews by targeting phoney ‘review rings’. Review rings refers to an unscrupulous practice whereby firms solicit fabricated positive reviews from numerous people who effectively undermine honest content marketing with misleading spam.
The move follows a series of fake listings and false reviews appearing on Google.
On 10th January this year, for example, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) uncovered what it called “a sprawling network” of fake locations and five-star reviews in Google Maps in the Greater Toronto Area.
Google was prompted to pledge to deal with the issue as a result.
In June last year, the Wall Street Journal presented evidence suggesting that millions of business listings appearing on Google were phoney.
Yelp has distinguished itself for its aggressive stance on fake reviews.
Its 2012 ‘consumer alerts’ programme aimed to inform customers about blatant efforts to twist ratings and reviews by buying fraudulent copy or otherwise incentivising people to pen false reviews.
Tell-tale signs included clusters of reviews originating from the same IP address, or companies acquiring bogus reviews from a more distributed network of sham reviewers (the so-called ‘review rings’).
The company has just unveiled its latest efforts to ramp up its anti-fraud methods with a new ‘Suspicious Review Activity’ alert for consumers that will flag businesses that it believes have received reviews from misleading review rings.
It has already closed over 400 customer accounts linked to one gigantic review ring that it recently uncovered.
Reputable firms engaged in high-quality content marketing are likely to applaud this measure as they are clearly at risk of losing out to the merchants of fraudulent marketing scams like this.
Yelp engaged a third party to assess the fraudulent activity landscape, including the purchasing of fake reviews.
The analysis found that 35 of 36 fake review sellers had been snagged by Yelp’s filtering software, resulting in a sharp decline in fraudulent providers offering phoney Yelp reviews for sale.
Moreover, the cost of fake reviews has, as a result, risen among the vendors still attempting to sell them. Fraud of this nature undermines consumer trust.
Yelp is perhaps showing the way forward with its latest initiative: a more systematic and sustained approach to the problem from others would do much to counter the problem.