Google Places Lack of Negative Review Control Hurts Small Businesses!

In what I call a novel approach to trying to force Google to become accountable for fake negative review spam and hijacking issues, one small business has started a Press Release blitz to try to get resolution or attention on several ON-GOING VERY DESTRUCTIVE problems that affect many small businesses.

UPDATE 7/14 10 AM – Just realized I neglected to mention yesterday that I blogged this same issue in June about another moving company. In that post I gave Google suggestions about how the algo could nip a big part of this problem in the bud.

“The majority of this type of blatant review spam is EASY to catch and eliminate with a Google algo and I think Google should be held accountable for doing something about this!

See: Google Places Negative Review Spam Rampant – Google Needs to be Accountable for Cases like This.

Mike just blogged: Google Quickly Removes Most Review Spam in Moving Industry – More Remains at Google and Elsewhere I added a lot of my suggestions and suggestions from my readers over at Mikes today. (See my comment #5 there.)

Also the owner of FlatRate Moving commented yesterday here at the blog.

Continued from original 7/13 post: In ONE WEEK this small BBB A+ Rated moving company has been attacked by 300 fake negative reviews. The owner said: “Companies like FlatRate Moving… suffer as a result of these attacks. The spammers, often working for unethical companies, use these black-hat methods to keep good listings at the top of the search results – while the morally sound companies with good reputations get buried.”

He continued: “After exhaustively reporting the issues to Google, and patiently waiting for the Google Places Quality Team to take care of these inaccurate and obviously fraudulent posts FlatRate Moving has realized that Google’s Quality Team is virtually unreachable, and seemingly unresponsive. Unfortunately, there is not much that these companies can do without Google’s immediate attention.”

See full Press Release below. I seriously hope The Haggler from the NY Times or someone picks up on this and it forces Google to deal with these problems. I don’t think Google fully realizes how many companies are affected and how much of a negative impact it can have on a small business.

I believe this Press Release was probably just released on one PR service but via distribution this PR is showing up SO FAR on 199 other sites including NBC news sites, CBS, the Street and more.

Oh and Mike Blumenthal wrote about moving company review spam today too. Different moving company – Different angle. He says what’s behind it is an EXTORTION attempt to sell a negative review removal service.

Google Places: Reputation Management or Extortion in the Moving Industry?

It seems that in this scam, hundreds of moving companies across the U.S. not only ALL received the exact same bad reviews but many then soon received unsolicited proposals to “remove malicious, old, slanderous, unfounded, and internet defamation ratings”.

OK here is the PR that went out by FlatRate Moving. There’s a sympathy link to your site and know that I feel your pain and sincerely hope Google helps you resolve this problem.

FlatRate Moving™ Warns Consumers About False Google Places Reviews

Google Places is becoming considerably less reliable as scammers post flood of false reviews.

NEW YORK, July 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — As consumers become increasingly reliant upon peer-review services such as Yelp, CitySearch, and Google Places, companies must, in turn, rely on these same services to provide accurate information; this being especially true for companies within the service industry. However, a new trend in spamming has found a way to use these Google Places listings to cause irreparable damage to the reputations of otherwise highly rated companies. Google’s seeming unwillingness to address these spammers has not only negatively affected the reputations of the companies but of Google itself.

These spammers employ several methods to undermine the quality and overall inaccuracy of Google Places listings:

  • Hijacking of listings
    • Fraudulently verifying business listings and changing information to a different company’s name to steal their identity.
  • URL-switching
    • Changing the URL on a listing via the “edit listing” option or via false verification.
  • Phone-number switching
    • Changing the URL on a listing via the “edit listing” option or via false verification.
    • This is often done by placing either a competitor’s phone number or a non-working phone number.
  • Address changes
    • Changing the address to invalidate verifications or to remove the listings from the area of competition.
  • Bad Reviews
    • Flooding listings with 1-star reviews from different anonymous accounts to drive star-rating down.

“It’s Google’s responsibility to make sure that their service is accurately portraying users’ opinions of the companies on Google Places,” said Jon Katz, VP of Sales and Marketing at FlatRate Moving. “In the past week alone our Google Places listings have suffered an attack of over 300 obviously fraudulent negative reviews!”

Companies like FlatRate Moving, rated A+ with the Better Business Bureau, suffer as a result of these attacks. The spammers, often working for unethical companies, use these black-hat methods to keep good listings at the top of the search results – while the morally sound companies with good reputations get buried.

After exhaustively reporting the issues to Google, and patiently waiting for the Google Places Quality Team to take care of these inaccurate and obviously fraudulent posts FlatRate Moving has realized that Google’s Quality Team is virtually unreachable, and seemingly unresponsive. Unfortunately, there is not much that these companies can do without Google’s immediate attention.

About FlatRate Moving™

Founded in 1991, FlatRate Moving™ introduced a completely new concept in moving by offering customers an all-inclusive, guaranteed, one-price move, with no surprise costs. Thanks to an unparalleled level of service, attention to details and the core belief in honesty and fairness, FlatRate Moving™ is a leader in the industry and redefining the way people think about their moving and storage experience.

Contact:
Itamar Kestenbaum
itamar@flatrate.com
555 W 25th St
New York, NY 10001
212.988.9292 x212

UPdate: Someone just told me they thought this press release was more a link building strategy than a get help strategy.

I don’t know and I don’t care. I still think this problem is out of hand, need’s Google’s attention and I hurt for these businesses!