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Business Networking Group Gets Busted For Yelp Review Posting Ring

Well it never ceases to amaze me on the efforts people will go to create a fake review.  It seems like the stakes of the game have gone even higher. 

 

Los Angeles Times writers Jessica Guynn and Andrea Chang shared a story about a business networking group that conspired together to post fake reviews for each others businesses.

 

South Bay BNI Accused Of Posting Fake Reviews

 

According to the Los Angeles Times article:

 

"Yelp stripped the suspect reviews from its site last month and sent emails to members of the group — known as South Bay BNI — informing them that their behavior was out of bounds.

"This was a sophisticated effort to bolster the reputation of members of this business networking group through five-star reviews," said David Lee, Yelp's user operations manager. "Reviews that have a bias lead to a poor consumer experience."

 

Posting Fake Reviews Is So Short Sighted

What business owners need to understand is that if they are busted for posting fake reviews, the organic "coverage" of that event will often stay on Google Page One for a long time.  You don't want articles appearing on Google Page One that imply that your business is involved is review scams.

 

You most often will be removed from the online business directory as well, which can cost a business thousands of dollars in profits and for car dealers, thousands of site visits a month! 

 

If you Google "South Bay BNI Yelp" you can see that a number of articles are being indexed on their group name including a post that talks about how valuable Yelp reviews are to local members. 

 


I clicked on the article highlighted in red and it looks like their own website posted an article outlining their "excitement" of just how well Yelp works when you have many positive reviews.  The hushed conversation which we can only guess is how they encouraged their members to get these reviews.

 

Yelp discovered the pattern of behavior and busted the group's actions.  Here is the post from their own website with a great line:  "Givers Gain On Yelp Too!".  It's obvious that Yelp felt that they gave too much! 

 

Lessons Learned Or Not?

 

There have been many threads on this website discussing the importance of monitoring and managing your online reputation that is established through websites like Google+ Local, Yelp.com, Cars.com, DealerRater.com, PrestoReviews.com, and the AAN.

 

  1. Most businesses have ample numbers of happy customers that are willing to post a review.  Don't rush the process and never post fake reviews.  Merchandizing your store and encouraging your customers to share their experience online can be a very natural process.  Be patient and do it right.
  2. Never involve your NCM/NADA 20 Group Members or State Association Members to conspire to post for each other.   The South Bay BNI business group thought they would never get caught.
  3. Never use a proxy service to collect reviews using a third party web based form and then posting the collected information using dummy accounts on review sites.  There are a number of companies that have convinced dealers that this is a legitimate way to increase reviews on Google and Yelp.  It violates their Terms of Service (TOS) and can get your company in hot water.
  4. Don't put your eggs in one basket.  Yelp determined that this group of business owners scammed the system and deleted their reviews.  It is very possible that Yelp or any review platform that you don't control can take down your reviews for ANY REASON.  So, don't create a review process that points customers only in one place.
  5. If you need help establishing a solid "pressure free" and compliant process, ask for help.  You can register for the next free Reputation Management webinar presented by Glenn Pasch, by sending your full contact information to:  reputation@pcgdigitalmarketing.com

Reputation Management Workshop at AutoCon

 

You can also participate in a number of great workshops at AutoCon 2012 that pertain to Reputation Management.   

 

  • Heather from DealerRater will be conducting a workshop entitled: "The Do's & Don'ts of Managing and Leveraging Your Online Reputation"
  • Richard Bastillo GM from Rick Case Honda will be conducting a workshop entitled: "Reputation Management Strategies and Tactics that work at Rick Case Honda"
  • Mike Myers  from Milham Ford/Toyota will be conducting a workshop entitled: "I Hate/Love My Online Reputation"

 To register and lock in the AutoCon Early Bird Rate visit: http:/www.AutoCon2012.com


Brian

Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing

732.672.2356

 

Views: 704

Tags: bni yelp scam, soth bay bni review scam, south bay bni, yelp

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Comment by Ed Brooks on July 7, 2012 at 1:07pm

Ralph, It is important to note that with Yelp (as opposed to Google), this check in must be done on THEIR app on THEIR device. This is true with every other major ratings service EXCEPT Google. Keeping an iPad with the Yelp app loaded at the service counter not only won't help you, it will hurt you.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 7, 2012 at 12:00pm

Related to this subject and preventing valid reviews from getting "Filtered" by Yelp... If an existing member of the Yelp Community visits your dealership, ask them to "Check In" using the Yelp Mobile App to your location... Any reviews they choose to write about your dealership are vastly less likely to be filtered from direct viewing when the Yelp member who posts the review has visited your facility in person and checked in using their Yelp mobile app...

NOTE: As pointed out by Ed Brooks, this must be done by the consumer using their own device with the Yelp App installed on their iPad or Mobile device.

Comment by David Brondstetter on July 7, 2012 at 10:35am

Kind of reminds me of groups of known friends and associates tweeting, retweeting and mentioning, etc, etc, each others content just to get each other's Klout score up. Both are just gaming the system. I wonder when Klout's going to tweak their algorithm to accommodate for the same people following the same people tweeting and retweeting the same content to the same people. The answer: NEVER! What they would find is the same group of "influencers" are "influencing" each other with the same content I suspect...No one is really being influenced that isn't already in the know. 

Did I mentioned that I am not a fan of Klout. 

Sorry for hijacking your Yelp Thread Brian. With the recent chatter on Klout, I found the comparison worthy of mentioning. The "hey brother can you "YELP" me out" scam has been going on since the beginning of YELP. This article is the criminal justice equivalent of a 'perp walk". Every once in a while you have to parade 'em in front of the cameras just so the rest of us know they are doing their jobs and that there are consequences if you get caught...

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