First brought to our attention by The Daily Dot, Yelp has sued to terminate and collect damages from a site called BuyOnlineReviews.net. The site leads with Yelp but it promises to generate fake positive reviews for a range of local directories and social sites including Google +, Citysearch, InsiderPages, Local.com, SuperPages, Foursquare, Kudzu, YellowPages as well as Yelp.
Yelp has sued for a whole range of alleged illegal activities and violations. The company’s objective is to close the site and collect fees and damages.
Before the site is taken down — and it will be — you should look at it. Among other things it audaciously describes its Yelp “review filter”-beating methodology:
Each review will come from a unique IP address located in the city of your choice. We use only the best writers who are experienced at writing realistic reviews. The reviews will be leaked at random times to look natural. We guarantee that your online listing will remain safe and secure. If you have an empty listing and you have been trying to figure out how to get online reviews then this is the service for you. You can order as often and as many reviews as you like. We can send as many as you need without any problems. If you have bad online reviews use this package to drown them out and push them down where nobody will see them.
Each review is priced at the low-low price of $24.95. However, desperate or corrupt merchants are required buy a minimum of three, and can buy a seemingly unlimited number. The pull-down menu goes up to 100.
The BuyOnlineReviews site is hiding in plain sight and treats what’s it’s doing in a very matter of fact way. Here are a few excerpts from its FAQs section for example:
The site itself probably believes it’s doing nothing wrong otherwise it wouldn’t be so public. Regardless, if Yelp catches this kind behavior it puts a scarlet letter (“consumer alert“) on the business profile for 90 days, which may amount to a commercial kiss of death.
Yelp and the other sites affected have a huge incentive to try and wipe out these fake review mills to preserve consumer trust. Consumers choose Yelp because of the perceived integrity of its reviews, which would be severely compromised if review authenticity were called into question.
A recent BrightLocal survey found that “79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (up from 72 percent in 2012).”