I came across a local search result yesterday that makes the Internet cry. It's not because of the Web site that I found. The site itself is rather nice and gives me a feeling of trust. It's actually the multiple local submissions and the obvious fake user reviews that make me run away.

This isn't just search engine manipulation. It's user manipulation, and that's personal. If I go to Yahoo Local (Yahoo isn't the only victim), there will be multiple listings for the same business with over 70 canned five-star reviews. It goes something like this:

"I have never met a professional that cares so much about his clients/customers. Regardless of whether you live in city #1, city #2, city #3, (and so on through) city #8, you will get the attention you deserve. I highly recommend (insert name here)."

Now imagine the other 70 reviews saying the exact same thing, just in different words. This can only harm a brand. If I were a potential customer and saw these results and testimonials, I'd run away. When I get tired, I'd run faster and warn everyone I could along the way to stay away from that brand.

My friend Christy of the SEO Jealous blog wrote a great post about local search misconceptions titled No Sense of Direction.

Gaming user-generated content may be tempting, but readers have a knack for sniffing out insincerity, and they don’t have a high-tolerance for thinly-veiled attempts at manipulation.

It's a great post and gives really good insight on the harm of faking client testimonials, along with the Google Business Center postcard that gets dropped in the trash, and "One-Box" obsessions.

To any business, please, please encourage your satisfied clients or customers to go into places like Citysearch, Yahoo Local, Yelp, or Insider Pages and give real reviews! Some may only give you four out of five stars. Some may include typos. Some may even misspell your name! This is all fine. Consumers are smart. As long as there is honest information about you, consumers will make their own decisions and gain that trust before they even call you.
June 13, 2007

Paul Jahn is the owner of Localmn Interactive Marketing, a Minnesota-based Internet marketing company. Localmn focuses on helping local companies large and small leverage the most out of their search marketing campaigns depending on their respective needs, including SEO, PPC, local search, and social media campaigns. Paul also runs and contributes to the Localmn local search blog.

With over ten years of Internet marketing experience, Paul has particular expertise in search marketing, with extensive knowledge of local search.

Search Engine Guide > Paul Jahn > Fake User Reviews Can Really Hurt Your Brand