The Local SEO community was recently plagued with a massive fake review attack that impacted small businesses globally. A collection of 37 profiles left over 3 million fake 4-star ratings. By the time Google removed them all about five days later, the average profile had left over 81,000 ratings for various businesses.
Who is behind it?
At this point, we have no idea who initiated the attack. Most of the profiles have Vietnamese usernames but the majority of the ratings were left for SMBs in the USA.
Who did it impact?
Jason Brown and several other members of our Google Product Experts group tracked reports that came in from the Google My Business forum and on Twitter. Although we managed to put together a list of at least 257 businesses that were impacted, there were many more.
One of the users affected reported, “We received 22 reviews yesterday within one hour time with no single comment. All the names are strange and not normal and it seems that someone is trying to damage our name.”
The business owners impacted seemed lost, confused and frustrated by the event. Another reported, “It does scare me the amount of control Google has over our businesses success and failure. Gone are the days of the local yellow pages and directories to find a service. When you’re a small business, a week of no visibility can drastically affect our business and sales.”
One thing that made it hard for the business owners and Google product experts to see what other businesses were impacted is because the review profiles had selected to hide their reviews. This infuriates me. I understand the need for privacy but I cannot stand the fact that any user with any name can just post a review on a business that they have never had an interaction with. There needs to be some accountability if these reviews are going to have any type of credibility.
I’m very happy to see that Google removed all the reviews but this entire situation sheds light on the growing trend that leaving fake reviews online is way too easy.
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