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Dealers flooding review sites with fake user reviews

Discussion in 'Online Dealership Marketing Best Practices' started by AKdeZayas, Jun 17, 2011.

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  1. AKdeZayas

    AKdeZayas
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    I'm researching a story for my company about local dealerships that fill up sites like Dealer Rater, Edmunds, Yelp, etc. with fake user reviews to cover up all of their terrible reviews from customers.

    Some of these companies have been sued by the state several times for violations of the Consumer Fraud Act.

    It seems they're trying to cover this up by posing as customers and posting phony, overly positive reviews.

    I would like to hear from experts who may know more about this practice. Has anyone run into this? Is it common? Do dealers do this to cover up a bad reputation?

    I would appreciate any advice or information.
     
    #1 AKdeZayas, Jun 17, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2012
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  3. Chris Cachor

    Chris Cachor
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    Of course its common. Look at all the online "reputation management" services popping up. I know of both vendors and dealerships using these sites with reviews they paid/bribed for. Go to Dealer Rater and take a look at the products/companies with over 30 reviews and 100% ratings. That's definitely something that's edited ;) Believe me.
     
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  4. Advertisguy

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    Yes, this is very common. There is an entire industry that has grown around this very issue. It is called the Reputation Management Industry. The same people that can work to get negative PR off of Internet Searches will also right fake reviews for a fee as well.

    This is why organizations like the Better Business Bureau does NOT allow positive testimonials. Review sites such as Google Places, Yahoo, Yelp, Dealer Rater, Edmunds, etc are IMPOSSIPLE to police for this. Anyone can log in, create an account and only thing they can track is their IP address. It is impossible to track the the reviews for legitmacy! Google Places atleast allows you to go in rebuttle. Most dealers don't know how to log into Google and do this and are outsourcing their internet marketing anyways.
    This is very common. Often a disgruntled ex employee logs in and bash's their old employer on one of these sites.. Fair the company that got bashed? Not at all. Personally I wish Google would take charge and ban this practice. It was a good ideal that is being abused the the public and business's alike.

    From a PR standpoint, you would much rather a disgruntled consumer go the BBB and complain then Dealer Rater, Google, etc and write something word for word that is impossible to remove. Atleast the BBB complaints are not shown word for word and they actually investigate the legitmacy of the complaints and have a method for getting resolution. Make sure you are a member of the BBB and have your dealerships current managment information on file to make sure these complaints are going to the right spot.

    If someone goes to Ripoffreport.com and posting something, you are screwed. The owner of this site will attempt to extort $16k from you in order to remove the post. see--> More claims of extortion aimed at consumer site | wfaa.com Dallas - Fort Worth
     
  5. Ryan Leslie

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    Disclaimer: I'm going to probably come across confrontational. It can't be helped. I apologize in advance for being so passionate about this.

    I'm curious, why are you writing a story? I Googled your business name and you guys appear to be selling a product that does exactly what you are referencing under your SMO>Reputation Management. Can you clarify what exactly you are fishing for? I'm hopeful that this post will encourage you to look into the Reputation Management strategy that you are selling. If it is what it appears to be on your site, all you are "managing" to do is endanger the reputation of your dealer customers.

    I have major issues with your version of Reputation Management, and so does Google and every other reputable review site on the web. Review Boost calls it "Review Syndication," Google calls it "against our Terms of Use."

    From Google Places TOU
    If you're a business owner, violations may result in the denial of access, removal of one or all of your listings, being blacklisted from adding future listings, or deletion of your Google Account.

    Under the bulletpoint entitled "Impersonation"
    We don't allow impersonation of others or other behavior that is misleading or intended to be misleading.

    Somebody correct me if I'm wrong here, but that sounds an awful lot like what you are offering here:

    Reputation Management For Car Dealerships On Google, Dealer Rater, Yelp And More | Mediarevo

    Are you creating accounts on behalf of someone else that doesn't have access to those accounts? Are you writing an account of an event or experience in the first person for a business you have never stepped foot in? Are you spamming that content 100% word for word on multiple sites? Are you at all worried that your dealers are going to get left holding the bag when Google kills their Places page for "Impersonation" and TOU violations?

    While I'm not making any friends, the URL clearly indicates that your product manages DealerRater, yet the graphic does not display this. I take exception when DealerRater gets lumped in with review sites that do not actively enforce their own TOU. We do. I get copied on every TOU violation in my market, one of which was a total of 40 reviews removed for a single point store. I'm going to venture a guess here that the reason DealerRater does not show in your graphic is because your company can't employ your strategy on the site due to the IP and GUID tracking we employ. I have personally told a dealer to choose one or the other, but you can't hire a company to impersonate a customer and not get blacklisted on DealerRater. Worth noting that some of my most successful dealers are former customers of companies that do this.

    If you are a dealer reading this, please please please resist the urge to pay to make a problem go away. That is NOT reputation management and it is NOT a good plan. Do you really want to see your Places page removed for violation of Terms of Use? Do you want to be the star of the next consumer action report in your market?
    Are Local Dealership's Rave Reviews Fake? - San Antonio & Texas News Story - KSAT San Antonio

    Chris,

    I get to work with some great dealer staff that work exceptionally hard at this. Their online reputation mirrors their offline reputation. They do make the majority of their customers very happy and they know the value of asking those happy customers for a referral, something we are all trained to do. It isn't hard to get a lot of positive reviews if your team is aware of the importance and you provide a process for them to accomplish the task. The other thing you have to keep in mind is the reconciliation tools that we provide certified stores impact this greatly. Some dealers are very aggressive in reconciling bad reviews before they ever post. That is a WIN-WIN for the dealer and the consumer.

    For obvious reasons I can't speak to all reviews on all sites, but I can tell you that you can't game the system forever without getting caught and I am worried for the dealers that are burning money with so-called "Reputation Management" companies.
     
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  6. Jerry Thibeau

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    The best thing to do is just get your positive reviews the old fashion way by earning them from providing your customers with excellent service. Then simply ask them to provide you with a review. On my website under Ninja Tools is a sample letter you can send to sold customers that will help generate more reviews. I'd also send a variation of that letter to service customers as well.

    PhoneNinjas.com.
     
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  7. Eley Duke

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    Chris, where is your data or proof that any Dealer on Dealer Rater with more than 30 reviews and 100% rating is paying for or bribing reviews?? I am going to go on the defense here Chris because your statement is broad and general. Our dealership joined Dealer Rater and became certified about 30 days ago. We just crossed over 30 reviews and have a score of 5. I have worked hard to get the word out to our customers to give us a review and let us know how we are doing. I can assure you our store has NEVER paid or bribed anyone to mis-represent our dealership, or to fudge any review or CSI survey. We have a great score, and honestly I am waiting on our first not so good score and when it comes I will welcome it so we can address it and correct the problem.

    I am not going to say that its never happened at other stores or with other reputation management companies, but I will tell you we went with Dealer Rater because of the safe guards they have in place and their reputation. I cannot speak for other online reputation management solutions. But I can tell you that I feel the people at Dealer Rater are top notch.

    Our dealership is month after month and year after year one of the top rated dealerships for our franchises with our CSI scores, our Dealer Rater reviews mirror exactly that. We take great pride in treating people with respect, helping them purchase, and taking care of them in service. And it pays off with a +65% repeat customer rate and a very good referral rate!

    Nothing personal Chris, but your only assuming, and while easy to do, assumptions are not concrete support for your opinion. If you have some proof or data then share that to back up your assumption and opinion, but please dont smear Dealer Rater or dealers that work hard to manage their reputations honestly.

    Ryan, glad you called them on the rug!
     
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  8. Jason

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    Wow. They openly admit that they will falsify your reviews for you.

    wow.jpg

    I'm a HUGE proponent of Reputation Management done right and this is obviously the wrong way to go about it.
     
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  9. Glenn Jimerson

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    Paying for fake reviews is a really bad move for a lot of different reasons. Keep in mind that it's very easy for review sites to catch these companies. For example they'll make the mistake of submitting all the reviews from the same IP address. I Since we are on the IP address topic, if your dealership is in Peoria, IL and all your reviews are being submitted by an IP in Los Angeles, CA it's pretty obvious something is fishy. And yes these sites are tracking your IP address. Review sites will respond harshly when they find out or it's reported to them by your competition.

    Now take the more sophisticated sites like Yelp. They have some really strong filters that often catch legitimate reviews so the fake ones won't last too long. Yes it's possible to game Yelp but the risk is high and so is the cost.

    If you get approached by a company that offers something underhanded like this run. The downside risk for getting booted from a review site is too great.

    As for dealers with 30+ reviews and a perfect score, I can't say for certainty that it's doctored. They may be a good dealer that proactively resolves issues thus getting people to up their final rating. Just keep in mind that no one trusts a perfect score. A couple not so great reviews give credence to the positive ones.

    *edited for spelling
     
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  10. JoePistell

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    It's only logical that Review SPAM has to come. We talked about this months ago in this DR post:


    The NEW Star Wars...

    Is this the new look for Marketing Meetings?
    [​IMG]
    "gentlemen... We must get more review stars or we're doooomed to a life on the Dark Side!!"

    ...How long will it be before STARS reach SPAM status? Will Google build in systems to filter out the STAR SPAM? They better act quick, if the reviews tied to the stars are junk, it won't be long before shoppers look past the stars"
     
    #9 JoePistell, Jun 21, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2011
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  11. kevinfrye

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    We have been a long time customer of DealerRater, and getting positive reviews is not as difficult as you think - provide superior customer service combined with great deals, and then encourage your highly satisfied customers to take a minute to share their experience online in your follow-up process. I just returned from vacation and we had 49 positive reviews (9 rooftops) in the last week. If you are having to pay a service for fake reviews, there is something very wrong with your business model...
     
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