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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.

  1. AKdeZayas

    AKdeZayas Guest

    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.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2012
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  2. Chris Cachor

    Chris Cachor Jr. Refresher

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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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  3. Advertisguy

    Advertisguy Noob

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    Anthony
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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
  4. Ryan Leslie

    Ryan Leslie Sr. Refresher

    First Name:
    Ryan
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    DealerRater
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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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  5. Jerry Thibeau

    Jerry Thibeau Sr. Refresher

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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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  6. Eley Duke

    Eley Duke Sr. Refresher

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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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  7. Jason

    Jason Getting Refreshed

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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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  8. Glenn Jimerson

    Glenn Jimerson Getting Refreshed

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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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  9. JoePistell

    JoePistell Uncle Joe

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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"
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2011
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  10. kevinfrye

    kevinfrye Jr. Refresher

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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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  11. Matt ADP_DM

    Matt ADP_DM Noob

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    Interesting discussion. Matt Muilenburg here, new poster.

    From the enthusiasm of this discussion alone, I think we can all agree that when it comes to emerging digital marketing techniques, reputation management is the hottest date in town. And as with all new offers, it’s pretty much a land grab right now. Dealers are understandably eager to capture their share of “reputation capital” and the surrounding ethics and legal implications are so new, no one is paying too much attention to the fine print just yet. Unfortunately, like all new digital marketing mediums, the “race for stars” is paved in red tape, and the implications of ignoring review regulations are increasingly serious. Although The Federal Trade Commission is only just beginning to crack down on bogus reviews, we can already see from the landmark Legacy Learning ruling that review regulation is going to be serious business. Upholding your reputation is just not worth a $250,000 fine (unless you’re Howard Stern:).



    So, in the spirit of education, here are some tips for vetting a potential reputation management vendor, from someone who is (full disclosure) Vice President of Reputation Management at ADP Digital Marketing. Employing these tactics can help you avoid a company who specializes in Joe's "star spam." (@joepistell-love that term, btw).




    A few things to ask to vet a potential vendor:

    1. “How do you gather reviews?” For example, our process is to send surveys to known customers who are validated out of the DMS. Pretty common-sense, and makes sense to anyone whether they know anything about reputation management or not. If a vendor tries give you some “magic beans” type answer about how the review collection process is “very complicated” and “secret sauce,” run.



    2. “Can you guarantee all 5-star reviews?” This is a trick question, and our answer (and any honest vendor’s answer) is going to be “Heck no!” Our research shows that 85% of reviews are generally positive, so that’s what we aim for, but of course it really depends on your individual store and the level of customer service you offer, etc. Anyone that says they can offer you a perfect five-star reputation is up to something shady, so keep running.


    3. “How soon/often can I expect new reviews?” A responsible reputation management vendor knows that genuine reviews follow the natural sales cycle. Reviews ebb in naturally, with maybe a little spike during sales or high seasons. If a vendor tells you that by hiring them you will have “200 glowing reviews by tomorrow” run as fast as your legs will carry you. All decent review sites monitor against exactly this kind of “popcorn approach” to reputation management, so if there is a big burst of review activity after a long period of nothingness, or directly after account creation, there’s a chance you could get banned from that review site permanently. Run, run, run, run.


    My final piece of advice is this:


    I hate to see dealers wringing their hands over a few bad reviews. There is such a cut-throat attitude in the dealership world toward reputation management, but a perfect 5-star review record was never the intention, nor should dealers so desperately pursue such an impossible ideal. I can see this is a controversial issue, but we agree with @glennjimerson on this one (although @kevinfrye and @eleyduke, I'd love to know your secret:).


    Our thought however is that, though you may expect your business to be perfect, your customers don’t. Customers who read online reviews are generally shrewd individuals, so if they see a perfect track record of five star reviews, this will likely raise their suspicions. The reality is, no business is perfect and consumers know this. They don’t need to find a dealership that’s perfect for everyone; they need to find the dealership that’s perfect for them. So don’t treat reputation management as a chance to madly bury your bad reviews. Instead, embrace the negative as a way to represent the uniqueness among stores. Trust me, it’s a good thing.
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  12. JVRudnick

    JVRudnick Noob

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    Originally, I reported on this on my blog at www.canuckseo.com here --Canadian SEO | Local Canadian SEO | Hamilton SEO|CanuckSEO.com

    And followed up just a couple of days ago here -- Canadian SEO | Local Canadian SEO | Hamilton SEO|CanuckSEO.com

    As an SEO practitioner with over 12 yrs exp, I know and love SEO! And what I see, you can read about at either of those posts....and comment there too!

    Google did respond over the past 10 months to Places phoney reviews....but must step up their game considerably I think -- as do the rest of the SEO community....

    Jim
    www.canuckseo.com
  13. Ryan Leslie

    Ryan Leslie Sr. Refresher

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    Quick update of recent and encouraging action by Google.

    Google Quickly Removes Most Review Spam in Moving Industry – More Remains at Google and Elsewhere | Understanding Google Maps & Local Search

    Looks like they pulled down a bunch of spam from the moving industry. I'm hopeful that this foreshadows a similar effort to "clean out" the junk in our industry.

    Does this look credible to you? How many of your customers visit 6 different dealers in 90 days?

    ScreenHunter_06 Jul. 20 10.47.jpg

    Totally agree with Matt's litmus test for credibility. Good luck getting your money back from these folks when Google drops the hammer and removes all the fake content you've paid for, and I'm sure they won't be picking up the FCC fines either...
  14. CARBIZ

    CARBIZ Noob

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    At my dealership I have implemented a few incentive programs to assist in the Dealerrater/review process that has been quite successful and thought I would share:
    1) The dealerrater review postcards that the sales people and F&I hand out are very vague and do not walk the customer through the process so we made new cards that give the customer specific instructions on how to fully complete a review.
    2) I now have a $500 bonus for the salesperson that gets the most positive reviews throughout the month.
    3) For the customers, this could get some scrutiny but it works, we hold a drawing at the end of the month and pull a name from the customers that left reviews throughout the month and award the winner $500. As most of you inevitably will find out, it is not that easy to get the salespeople and customers to follow through on getting these reviews, so these two practices incentivize both parties.
    4) We also make the top salesperson by volume only eligible for their $500 bonus (separate from the review bonus) if they have received at least 4 positive reviews throughout the month.

    We yield roughly 40-50 reviews per month out of 130-150 cars sold per month so it seems to be working.

    We also try to incorporate our Facebook page for the contest to get more customers to friend us.
    Don’t forget the most important ingredient to making this all work… TAKE CARE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS!!!!!
  15. PurposeAdvertising

    PurposeAdvertising Noob

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    Is it so wrong to take hand written letters that are sent to a dealership, and enter them onto DealerRater or any other review site on behalf of the customer? It is in fact a legit review, just not entered digitally. We've been asked to do this by dealers so I'm curious what you all think..

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