SEO Company Abuses Google+ Local, Infuriates Search Community

by / Wednesday, 14 November 2012 / Published in Google, Search Engine, Search Engine Optimization

SEO Company Fakes it on Google+ Local

Ever seen that show about the world’s dumbest criminals? Well, it turns out that some SEOs are just as clueless as the jokers featured on that program. It’s really cool to watch how fast the Internet moves sometimes, and the story I’m about to tell you is proof positive that in the search community, when you attack your own, word gets around.

Here’s What Went Down

It all started when Scott Hendison stumbled upon an SEO company called Auroin that had somehow been using a fake location on Google+ Local. He was surprised (to say the least) when he discovered that there was a glowing review from, um, him, right there with the false location info. He dug a little further and found out that many of his colleagues in the SEO world – heavy hitters such as Larry Kim, Jill Whalen, Ross Hudgens, and others – had all added their own near-perfect reviews to the company’s page as well. Each review scored Auroin’s services 29 out of 30 possible points, which added up to a nearly perfect score.

You do the math.

Hendison did, and he publically announced his findings on (where else?) Google+:

After Scott posted his warning on Google+, the announcement gained some lightning fast viral traction. SEOs came out of the woodwork to check out the faux reviews and crazy claims for themselves. I, for one, appreciated the snarky sentiment of the post. The Internet is no longer a cavern in which spammers can hide to make false claims and hatch seedy plans, and these creeps are finally being exposed – one bad guy at a time.

Here’s how the SEO community fought back.

Hell Hath No Fury like an SEO Scorned

After Scott’s post traveled to his extended Google+ circles and beyond, the SEO world mobilized. A swarm of angry SEOs assaulted the page over an impressive 48-hour period. They left searing reviews and terrible feedback, starting with Scott’s flagship contribution:

Others were equally bad, but also pretty funny:

Less than two days after the initial discovery, Auroin was officially toast. Big G stepped in and slapped the page with a big red “spam” badge and all the fake positive reviews were taken down. In related news, the negative reviews remain on the company’s page for your viewing pleasure.

How to Protect Your Identity on Google+ Local

Many SEOs voiced concern about how easy it was for these clowns to impersonate real people and leave fake reviews for the crooked company. Think about it – if you’ve spent years creating an online persona for yourself and you’ve built a brand and a following, how scary would it be to think that someone could capitalize on your good name right on your own turf… overnight?

Yeah, it freaks me out a little, too. That’s why I was happy to discover that Google+ has added a way you can check all the reviews you have left for others. Now, you can also sneak a peek at the reviews you friends have left for others by exploring their Google+ pages, too.

Google announced the new addition (more transparency – yay!) right on Google+, and in the announcement, there were instructions to help users navigate to the appropriate section of friends’ profiles to make it happen. Simply click on the “about” tab and scroll to the section titled “Local”. You’ll find a number representing the total reviews they’ve left, and it’s linked so you can see each review for yourself if you ever so desire. This is great because you can discover any bogus reviews and manage ones you left yourself.

What is even scarier, however, is that the offending party in this case created fake G+ accounts for all the “people” it used to write the fake reviews. So what’s to stop Google from mistaking someone else for you? Not much, as it turns out. But Authorship may play a key role in weeding out the imposters as Google becomes more sophisticated. This is definitely one case where you do want Google knowing more about you.