The Ugly Art of Faking Reputations

One of the usual questions clients ask about social media is how to boost the number of “likes” in their Facebook pages or “followers” in their Twitter account. As the conversation goes on, I see that they are interested in increasing their paltry — less than a hundred — number of fans. Quickly. It sounded like they better have no Facebook page than have one but only gather small audience.

Not that they disrespect the concept of organic growth. They just want to be perceived online as reputable with these big numbers.

So it’s not a wonder that this desire spawned businesses just for the sake of managing that reputation.

Auroin follows the “advanced SEO approaches” and the “unique methodologies” that help your website in getting an edge over your competitors and increased ROI. (Emphasis is mine)

But it doesn’t end there. Fake Google Places and Google+ reviews have also become part of the tactic since it is thought that these quantitative measurements contribute to SEO. So every time a new search algorithm gets “leaked” people naturally find ways to adjust to the bias.

Sometimes it works, as one client told me, but sometimes I guess, it doesn’t. And once in a while, someone gets plastered in a wall of shame for all to see. Take the case of AuroIN LLC, an SEO company allegedly from New York City. Its Google+ page has an impressive list of local reviews from well-known people in the industry such as Jill Whalen, Loren Baker and Scott Hendison. But as the saying goes, truth will come out. Mr Hendison found out someone is writing on his behalf, using nice words to a company he probably didn’t know.

Before the act was discovered, the so-called reviewers painted a glossy picture of the company. According to SE Roundtable:

..all of the reviews were almost perfect, having a 29 out of 30.

Then Mr Hendison discovered it. Boom. Google acted and removed fake reviews.

As everyone else noticed, the nice fake reviews on their Google+ page were replaced with real comments/reviews ranging from sarcastic humor (“a company that’s endorsed by fake SEOs everywhere, then look no further!”, “Glad you liked your new logo, guys” referring to the “SCAM” label) to outright warning (“Anyone who would hire a company like this who wrote fake reviews using the names of real SEOs deserves what they get.”).

It is inevitable that people curious about their fake reviews jump to their website with doubts in mind. If they produced fake reviews which are relatively easier to detect, it is very possible that they have 1,413 happy clients, 3430 Google top #10 rankings. They have misled people with their clean design, reputation badges and presence at popular SEO events. (By the way there are less known review sites still preaching this company’s credentials.)

But this discovery of fake reviews should hit it hard. Will this serve a good lesson to people faking information online? We’ll see.