I came across a local search result yesterday that makes the Internet cry (yeah, I know. I stole that quote from Julie). It’s not because of the Web site that I found. The site itself is rather nice and gives me a feeling of trust. It’s actually the multiple local submissions and the obvious fake user reviews that make me run away.
This isn’t just search engine manipulation. It’s user manipulation, and that’s personal. If I go to Yahoo Local (Yahoo isn’t the only victim), there will be multiple listings for the same business with over 70 canned five-star reviews. It goes something like this:
“I have never met a professional that cares so much about his clients/customers. Regardless of whether you live in city #1, city #2, city #3, (and so on through) city #8, you will get the attention you deserve. I highly recommend (insert name here).”
Now imagine the other 70 reviews saying the exact same thing, just in different words. This can only harm a brand. If I were a potential customer and saw these results and testimonials, I’d run away. When I get tired, I’d run faster and warn everyone I could along the way to stay away from that brand.
The full post is up at Search Engine Guide. I was vague in describing the business in question since SEG has thousands of readers and this blog has like, four or something. But, you can say the business is in legal services somewhere on the east coast.
Also, a kudos to Christy-Arneson Jones for her blog post on local search misconceptions titled No Sense of Direction. I made sure to put that link and a quote from her in the Search Engine Guide post. Good Stuff!
June 15 Update: Special thanks to Mike Boland from The Kelsey Group who picked up the Search Engine Guide article and provided a fantastic analysis as part of a user-generated content series, titled UGC: To Be or Not to Be, Part IV.