The Whacky World of Reviews: A 5 Star Spam Review “Attack”?

Online reviews and the world that swirls around them can often descend into the surreal.

Two weeks ago the son of the business owner and his friends drove by the house of a negative reviewer and shot it up. Heck of a way to respond to a negative review particularly to one that was written after the restaurant refused service to a disabled person.

Last week an Italian court threw a Trip Advisor review spammer in jail. I guess at least this once, crime didn’t pay.

But I was baffled this past week when I was alerted to the fact that Barbara Oliver Jewelry was experiencing a fake review attack from positive Google reviews. Certainly one of the more bizarre things I have seen in a while as review attacks usually consist of negative reviews.

fake Google reviews


The Weird News

Barbara wasn’t buying these reviews. In fact, it was she that reached out to me with alarm last week:

Hi Mike,

So I did finally get a bad Yelp review and no I didn’t wig out like days of old.  I merely responded appropriately to the woman who bought something and then without contacting us at all just wrote the review.  What does concern me is the new 5 star google reviews from folks who were never here, at least all their other reviews were done in Bangladesh, and they said the same exact comment making my real ones less awesome. I am bracing for a review “attack”?

She had received at least four (and maybe more) positive, but clearly fake reviews on her Google listing.

What was going on? Why would any person or organization post obviously fake positive reviews?

The Good News

The good news is that Google’s review algo kicked in and nuked the reviews from two of the posters and perhaps more that I didn’t get a chance to look at. So yes, Virginia there is a Google Spam algo and it actually performed its job.

All of Ryan Pussey’s (Local guide Level 4) reviews were nuked and most of Terry Jefferson’s (Local Guide Level 4) with the exception of a review of a “Gentlemen’s Club”. Maybe that one wasn’t in fact fake? Both profiles were typical of review spammer profiles with reviews around the world written in unbelievable timeframes. Both have a very limited set of review comments. 

The Bad News

The bad news is that Google’s review spam algo did not catch them all. Two of the fake positive reviewers remain and even though they have been reported, remain unscathed. Local Guide Vincent Hahn left just a rating which persists along with his 47 other ratings and 3 reviews around the world that were all left at roughly the same time. Ehandor App’s review from July remains as well. 

Both have been reported to Google but there is no resolution as of this article posting. 

The other bad news, besides the fact that Google’s review spam algo still needs some tweaking, is that Barbara is on someone’s radar. Let’s just hope it doesn’t escalate from here.

Why? I Have No Answers

I struggled with coming up with ideas why this would happen. In the forums we have seen cases of small businesses hiring agencies that bought reviews for the business that they were not aware of. But why would anyone take the trouble to leave these on Barbara Oliver Jewelry?

Perhaps it is some crazy form of negative SEO. Perhaps the company doing it is looking to build out Local Guide credibility by associating with known good entities. Perhaps it was just a prank to get back at me for exposing some of these fake review networks.

I would love your thoughts as to what the rationale behind this could be. Perhaps I just need to chalk it off to the craziness that seem to envelop online reviews. 

4 Replies to “The Whacky World of Reviews: A 5 Star Spam Review “Attack”?”

  1. Miriam says:

    Only two things I can think of here, Mike.

    1) A spam company sent the wrong instructions to their workers. They were supposed to flood some other jeweler with their reviewer and a miscommunication happened along the way.

    2) This is a build-up to negative reviews coming in and an extortion pitch (e.g. “See, we can give you positive reviews and we can give you negative reviews, so pay up.”

    For Barbara’s sake – and she’s such a nice person with a lovely business – I hope it’s the former. Would hate to see anyone play fast and loose with the good reputation she’s worked so hard to earn. The one comfort is that she has you looking after her account. Please, keep us posted on further developments, and let Barbara know that she’s got much of the local SEO industry on her side, as we’ve all come to know her shop from your test cases over the years. We could come together and appeal to Google on her behalf, if necessary.

    1. Mike Blumenthal says:

      Thanks for your suggestions and kind words. I will be sure to share them with Barbara

      I suppose a spam company could say as part of their pitch: look at all of the reviews we already got for you.

      But I am still pondering the oddity of it.

  2. We’ve seen this before. It’s possible this could be a kind of “reverse psychology” attack. By flooding her page with fake 5 star reviews, a competitor is hoping that the business will be flagged as paying for fake positive reviews.

    1. Kevin says:

      I agree w/ Ben, it’s an attempt to have her flagged for buying reviews.

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