Caution: Watch Out For SEO Companies Engaging in Fake Negative Reviews And Extortion

SEO is a concept that has grown into a giant industry over the past ten years. There are thousands of so-called “SEO’s”, and dozens of them live in Mississauga. Not all professionals and firms are trustworthy. Some will use black hat tactics that go against Google’s policies; some will outright rip you off. And then there are those, such as an individual named William Stanley, who will actually try to extort money from businesses.

This individual was just sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $175,000 in restitution to multiple victims for attempting to extort money. He was initially hired in 2009 to perform typical search engine optimization services for a Texas company. However, when they decided to let him go, he allegedly try to extort money and threatened to use deceptive tactics that would do a lot of harm to the company. Such tactics included “creating fraudulent reviews”, “hiding text on the webpages”, “creating fictitious sites”, etc.

While it’s not unheard of for some SEO experts to use questionable and underhanded tactics, threatening to do such things unless money is paid is what is landing Stanley in jail.

The good news is that the legal systems in the US and Canada recognize that not all SEO firms and professionals are bad, and that many of them do offer legitimate services.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only extortion attempting involving search engine optimization. There have been reports circulating through the internet marketing industry, detailing a wave of negative SEO extortion emails. Strategists, webmasters, and website owners have been receiving emails from individuals threatening to damage rankings if they don’t receive money. In essence, they are holding the rankings spots ransom.

In 2006, Google issued a guarantee that there is almost nothing that any of your competitors can do to harm your ranking, or to have your website removed from the index. However, this statement has been changed to “we work hard” to prevent competitors from doing such things.

How can Google even tell the difference between legitimate negative reviews left by actual customers and fake negative reviews left by competitors and negative SEO extortionists?

A few fake review detection methods include:

– Semantic inconsistency (for instance, if the same reviewer states “My husband and I bought…” in one review, and “My wife and I bought…” in another review”.

– IP addresses and the physical location of the reviewer

– How long it took for the review to be posted

– Frequency and time of posting

– Relationships between reviewers and entities

Unfortunately, there are still fake negative reviews that slip through the cracks and legitimate positive reviews that get mistaken as fakes.

If SEO companies use IP spoofing techniques to leave fake reviews, they can sometimes be caught. In 2013, there were oven a dozen companies caught and fined for using such techniques in order to post fake reviews.

It’s more important than ever before that businesses are educated on legitimate SEO practices and learn how to differentiate between good, honest companies and fraudulent companies that use negative tactics and extortion.


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