Fake Google+ Local Reviews By SEO Company Backfires

Oct 25, 2012 • 8:45 am | comments (18) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Maps

Fake SEO reviews by SEOAn SEO company should know better to mess with other SEOs, shouldn't they? Well, they don't always think before they act.

Scott Hendison uncovered a SEO company that is faking their location in Google+ Local but even worse, they had over 60 reviews and many from well-respected SEOs vouching for their SEO services. Including reviews from people like Jill Whalen, Loren Baker, Larry Kim, Ross Hudgens and many more, of course including Scott Hendison. How they did it? I didn't look before Google removed the fake reviews.

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

So what happened? Scott posted this on Google+ (also to extended circles) and the SEO community attacked. They left bad reviews, outed this guys efforts and the Google+ Local page was marked as spam, the reviews were pulled and this company is looking pretty bad now.

To me, it is a bit scary that someone can fake a review from my name without me knowing about it. Note, there is a way to check the reviews you added via Google+, so it is good to check that every now and then. I am not sure if the reviews were from fake Google+ accounts or somehow they were able to trick Google into thinking a real Google+ account added those reviews.

Update: This guy created fake Google+ accounts for these SEO personalities, so their accounts were not hacked into.

We had two similar cases of stupid SEOs doing stupid things. See:

Forum discussion at Google+.

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Omri Shabat

10/25/2012 12:55 pm

Thanks for bringing this story into the spotlight. They are why some people believe that any SEO is a scammer. We'll out them, we'll mock them, we'll shame them, we'll degrade, we'll vanish them.

Ruud Hein

10/25/2012 01:04 pm

The setup was easy. They had 63 reviews coming from well known names in the industry. None of the reviews had an image though. When you clicked through the reviews linked to Google+ accounts that were set to not share with you unless the person had circled you. Each account was named after someone in the industry. Basically anyone can go in, create an account, and set the name to Barry Schwartz. Had they not made it so blindingly obvious that all were sockpuppet accounts leaving fake reviews they could have been >< this close to getting away with it too. About 20 minutes after we started leaving negative reviews Max Minzer played a nice one; adding a review *and* uploading a new image for the company. That's where the "scam" icon comes from :) Minutes later the fake reviews started to have their names dropped as they were being deleted. The fake reviews showing as "A Google User" instead. This morning all fake reviews are gone. Scott Hendison did a great job finding this and + notifying people. Unfortunately he made the original post available to Limited (specific circles only). Such a post can later be set to Extended. In both cases the post is invisible to the Public who isn't in Scott's circles. Resharing the post only shows the post itself, none of the comments. Good lesson to post most things Public unless you want to keep it a bit private :)

Barry Schwartz

10/25/2012 01:05 pm

Ah, good, so they didn't figure out a way to link it to a real profile. Okay. Stupid.

Nick Stamoulis

10/25/2012 01:35 pm

It's SEOs like this that tarnish the reputation of the rest of us. I would bet there aren't as many black hat, spammy and unscrupulous SEOs as we think they are, but they always make a splash and get a lot of attention when they get caught. It makes it that much harder for site owners to trust any SEO, no matter how solid your reputation may be.


10/25/2012 02:00 pm

what's your rep? Posting useless comments, hoping to get some new suckers looking to "get out of Panda"?


10/25/2012 02:23 pm

This is not new at all. These fake reviews have been happening for some time. There was a huge surge of these fake reviews/tweets with Twitter, too.


10/25/2012 02:26 pm

Yeah, the dead give away is fake profile picture and totally hidden feeds/posts.

James @ Buzz Online

10/25/2012 02:35 pm


James @ Buzz Online

10/25/2012 02:37 pm

I might be wrong Nick - and I hope I am - but my premonition from being out in the field and talking to clients daily is that there phones are ringing off the hook w/ what are clearly "..black hat, spammy & unscrupulous SEO's" at least in the local sphere. You'd be surprised how many of these guys call up saying they have a "special relationship with Google - we have one spot on page 1 for x term left" etc. It's the Wild West out here...


10/25/2012 04:09 pm

This is not even black hat - so I wouldn't insult them as they are highly capable and intelligent even their unethical approaches have no place for brands. It's more the grey hat low level tactics that sections of the industry engage in of which this is a clear example.

David Wallace

10/25/2012 04:12 pm

If only this had been discovered during PubCon as this company had a booth on the trade show. Would have been an ugly scene for sure. ;-)


10/25/2012 04:15 pm

Wow, so shady. Glad he outted them.

Rohit Thakur

10/26/2012 04:01 am

This is very good Rule for all fake SEO Companies...


10/26/2012 01:16 pm

Hi Barry, many months ago before we moved to Google + local I had some great reviews. When we moved they all disappeared. I even had Google call me to verify my address. 3 months ago around 30 reviews appeared on my map. It gave me a 27/30 rating. However, all these reviews were not for my company and were spammy reviews written by 'overseas' persons! Being nice here. I then contacted Google as although my rating was good I had fantastic reviews. I was told I could not add them again as they must have been removed for policy and guideline issues, rubbish! I hear Google will start charging for maps, great, but get it right guys and very disappointed to read your post about this SEO company.


10/26/2012 01:17 pm

ps I run an SEO company


10/30/2012 08:50 pm

Sounds like karma to me! Unfortunately, this kind of stuff happens way too often. People want the quickest way and don’t care if they are cheating or not. It’s guys like this that make legitimate local SEO companies get a bad reputation.

seo services

03/18/2013 09:29 am

Thousands of SEO companies around the world aggressively, or not-so-aggressively, follow the SEO principles they read on the web. But when it comes to decisions that affect usability, readability, aesthetics, and the simple functioning of a website, they’re either innocently ignorant or willfully so to accommodate their SEO principles.

Performance Reporting

03/23/2013 12:12 pm

I think this is method where in it has violated from the Google Algorithm. Faking some G+ account is avoided by Google for it is not in a proper form of an seo campaign which is possibly lead to get them penalized.

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