A Cre8asite Forums thread has a rant on a new business cropping up, the business of acquiring positive reviews for your Google Maps local listing or negative reviews for your competitors.
This is really not all that new. Ever since there have been online company directories and yellow pages, reviews have been tampered with. Heck, even in 2005, I played a game with Yahoo to see how easily it would be to tamper with my own reviews. Of course, similar things work fine on Google until someone takes notice.
Conflict of interest:
Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. Even if well-intentioned, a conflict of interest can undermine the trust in a review. For instance, do not offer or accept money or product to write positive reviews about a business, or to write negative reviews about a competitor. Please also do not post reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with the place you are reviewing.
Matt then goes into the irony of such guidelines.
But yes, there are companies that actually will do this for you. If you want your reviews to be mostly positive, they will take your money and get you lots of positive reviews on your Google Places page or other online yellow pages.
SEOigloo from the forums said:
Beyond the immediate consequences to the business owner, there are the implications of a completely spammed review scene for all Internet users. We may all be aware of the adage, 'don't believe everything you read', but these spammy review practices are making it more like, 'don't believe ANYTHING you read' when it comes to local businesses.
Bottom line: if you own a local business, please don't purchase these kinds of services. I genuinely believe it pays to play by the rules.
Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums.