New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, announced that 19 companies have agreed to pay out a total of $350,000 in penalties for submitting fake reviews. Some of the 19 companies are SEO companies and the term "SEO" is found nine times in the formal announcement.
This was a year long investigation named "Operation Clean Turf" with the goal of finding fake consumer-reviews on websites and encouraging that practice to stop.
You need to read the section named "Undercover Investigation of "Search Engine Optimization" Companies", here is part of it:
In recent years, the reputation management industry has exploded as businesses have become increasingly concerned about their online reputations. So-called search engine optimization ("SEO") companies routinely offer online reputation management as part of their services.
The investigation revealed that SEO companies were using advanced IP spoofing techniques to hide their identities, as well as setting up hundreds of bogus online profiles on consumer review websites to post the reviews. The investigation found that many consumer-review websites have implemented filters to detect and filter or delete fake reviews, with Yelp's being the most aggressive.
It goes on an on and of course, some of these SEO companies called out with need to hire an SEO company to do reputation management for them after this.
Just another black eye for our industry.
Forum discussion at Threadwatch.
Image credit to BigStockPhoto for negative review