Remember the story I wrote about a month ago named Don't Force Google's Hand, Especially If You're Sketchy? Well, it appears we may have a similar thing going on - but I am not sure.
A new Google Webmaster Help thread has something we typically see in the Google forums, a complaint from a disgruntled SEO client. The SEO client is upset with the services of her hired SEO company and decided to ask for advice in the Google forums. Of course, the SEO company was named but again, nothing out of the norm here.
Then we see three "clients" of this SEO company come in, one after and other, and post glowing positive reviews for the SEO company that is being trashed by the folks in the forum. Most of these users began defending the SEO company as if they were the owner of the company. So people got suspicious, as you would expect.
Google's JohnMu came in and asked them to clarify who they are and their association with the SEO company in question. He said:
REIMarketing & Mortons-1003, it's generally best to disclose your affiliations ahead of time when posting like that. We've had cases in the past where "happy customers" ended up being employees or owners of the companies discussed (similarly, "unhappy customers" might end up being a competitor). It's no problem if you're affiliated with them (it would certainly help us to gain some more insight), but it would be correct to disclose that in advance.
Honestly, I kind of believe these people are not associated with the SEO company, outside of being clients or friends. I really get the feeling they are not employees or owners of this SEO company. But I am very trusting.
But it gets worse! Not only is it looking like they didn't learn a lesson from the previous example of forcing Google's hand but it then gets into legal talk.
All of these people who posted defending the SEO company in question then stated they received calls from lawyers telling them to remove their posts and not talk anymore on the topic. One said:
I don't think you understand. I got a call from an attorney yesterday in Texas who said your real name is Deborah and he asked me questions and then asked me to no longer post comments here as this posting is being used in litigation and I shouldn't post anything which might make me part of the litigation. Sorry.
Another then added shortly after:
I got a message from a law firm yesterday asking me not to post comments on the blog. I have an appointment to talk to an investigator this morning at 11:00AM. They are apparently filing suit against you for slander and other stuff I guess.
I love then how JohnMu of Google comes in calmly and says once again:
At the risk of repeating myself, REIMarketing & Mortons-1003, and others, please disclose your affiliations before posting here like this. We've had situations like this here in the forum before, and it generally doesn't look that good when affiliations are disclosed by someone else...
John then placed links to the story I wrote a month ago and a link to that thread.
Now, without John saying, I suspect John and Google knows details about these accounts that they are holding back from revealing until they are forced to. Which might happen soon or maybe not.
Again, it is an interesting story. I do not know what to believe.
Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.