Why the YELP lawsuit means changes for all of Us

Services for Real Estate Pros with Virtual Pictures Corp. (VPiX)

This one was a powder keg about to blow up and now, it finally has.

Yelp.com this week has sued a law firm for writing "fake testimonials."  Imagine that. A law firm had to hire "freelance talent," to write Fake Reviews about them on Yelp.com -- just to stand out better than their competition. 

This is something the "Bartman" knew would blow up sooner or later.

If this law suits goes to court and if the law firm is found guilty, this sets a new and somewhat disturbing case law on the books, which simply opens the door to a flood of "lawsuits" against anyone who dares to hire a freelancer for a similar "fake review," on their website or buy a few thousand LIKEs for their Facebook page. 

The basis of the lawsuit being: It's illegal to deceive the public.

And many idiots and bozos have gone to jail for doing this already.  

Rembember the TV Commercial for Enzyte? The male enhancement pill you could get for free (just pay postage)?  The TV commercial made a parody out of a smiling character named "Bob," and how his entire love life changed by taking this so-called natural aid to help men perform better in the bedroom. 

Steve Warshack, the CEO was found guilty of deceiving the public and is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence. 

Yelp.com is short for Yellow Pages, and was started in 2004 as MRL Ventures. At that time, Yelp was one of the incubating companies. In 2008, Yelp allowed companies to edit their own listings (including real estate brokerages, title companies and mortgage companies.) Today, it's another me-too social media portal that combines user reviews with a Yellow-pages like listing directory. 

Many freelance websites give buyers access to "cheap labor." Gigs are created for $5 bucks and extras can be $20 to $100 per job.  Some of them have come under fire recently from their lack of policing buyers from Gigs that can actually hurt the Buyer's website.

Google Webmaster Guidelines makes it 100% illegal for you to buy back-links from anyone that transfers PageRank.  

This means if you buy or get a link from a webiste with a Google PageRank of say:  6/10 and this is pointed to your real estate website... then sooner or later you will get a nastygram email from Google stating why your website was de-listed and banished to page 67. 

Google gives you a link to DISAVOW the links pointing to your website.

Sure, you can trim the back-links off now that you're caught red-handed in the cookieer jar. But this is not a guarantee your site will rank back on page one gain after you've pruned off the back-links that catapulted you to page one.  

Today, many of these frelance websites allows the sale of backlinks, SEnuke services and Facebook likes, despite the fact there is de facto evidence that Google and other search engines openly ban these practices. The problem for too many REALTORs is that they buy into the gig never once thinking the service would be harmful to them. 

It will be interesting to see whether Yelp.com is successful or not. Because if they are -- a lot of broker and agent websites are going to be on the radar screen for the exact, same thing.




Posted by

Bart Wilson | CIO
Virtual Pictures Corp (VPiX®)  
iPhone: (719) 645-9940  |  Skype:  vpix360 


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Kimberley Kelly, SFR, HAFA, GREEN
HK Lane, Christie's International Affiliate, 760-285-3578 - La Quinta, CA
I do Real Estate like I played polo-to WIN!

What???  It never occured to me to pay someone to put a fake "testimonial" up.  Good Grief!  I ask my real estate clients and if they agree and write a testimonial for me, I use it.  The Truth is a beautiful thing!!

Sep 22, 2013 08:02 AM #1
Ronald DiLalla
Century 21 Discovery DRE 01813824 - Anaheim, CA
No. Orange Cty Real Estate

Hi  Bart,   doesn't suprise me one bit... Thanks for sharing with us in AR Land.

Sep 22, 2013 08:23 AM #2
Vienna Bello
Liberty Realty, LLC - Jersey City, NJ
Real Estate Sales, Rentals & Consulting, GRI, SFR


I've personally never Yelp'd.  ActiveRain and a Facebook page are as "social media" as I get, and I can barely keep up with them.  I just can't find the time to figure out how to Tweet, or Pinterest, Instagram, etc. This post kinda makes me afraid to dabble with the rest of them... There are too many to keep up with!

Fake "likes"? Fake testimonials?  Seriously... ? 

The best way for a real estate agent to be successful, in my opinion.. is to get off the computer, go outside and talk to people. I know within the first few minutes talking to you whether or not I want to do business with you.. who needs reviews LOL.



Sep 22, 2013 08:27 AM #3
Mark Loewenberg
KW of the Palm Beaches - Palm Beach Gardens, FL
KW 561-214-0370

yes do the right thing or the big boys will stomp you out of existence as they should

Sep 22, 2013 08:49 AM #4
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

My money is on a settlement that neither can talk about it. There is false advertising all the time most of them appear as a joke but the public buys into it. Look at the statistics no one could prove they were true or not.  1 out of 5 is 20% so is 1000 out of 5000 it is all in how you fudge the numbers

Sep 22, 2013 09:46 AM #5
Sussie Sutton
UTR Texas Realtors - Pearland, TX
UTR TEXAS Realtors - Rep for buyers and sellers.

What a tangle web they've weaved...

Sep 22, 2013 09:51 AM #6
Bahman Davani, CM at Texas Five Star Realty, Plano, TX (214) 457-7055
Texas Five Star Realty, Plano Texas - Frisco, TX
Homes for Sale in Plano, Frisco, Prosper, Allen TX

There are similar issues in other areas of businesses that causes me to lose trust. I have heard some companies hire or use their employees to cilck a large number of times on Pay Per Click (PPC) competeors ads causing them a large amount of money (cost of PPC).

Sep 22, 2013 03:35 PM #7
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Bart - very interesting stuff. Thank you for keeping us informed. 25 years for BS-ing? Wow!

Sep 22, 2013 04:48 PM #8
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Oh gosh.  This is sort of crazy.  Oh, and I just checked my acct and now I have a bad review, but I don't even think it's a real customer.

Sep 22, 2013 07:20 PM #9
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