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.