Fake Reviews Are Silicon Valley’s Next Fake News Problem

Local businesses are struggling to adapt to a world where online reputation drives offline sales, and fake reviews are making the transition harder. What’s more, the fake review problem is getting worse. A Harvard study found that fake reviews on Yelp grew from 5% to 20% over several years.

There are lots of reasons for this trend, but this is an area where big data can be used to the benefit of consumers and businesses to increase trust. This means it’s on the tech community—not small businesses—to fix fake reviews. Just as media platforms have a moral obligation to avoid the spread of fake news, review sites have a responsibility to their users and businesses to ensure their content is as accurate as possible.

The Importance of Online Review Management for SMBs

Operators of small- and medium-sized businesses can get by ignoring many of the tech innovations that large companies adopt. Managing online reviews is not one of them.

Like it or not, the widespread usage of review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even Google and Facebook have changed the landscape of how local businesses attract and retain customers. Left ignored or handled the wrong way, a business’s negative online reviews can be a deterrent to potential new customers. Managed the right way, however, those same review sites can be a valuable marketing and customer service tool that leads to improved revenue.

Fresh Chalk Has a New Take on Local Reviews

Despite digital change, recommendations from friends remain one of the most credible forms of marketing. Now, a new startup called Fresh Chalk is aiming to capitalize on that, giving consumers a way to find local professionals with help from their friends.

Like Yelp, Facebook, Google, and other local business directories, Fresh Chalk is aiming to help people source recommendations from reliable, qualified businesses in their own communities. But unlike most other competitors in the market, Fresh Chalk is keeping a tight focus on personal connections.

The Retailpocalypse Doesn’t Have to Be Scary for Local Businesses

Headlines about retail closures suggest it’s Amazon’s world and we’re all just living in it, but there’s more to the story. For local businesses, in particular, there’s ample reason to be optimistic that the retail apocalypse doesn’t have to spell end times. In fact, exactly the opposite could be true. Let’s walk through a few of the reasons for optimism. 

Google’s Fake Listings Problem Gets More Attention—and May Spur Regulation

Blumenthal to Mihm: It seems to me that Google could take the fake listings issue off the table by seriously investing in cleaning up the fake listing and fake review issue. I just don’t think that they think that way.

At a minimum, as the company that has the monopoly in the local space, Google faces the expectation and responsibility to provide a service that truly serves the public and businesses. And they seem to forget that.

Report: Fake Google Maps Listings Ensnare Consumers, Harm Legitimate Businesses

“Chronic” local listings fraud on Google Maps, where con artists pose as handymen and other local service providers, sometimes stealing the names of legitimate operations, is endangering consumers and sucking business away from viable local businesses, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As Google seeks to prop up its lucrative but “cresting” search business and consolidate its lead in local, the tech giant is struggling to address the fraud issue and perhaps even to care about it. 

Google Antitrust: Is It Enough for Yelp?

Mihm to Blumenthal: I’m not averse to the idea of the government regulating Google’s practices in Maps or local search, but it feels like rewarding Yelp in particular is not going to bring consumers any particular benefit, nor will it meaningfully benefit small businesses, as Elizabeth Warren seems to indicate is a primary goal of her plan.

If anything, Google has gone out of its way to help small businesses compete in its search results with the introduction of the local pack and the Venice update, whereas small businesses continue to rate Yelp as poorly as any company in tech.

Report: Websites and GMB Profiles Both Essential for Local Businesses

A whopping 64% of respondents indicated relying on Google My Business to find contact information for local business, suggesting it’s an indispensable platform. Yet consumers still trust local business websites most of all, and only 8% say they never consult a business’ website when making shopping decisions.

Voice Marketing Starts with Smart SEO

How can enterprises better leverage voice search for brand marketing? To start, winning in voice search demands many of the same strategies as search engine optimization (SEO), as the goal in both cases is to get your content to rank position zero on search engine results pages (SERPs) by focusing on authority.

Report: Consumer Expectations for Brands Higher than Ever in Age of Convenience

With the omnichannel age upon us, the impact of bad customer experiences is unprecedented. The main fear for businesses should no longer be a standoff between the worker behind the customer service desk and the angry customer who failed to get his discount; it should be the rant that hits social and is shared or liked a slew of times, dragging digital reputations through the mud.

3 Revenue Growth Opportunities for SMB Marketing and Ad Agencies

While SMB digital marketing spend has seen a steady rise, SMBs are being more conservative about the agencies and vendors with which they partner. In the transparency era, consolidating spend with a select group of trusted agency partners that offer multiple core services is now the norm.

For agencies that cater to SMB brands, these trends have created opportunities and challenges. There is money to be had, but only organizations that differentiate themselves from the competition and can deliver clear ROI will benefit. So how can SMB agencies show their value to brands and ensure revenue growth? There are three opportunity areas, in particular, that can help.

No Matter What Business You’re In, You Are In The Business of Selling

Kendrick Shope: I coach a lot of entrepreneurs, many of whom are brilliant at what they do, have excellent people skills, and should be setting the world on fire. Unfortunately, they’re stuck trying to make ends meet when they should be doing seven figures in a year because they haven’t mastered the art of selling. It’s a skill like any other, and once you learn it and become really good at it, your business is going to change forever. If you really want to up your sales game this year, focus on these five selling strategies.

Increasingly, Your Brand Is Its Reviews

Mihm to Blumenthal: The famous Jeff Bezos quote comes to mind: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Increasingly, the room is not a physical place but a virtual one—and it’s not a place you own. Reviews really bring the need to run a decent business at your core into stark relief.

Four Keys to Ensure Your Brand Has Local Authenticity Online

Taking time to ensure that your brand is represented authoritatively and genuinely online helps build a solid connection with your audience. But how does your brand communicate that authenticity at a local level? Here are four essential ways to build local authenticity through your localized social marketing efforts.

In Age of Social Media, Brands Must Stay On Top of Reputations Capable of Changing on a Dime

A single video posted to YouTube was all it took for Chuck E. Cheese’s online reputation to go up in flames this month, at least temporarily, when an internet celebrity posted his theory about the pizza chain’s misshapen pies. As viral conspiracy theories on social media become increasingly common, brands are finding that their initial response can set the tone and create a carry-on effect that impacts customer sentiment across dozens of multimedia channels.

5 Platforms Using AI to Analyze Customer Reviews

Beyond the star ratings lies a wealth of information. Sentiment and opinions can be used to shape the way brands develop their highest-selling products. Given the volume of reviews posted each day, however, it would be impossible for most major brands to analyze every customer reaction individually. Instead, a growing number of brands are utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) technology to extract and analyze the sentiment from product reviews. Here are five examples of platforms that offer this type of AI technology for analyzing customer feedback posted online.

Heard on the Street, Episode 20: Local Reviews Tactics from a Travel Giant

Even in a hyper technology-driven world, one of the most influential forms of local marketing remains word of mouth. But of course that universal principle has taken on new digital formats, including social influence and good-old local business reviews. Reviews optimization is the name of today’s game. We spoke to TripAdvisor Restaurant Division Lead Mark Goloboy on the latest episode of Street Fight’s Heard on the Street podcast to find out how his company is innovating in reputation and identify best practices for businesses.

6 Next-Gen Review Marketing Platforms for Retail Brands

Determined not to fall even further behind their online-only competitors, retailers are investing more heavily in a new breed of review platform. These next-generation solutions integrate written reviews with pictures and videos to create more cohesive omni-channel shopping experiences. Here are six next-gen review platforms that brands are using right now.

Google Appears to Test Netflix-Like Personalization Score for Local Businesses

Just as Netflix displays match scores in the arena of entertainment, showing users a percentage indicating how likely they are to enjoy a new film or TV show, Google appears to be testing a feature that shows searchers how likely they are to enjoy a local business.

Evolving Our Lens for Local Ranking Factors

Blumenthal and Mihm: We in the Local Search industry are not served by relying so heavily on traditional SEO logic and tools—in our approach to the Local Pack, our understanding of the ranking factors, and even what we suggest to clients as appropriate activities.