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Publishers Report a Spam Exploit in Google

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A WebmasterWorld discussion brought to light a manipulative spam technique that was reported to be flourishing in Google. It involves competitors creating fake review sites to rank in Google. These review sites not only promote their own products, a publisher is reporting that the fake sites are also saying bad things and giving poor reviews.

The spam technique consists of creating fake product review sites created by the sellers of the products that are being reviewed. It was reported that some of the sites spread negative information about competitor products.

WebmasterWorld Member Selen stated:

“Several competitors have created “review” websites where they feature a dozen of their own sister sites from the same business niche. These sites have an order form that is processed by the same (their own) company. To make it look “legit,” they added a couple of real competitors to the “review list” (with lower “ratings” of course).

They wrote 100% fake reviews of their own services and attributed a scale from 1-10. Top 10 sites have “rating” between 9.1 and 10 (and they own all of them). The “ratings” are 100% fake and bogus.

Google happily shows domains and fake ratings in the answer box on a very competitive term (eg. best {service}). It’s been going on for years, but now their dishonest efforts pay even more.”

Another member named samwest responded:

“…blackhat still pays and Google is still none the wiser.”

WebmasterWorld member Milchan added:

“my niche is dominated now by one competitor that does exactly what you are describing and I know for a fact that google has been made aware of this, as well as all the fake false google reviews they made and yet chose to not take any action.

They have lots of doorway page sites (which is specifically mentioned against something google will ban you for in their guidelines), they have blog review/tips sites that do nothing but favor their own products and even talk down and scare monger to the point of slander other companies…

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They even have one site that purports to be an official site for something when it is not in any way shape or form an official site… but (offer)… top 5 recommendation… all of which lead to YMYL sites that they own.”

Google Webmaster Help Forum Reports

These are not isolated discussions at WebmasterWorld. There are multiple reports in Google’s official Webmaster Help Forums, too.

For example there is one discussion titled, Fake Review Websites Are Created For Self Promotion, Stating Competitors As Scam, Hampering Business

This is what the publisher reported:

“Our competitor has created his self promoting 5 websites, mentioning every other strong competitor as SCAM, driving all traffic and sales to his websites & they deliver poor quality work, so all face failure. “

Some major brands create websites that are standalone blogs and communities designed to reach out to potential customers. But creating a site for the purpose of outranking competitors and saying bad things about those competitors have some people upset at Google for ranking those sites.

Can Google Catch Fake Review Site Spam?

A careful competitor would very likely hide their domain registration information. How would Google identify a fake review spammer, by their inbound links? Could statistical analysis of review ratings reveal abnormal review patterns?

This isn’t a new problem. There are discussions in Google’s own Webmaster Help Forum going back years and years. Seems like something that Google might want to take a closer look at.

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Read the WebmasterWorld discussion here
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4965610-9-30.htm

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

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