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30 September, 2014

Phantom review sites and how they’re scamming us all – Google included

I received an email from a savvy business owner the other day, asking about reviews she had found listed on her Google My Business page.

Google has “found” two “reviews” for my site and attached them to our google+ page.
They are not what I consider reviews, and they are for another site which is not our business.
The “reviews” are on pageglimpse, and look like complete and total rubbish from some demented page-scrapping bot.
So my question is, do you know who is likely to have stuffed up in this? …

bogus review sites

a business selected at random, a victim of two of these bogus review sites

I had a look for her. I suspected something, but wanted to be sure.

I looked her business up, clicked on the link, and lo and behold, she didn’t have 2 reviews, she had 347. Amazing how popular her business is, 345 new reviews in just an hour or so. So I refreshed the page. Sure enough – now she had 981 reviews. Wow, that many in just 1 second. Refreshed the screen again. Now it’s 121! What just happened to hundreds of reviews in that one second?!!

If this has ever happened to you, check the web address of the site you’ve just been viewing. Is it

  • pagespan?
  • pageglimpse?
  • rankinsider?
  • addressandnumber?
  • htmlcorner?

If it’s one of those, you and Google both have been gotcha’d. These, and many others, are a strange type site I class as either a variation on a honeypot or an Adsense farm.

In computer science, a honeypot is a trap set to capture unauthorised access to systems. The variation here is that these sites entice people to click to see the reviews. The aim typically then is to get the visitor to either a) click through to one of the ads displaying on the site ($ to the website owner) or b) entice you into logging in to see the reviews or claim your business listing.

Thing about option B is, you have to log in using your social media account. Bingo – that’s the payday – they collect info about you, your friends and whatever else they can get. That information is then sold countless times to criminals or legit businesses, and you didn’t have a say in it.

An Adsense farm is a site that has no intrinsic value, it’s there only to serve ads and try to make money by people clicking on google ads.  I thought Google had done away with these ages ago, but many of the ones here seem to have found a loophole.

So when you see these kinds of sites – don’t worry about claiming the listing, correcting your business info on it, or even monitoring the reviews. Don’t get scammed.

They’re a complete waste of time for you and potential customers. Instead, if your industry allows for it, focus on getting real reviews in real sites – Google, Truelocal, Yelp, Hotfrog, Eatability, and so on. The list of real, genuine review sites is long.

Update 30/12/2014

Add to the list of bogus reviews counters and aggregator sites:

  • Website Record
  • Aquabla
  • Efaceclub (automatically takes you to aquabla)
  • Psychology5
  • AnswerMe
  • WebsitePic