According to a 2012 report from Gartner Research, “between two and six percent of online reviews are fake or deceptive.” Jenny Sussin, a Gartner analyst and report co-author, found that, “In the hospitality industry, you are more likely to see bookings go up when you have better ratings. For restaurants, a half-star increase in the review average can cause 7 p.m.bookings to go up 30 to 49 percent.”

So consider this: Based on that research, why wouldn’t every business post some fake reviews? Here’s a good answer: Because it’s unethical and…illegal! The FTC’s guidelines for online reviews say that it’s illegal to write fake business reviews or to pay someone else to write reviews for you, unless you can prove the review was an endorsement.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman enforced those guidelines in Operation Clean Turf: “Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that 19 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. Operation Clean Turf, a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.” (Source: 9/23/13 press release)

Operation Clean Turf targeted the “reputation enhancement” companies that wrote the fake reviews, and the companies that purchased them. Pay attention because fake reviews are bad business!