Yelp.ca: SpamCity for Locksmiths!
Yup, I know…you use Yelp.ca like I do, eh? If you find a great experience out there in the real world, say a fine new restaurant or a great dry cleaners, you “yelp” them and review the experience for one and all.
That’s about the gist of what the Yelp business model is, and up here in Canada, the Yelp.ca site has been relatively spam free. Not so much anymore tho eh!
Since just last Tuesday from our own daily trips to same, we’ve noticed something too spammy and too easy to tell it’s a spammer getting some traction – and yes, it’s for locksmiths. Note, that’s a plural useage of the term as this does not appear after much study over the past 72 hours to be a single spammer (either the locksmith himself or a paid spam campaign) posting about a single locksmith — its a whole set of now hundreds of channel spams for locksmiths all across southern Ontario!
But ah….we drilled down and found that such a cursory look and see, was faulty. This IS a single spammer, somehow connected with dozens of locksmith sites all using the same type of domain name template, which is as follows — <city name> 647 <locksmith> . ca. Here’s a screenshot of that this morning most recent review page….
Above is a quick screenshot of the Yelp.ca page from this morning, about 2 hours ago….note this is the listing you get when you click on the MORE button to show a full scrolling list of the very latest reviews (note too that yup, I’m signed into my account as well). Take a look…do you see that a reviewer named John J from Stoney Creek, has posted multiple (there are 9 on this page alone!) reviews, all about locksmiths? Different locksmiths? Locksmiths from places as diverse as Waterdown, Vineland and Terra Cotta…further afield too to include Ottawa and Windsor. Now I dunno about you, but either this guy is a HUGE traveller or well, maybe he’s a spammer? Dig further into this reviewer by clicking on his screen-name and you’ll see his profile page with his various reviews….like this —
Note that I’ve circled in red two areas to notice as a verification that this is a suspect reviewer. First, that he’s made 25 posts all in one day. Next that all of them rate each reviewed place at 5 Stars! And a simple look at the scrolling list shows, yup, 25 reviews for 25 locksmiths over all of Southern Ontario, all with much the same exact review, praising them for great quick service. THIS IS SPAM….and there is no other way to look at this, IMHO! The fact that he owns all of these URLS is more proof too, eh….and if it wasn’t for a privacy shield on his domains, I’d have outted him right here, eh!
So what you say, right? So some idiot is spamming Yelp.ca to try to get some business…hey, I don’t even go to Yelp.ca to look up a locksmith…I’d google it! Ahhh…there’s the rub!
Because as you know, Google now combined the Local and Web results into one, geo-targeted index. Want a locksmith and go to google.ca and type in same…and yup, you guessed it….these Yelp.ca reviews come up in the serp listings for these locksmiths all across the province. How’d I know? Cause I tested same, by picking out 10 different towns, setting my location to same and then searching for a locksmith. And yup, up came John J’s spammed reviews boosting the spammed locksmith up in the rankings to #1 spots…sometimes in BOTH the 7-Pack and the web results too….
…sigh…Canadian SEO just got tougher, eh!
Did you note something else tho? That the review for the Stoney Creek Emergency Locksmith was made at Yelp.ca just yesterday!
And today, the serps at google.ca show it as #2…and the one made 2 days ago, same spammer, same locksmith, comes in at #2. Yes, that’s right….google.ca gets feeds from Yelp.ca for it’s reviews, posts same and then the google.ca algo “works” and puts this spammed locksmith up top for all to see.
It’s about as maddening as can be for those of us who really try to run white hat SEO campaigns for our clients! So what’d I do about it? Or what can anyone do about it?
Well, first, since last Tuesday when I discovered same, I’ve been sending Yelp.ca lots and lots of flagged notices about just this kind of spam, who’s been doing it (John J isn’t the only alias that is being used….there are now more’n a handfull of them!) and so far, not a “peep” back from Yelp.ca via a message NOR I see, any changes being made to these reviews….sigh….and the timing of same has obviously increased drastically….google’s own HotPot takes much longer it appears…!
Yelp.ca and it’s american side Yelp.com have been in the news lots in the past year, so trying to understand what they might do about this is a hard thing to accomplish…so to try to help one and all, here’s a set of URLs to look at if you’re a wondering too….
- Google Places help forums are chock full of this kind of locksmith spam anecdotes.
- Andrew’s blog here at the localseoguide. com comments on same for our american friends….
- Like Barry here, I too thought that Yelp was changing it’s policies…
- David Mihm noted in a recent blog piece the following…”Clearly the effort it takes to leave a super-deep review on Yelp provides somewhat of a built-in anti-spam mechanism….” which makes one wonder if the Yelp.ca folks subscribe to that belief, eh?
So…what’s the answer here? Spamming your own biz is too risky, that’s for sure. Spamming a whole channel appears though to be so far, risk-free….but I’m monitoring same and attempting to watch the Yelp.ca response to this whole issue! If they do not step up to free their sites of such spam, it “waters down” all of the other reviews that so many socially concious folks make on their own great – or not so great – experiences…and yes, we’ve also reported same to Google.ca too!
So….Yelp.ca? The ball is in your court, eh!Google