A couple weeks ago, my car windshield somehow acquired a crater resembling a popped zit. Knowing that such wounds tended to fester and expand, I did a Google Search for “Beaverton Auto Glass” hoping to get one of those mobile windshield repair services to come out to my house and cheaply take care of the problem. Thanks to my industry friends like David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal who blog extensively on local SEO issues, I’ve learned to evaluate local business reviews with a very keen eye. Sure, I’ve known about faked reviews and have even dealt with businesses that ignorantly reviewed themselves. However, I’ve never been faced with a situation where a buying decision was made so very difficult because of obvious review spam.

We all know that it’s impossible to run any sort of auto repair/service business without a certain percentage of people getting angry with you (whether justified or not).  Many consumers know now that they can effectively vent online by leaving one-star reviews and negative comments on the merchant’s listing. Combine the two, and it should be impossible for an auto glass business to get all or nearly all five-star reviews. However, almost every option I sought out seemed to be blessed with only positivity.

I would take up too much space showing all the phony examples I viewed, so let’s just focus on one:

Here we have two people who reviewed the same auto glass place five days apart (note that I’m deliberately not showing which business is involved, though it’s easy to figure out). Let’s delve deeper into this by looking at what other businesses these “people” have also reviewed (“Jae,” followed by “Lara”):


Here are my observations:

1)       The odds that someone would get their Auto Glass fixed in Beaverton (where they “theoretically” live) and review one and only one restaurant either in Camas (30 miles away) or Longview (55 miles away) without reviewing any nearby restaurants (or other nearby businesses) is about nil.

2)      They both recommend the same credit repair service in addition to the same auto glass service. Suspicious? Yup. Also, one of the accounts put a negative review “hit” on a competitor.

3)      Both accounts have reviewed exactly four businesses and don’t have an avatar attached to them.

I ended up choosing an auto glass business BECAUSE two of the five reviews were only one star (and the other three were five stars). The consumer sentiment felt real to me, and unfortunately, I believe that most consumers won’t be able to discern the unrealistic commentary about their “superior” competitors.

Local search reviews play a critical role in generating business revenue. The temptation to cheat will always be present in local search, making it critical for the consumer not to take all sentiment at face value.

My friend Scott Hendison had an interesting experience that involved local search spam; you can read about it here and here.

Todd Mintz, Senior SEM Manager


  1. J. Gates January 18th, 2012

    Like your site and the topic! While I agree there is a serious problem with review spam and that the reviews you point out are definite culprits, I disagree with using hunches and ‘what are the odds’ investigative methods for pointing a finger at a business.

  2. Bryan January 18th, 2012

    I was doing some research for a property management company last month. I found one of their competitors with 70 reviews. I thought that they were working with their customers to get the reviews (all 5 stars). So I looked back to when then started and they had 4 horrible reviews and then the good ones started coming at a consistent rate of 2 a week except for some additional negative ones. So I looked at the reviewers. This business is in the Spokane area and all of the other reviews are being done in the Seattle area. Then I noticed that they were reviewing the same businesses. Obviously the owner has hired a company to do fake reviews to give their business an unfair advantage and so have all of the other businesses being reviewed by the same reviewer. There is more to the story……

  3. Beaverton SEO April 1st, 2012

    I really like the point on how to spot fake reviews. I want to support you by one word and that’s Awesome.

    Best Regards,
    Beaverton SEO

  4. Marc April 22nd, 2012

    I’ve noticed the same thing with a bunch of businesses here in the Boston area. My response is to add my own review — point out how the same reviewers have reviewed the same group of other businesses and encourage the reader to check for themselves.

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Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz, who has been with 3Q Digital since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.