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Ripoff Report Ripping Off Those Reported?




Chris Bennett of 97th Floor is being unfairly trashed by Ripoff Report, and he’s not the only one.

In case you’re not familiar with Ripoff Report–you may wish to pray that you never have to be familiar with them–the site exists as a platform to allow consumers to air their gripes, complaints, and allegations about a business. Unfortunately, Ripoff Report appears to exist purely to make money from the various negative postings and it’s a rare occurrence to see something negative removed–even when resolved.

Both Chris and Rand Fishkin provide an excellent breakdown of some of the questionable tactics used by Ripoff Report–each concluding that Rip Off Report is doing its best to make money off of negative reviews.

Unfortunately, when you help individuals and business with their, it’s very common to see a Ripoff Report listing for them. Sure, you could argue that the company deserved the complaint–that may be true in some cases. But I’d challenge you to show me evidence that Ripoff Report is completely unbiased and willing to remove, or substantially update negative complaints that were subsequently resolved.

In fact, I could probably show you as many complaints that appear to be completely fabricated, as there are legitimate complaints. Take this one for instance. Do you really think Google’s Sergey Brin would try to lure a 16 year old girl to a hotel?

So, what can you do if you should find yourself the “victim” of a Ripoff Report? Well, unless you have deep pockets–which is rumored to be about the only way out–you should try and push the negative listing down on Google, by creating your own positive web content.

I wouldn’t hold your breath though. As both Chris and Rand point out, Google seems to have a strong infatuation for Ripoff Report content. Who know’s why, especially when you consider what Rand discovered:

…as far as Google’s TOS violations go, it would appear that they’re also selling paid link advertising and passing link juice (the banners in the top right corners don’t have nofollows).

Who knows if my name will now magically appear on Ripoff Report. I guess it’s a risk worth taking to join the chorus of those lobbying Google to follow Microsoft’s and Yahoo’s lead and remove any web content that adds no value to the web.

What do you think? If you believe Google should take action against false complaints, blog about it and let your voice be heard by Matt Cutts!

(Note: Due to the sensitive nature of this post, we reserve the right to remove anonymous comments.)

  • http://www.97thfloor.com/blog Chris Bennett

    Thanks Andy for getting my back. There is definitely too much stuff going on here for it to continue to go unnoticed.

  • http://www.davidwallace.com David Wallace

    I am with Andy. Matt (or any other Googlers), if you are listening, please work to remove Rip Off report content from the Google index. If it was simply legitimate review content, that would be one thing. However, it is a pretty well known fact that Rip Off Report is more of an extortion ring than anything else.

    The main weapon they have is the fact that they are positioned very well in Google. If that be taken away from them, then their strength to continue in these unethical activities is gone.

  • Dean

    Could Sergey et al not launch HUGE slander lawsuits against Ripoff Report? It works for celebs against the tabloids and I suspect if there were enough of them it would bring Ripoff Report to its knees.

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  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Dean – or he could just have Matt Cutts flick the switch and send them into oblivion. ;-)

  • http://www.seom.org/team/scott Scott

    @Dean – The big problem with RoR is that they hide behind the veil of the Communications Decency Act, claiming that since they don’t write the comments, they can’t be held responsible for their content. It seems to be a widespread allegation that they do, in fact, generate many of these comments themselves (or pay to have them written) and they almost certainly optimize (read: keyword stuff) the headlines manually. Another fun tidbit: the guy who runs the site apparently brags about being harder to track down than bin Laden…he actually dares people to try and serve him.

    I certainly agree with all of those who’ve been picking up this story. RoR is a shady enterprise that works through very narrow loopholes to engage in their alleged extortion scheme. As many have pointed out, all of the engines but Google have gotten wise to this and refused to be accomplices in such a disingenuous and harmful practice. Why Google seems to support RoR, especially in light of their multiple counts of blatant ToS violation, seems to fly directly in the face of their “do no evil” mantra.

  • http://www.goodnightmoonfuton.com Futon-Matt

    The idea of profiting off negative reviews and such is a scary one. Luckily I’m well under the radar, well, at least I hope so.

  • http://www.ConsumerHelpWeb.com George Bounacos

    I won’t speak to competitors in this space, but this very much a need for advocacy and alternative dispute resolution. For the last 5 years, we’ve actually taken heat on my site for removing complaints when they are resolved.

    Our point is that we want to help consumers resolve complaints, not build up a pool of UGC about a company. We’re not JD Power, and we’re not a rating service. That’s how I think the complaint resolution space should work, and I don’t see us migrating from it ever.

    I know the consumer advocates disagree with me, but we prefer to think of alternative dispute resolution and complaint letter writing services as transient issues. Many in the field, certainly all with whom I talk, express that allegations against a company (the old BBB model) should remain live forever. My counter to that is you can’t only publish negative without doing satisfaction surveys and research to show which companies also provide good service.

    Every organization should be entitled to make mistakes and rectify those mistakes without having a single issue harm their reputation long-term.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @George – thanks for sharing your experience. I like what you say, you’re there to help resolve complaints, not carve out a deep wound that scars the company for life.

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    Sure, if something negative needs to be said about a certain company then by all means. If a service wasn’t worth it, if customer support wasn’t helpful, these things should be known by potential customers. In most cases, the companies in question will end up improvind the quality of their services and, in the end, it will be a here,win-win situation for all parties involved.

    But taking things beyond constructive criticism, as is the case with Ripoff Report, is simply something for which there is no excuse.

    Alan Johnson

  • http://www.yoursearchadvisor.com/ Andrew Miller

    Having been on the receiving end of a RoR extortion attempt in a previous job, we decided not to line their pockets and told them to bugger off, regardless of the consequences. They continue to publish negative posts about the company, but we wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night if we had paid them off.

    By following up with the customers and resolving their issues offline, we were able to rectify the situations and learned that some of them were encouraged to write a certain way, or had their articles edited by RoR to change the verbiage (keyword use) and/or heighten the severity of the rhetoric. In addition, we promoted other content above theirs and have been successful pushing them off of page 1.

    Fighting them in or out of court would only fan the flames, so we chose to walk away instead of instigating a public fight against a few bullies. Can’t wait for them to go down hard.

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  • http://www.onetakemedia.net Matt

    Sarah Bird. SEOMOZ’s legal beagle just posted an excellent rundown of RoR’s lawsuits and explains very well the issues that surround the matter.

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/the-anatomy-of-a-ripoff-report-lawsuit#jtc46714

    Matt “Zegron” SEOMOZ Member

  • http://www.reputationhawk.com Reputation Hawk

    Lately I have noticed that ripoffreport is much easier to bump in Google. Especially the ROR pages with no new comments over the past few months… Anyone else noticing the same thing? I have a client with two ROR listings that were originally at # 4 and # 5 and have been bumped out of the top 20. I did some research this morning and found this post from Andy. I can’t imagine that somehow there was an algorithm switch at Google in such a short amount of time but who knows… Also, it seems that ROR listings without any additional comments/rebuttals etc other than the first complaint are much easier to bump. So, if you are a victim of ROR you might want to be leery of entering into the rebuttal process and instead take a good shot at IRM.

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  • http://www.97thfloor.com/blog Chris Bennett

    Reputation Hawk,

    I have seen that a lot of posts are getting pushed down due to dupe content. If you have just one post against you especially if that post doesn’t have comments, ROR search results get indexed a couple days after the post and also their other duplicate domains, and sometimes this trips a filter hurting the original post.

    I always tell people do not comment on the post, it will never get pushed down.

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  • http://mollermarketing.com Nate Moller

    AMEN! What action is Google taking? How “black hat” do you have to get before something is done? Is ROR paying someone under the table to stay at or near the top or is it really that easy to “trick” the algos?

    I love good wholesome business competition, but when it comes to unethical trash like this, something has to be done. I remember when the word “miserable failure” used to put Pres. Bush’s bio page at the top of Google – Google did something about that didn’t they? I’m sure they know about ROR – I would hope our voices can be heard.

    Thanks Andy, Chris, Sarah and everyone else for the great articles.

  • http://www.mp3-sunglasses-mp3.com lenloon

    what you say is very right!

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  • http://theripoffreport.blogspot.com/ ROR Fighter

    We need someone to step up an create a webiste where we can all get together and take steps as one to deal with the ripoffreport. I Started a blog, but we need someone that can set up something more.

  • Mumblingmary

    Google states that it wants to know about sites that download malware (this includes blackhat seo spamming).

    This is the link:

    http://googleonlinesecurity.blogspot.com/2007/11/help-us-fill-in-gaps.html

  • http://fred67.com Pete Moring

    I can understand everyone’s concern here, but if you get rid of this one, it’ll just pop straight back up again disguised with another name/URL and include all the same files that are currently holding it in such high esteem with Google etc.

    Is the site really worth ‘pandering’ to in this way? Just by talking about it here we’re raising it’s profile even more.

    I’ve worked in the construction industry all my life. There have always been ‘professional customers’ who pull every trick to get invalid discounts. Since the internet’s arrival, they now think they have even MORE power by suggesting unless they receive discounts etc they will paint your name ‘mud’.

    Best policy?? Ignore them at all costs.

    Pete.

  • http://www.ConsumerHelpWeb.com George Bounacos

    Well said, Pete. Not just in this situation, but in many. Good words and philosophy to live by. “If you can keep your head about you….” ;-)

    Best,
    George
    who had a contractor’s license in MD years ago and can tell stories about customers and their lists.

  • Ettish

    FYI, looks like another SEO is getting trashed:

    http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=t&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GFRC_en___US210&q=John+andrews+seo

    Took all of 1 day for this post to land page 1 google. More to come…

  • Michelle Steffes

    Hopefully Google will come to their senses and take this site down.

  • http://RipOffReport Jon

    I can claim they do change the post written on their site. A few years back I posted a rebuttal to a comment made by their “ed” which I’m sure is the editor. He actually rewrote what I sent to him and then when I called them on it and blasted them for it Ed something called me on my cell and tried to say he might take it off if I could get my company to sign up for their “protection” service. He was a total racist and bias crude fellow on the phone and when I pressed them for proof of him changing the response he just said no they protect that “private” information.

    Rip Off report editors are a bunch of Criminals!!!

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  • SisterSledge

    I clicked the link that points to Goog search on JohnAndrewsSEO but I don’t see anything from ROR in the results…did ROR pull the post to cover their *sses? Does anyone have a link directly to a source trashing JA?

  • http://none Aaron

    I am the victim of a bogus report on ROR. I’ve tried to reply several times. I’ve written to ROR asking why my replies go unpublished and I’ve received no answer. What they are doing over there…..it just isn’t right.

  • John Coctoson

    Looks like the SEO community has sold out to ROR. I never knew it was so easy. I guess the pressure’s off.

    info:http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/297/RipOff0297911.htm

    info:http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/303/RipOff0303849.htm

    These were on Google page 1 two weeks ago; suddenly they aren’t indexed and the postings on all SEO sites have stopped. I wonder why…

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @John – I don’t see enough evidence to suggest that the SEO community has “sold out.” Keep in mind that there’s very little that can be done, unless Google itself takes action.

  • http://www.reputationhawk.com Reputation Hawk

    Hey Aaron,

    I know it’s frustrating man. ROR won’t remove that page – it’s their core business model. But I think we will definitely see an algorithm shift. Most of their reports have 0 outside links pointing to them. It’s just content heavy stuff linked to once or twice off the front page of ROR – a PR5 site. It really seems odd to me that Google does give ROR such favorable rankings. I have alot of PR5 sites that won’t climb that quickly with 0 outside links. So it leaves me wandering about usage data… I know that’s a big SEO debate right now. That Google takes in click count to influence rankings. Obviously this system would be incredibly easy to abuse but the whole ROR thing leaves me wandering… Naturally people will click on an ROR link under an individual or company search in Google… So – is that giving them favorable rankings? I don’t know man. I have to think surely Google is smarter than to allow usage data to influence rankings. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  • Bill Jones

    I’ve been following this whole argument and usage data is absolutely the only explanation. I don’t believe Google is really ‘in bed’ with ROR.

    I do believe they have been non-responsive to RORs spamming because of 2 reasons: 1. Google ALWAYS comes down on the side of the user. Even though their money comes from advertisers, Google will do whatever they think is better for the user. I disagree that ROR is good for users, but that’s their logic. 2. Google wants advertisers to buy adwords for their own brandnames. Negative pub, gives advertisers more reason to do so.

    So combine Google’s looking the other way on the Spamming with the usage data and you have the reason ror ranks so well. Bottom line is that Google has every right to factor in usage data to organic rankings, BUT they do NOT have the right to enforce their own terms of service selectively. If it’s proven they do, they are in a world of hurt because then even Google starts to look editorial instead of algorithmic.

  • nicole

    Just wanted to share my run in with the webmaster… I listed a report as an employee making a positive comment for my company, accidentally typing my first and last name in the report. I very politely emailed the web master and asked to have it removed, working at a call center the last thing i want is my name on the internet people trying to call to speak with me making life at work dangerous for myself.. the response I got was a very disgusting old man insulting me. I saved copys of the responses.. Apparentlly according to him and i quote: I fixed this for you = I was not going to becuase you KNOW what you did. YOU put your first and last name in the first name box, trying to blame it on us.
    you seem to get it right on the other rebuttals you did. HOW DARE you say Its violating my safety
    Like we did this to you.

    Why not tell the truth and say, ..Sorry, I made a mistake by putting my last name in the first name box, this could be dangerous to me, please do me a favor and fix that for me. = = =

    Un freaking believable……

    oddly enough my email stated, hey sorry I made a mistake could you correct this for me so it doesnt violate my safety… nice guy…. what a joke!!!! if anyone wants copys for proof i set up an email… shesaprettypistol@gmail.com for the sole purpose of distributing the emails…

    ps he never did remove my name

  • Aaron

    Thanks for the responses to my posts. It’s amazing to me that they can get away with it. It’s clearly extortion and possibly a violation of RICO.

  • Margo

    I was wondering why the business “remove ripoffreport.com listed under rip off report.com in the search is asking for $3300.00 to remove your name from the site ? It seems like extortion/ blackmail or something unholy. Is this a part of that same company ? Why do they allow false postings ? I e-mailed the webmaster and told him all the info he needed to find out that the posting about me was from one source and was done under aliases. Not that he cared I assure you !

  • bill

    I downloaded the entire ripoff report website in 2006 and 2007 and this report about Larry Page and Sergey Brin was not there.
    http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/144/ripoff0144627.htm

    look at the edit dates on the comments. oops

    THis ripoff report was made by Ed Magedson so they can sue google when he is shut. he is that arrogant

    Bill

  • http://www.fred.com Fred

    Hey, Chris. Please share with the rest of us how you got your ror removed from the google index?

    check info:www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/297/RipOff0297911.htm
    in google

  • Loraine

    Seems to me that Google, as the publiSHER, SHOULD blacklist this site, since they violate the TOS. Why don’t victims of ROR sue Google instead, since they are the sponsor’s of evil???
    (a class act law suit ???)

  • Johnny G.

    Great point Loraine. I just saw on another ROR related post that New Jersey Attorney General is going after a site called JuicyCampus.com. The site publishes defaming material about college students and they have been hiding behind the Communications Decency Act like Rip Off Report. The beautiful thing is the NJ AG is using the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act to go after Juicy campus. The NJ Consumer Fraud Act is a new angle in the legal battle against these types of outfits. The NJ AG says “Misrepresentation to the public by businesses violates our Consumer Fraud Act”.

    link to the release: http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases08/pr20080318b.html

    If the case is successful, getting ROR is a lay up, but interestingly enough, Google might also have some liability here. Why? Because Google represents to the public that its natural search results are an unbiased source of information.

    Many of the businesses that have been attacked by ROR have reported the ROR listings to Google, only to see the ROR listings then increase in ranking on Google. The form where Google asks webmasters to report spam is here: http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html. This is the public form, but the same form occurs within the Google webmaster account which is where most business have reported ROR listings to Google, allowing Google to pin the reports back on the businesses reporting them. Many have maintained that the ratings boost happens because the people fielding these listings are pre-disposed to an anti-corporate, pro-consumer advocacy bent. Think Ralph Nader. I mean we are talking about young techies in California after-all :-) Can anyone say crunchy? — and I’m a democrat. Well, that’s all well and good; I’m all for doing right by the consumer, and perhaps consumer advocacy/review sites do deserve favorable treatment in Google in order to present balanced search results. Sites like epinions.com are certainly a great service to consumers, but with ROR, they clearly made a mistake and that mistake has been pointed out to them. Rather than fix the mistake, Google has just dug in their heals and even given ROR more power than other review sites like epinions. Why? That’s the only question. And the only conclusion I can figure is what I said above; some immature people making decisions that should be handled at higher levels in the Company with more oversight, but were in fact, agenda driven.

    Bottom line – if this is true, thousands of businesses have been cost billions of dollars in sales because of these bias decisions made by a few PEOPLE inside of Google. People, not machines, not the Google algorithm. If that’s true, Google’s search results (at least in this case) are NOT unbiased, but are in fact driven by a political agenda, not by an agenda of providing the best results for users, which is Google’s material representation to the public.

    Google’s results for the most part are great, but I really think they’ve pinned themselves in on this one. I suggest they start treating ROR like it deserves or they may come under attack from several state AGs. I’ve talked to a high profile class action firm that has no interest in a case against Rip Off Report, but is salivating at the potential link to Google.

    To contact Google’s Press Team to let them know what you think, call this number:

    650 930 3555

    Are you a business in New Jersey? To Contact The New Jersey State Attorney General, 973 504 6200.

    Division of Consumer Affairs
    P.O. Box 45027
    Newark, NJ 07101

    All of the above is just my opinion. I’m not a lawyer and I’m not giving legal advice. Make up your own mind.

  • http://www.reputationhawk.com Reputation Hawk

    Man this sucks. Now we are seeing more and more ROR spawns. Corruptreport, badnewsbureau etc and many of them are copying the pages from ROR and adopting the same business model. All trying to get listed on the front page of the reported company in Google. Great.

  • Common Sense

    The fact is Google has become a powerful search tool thanks to everyone on the freakin’ planet. Why? Because it was, and still is, the “fad” search engine to go to. Cute little name and don’t forget the “over sell” on what a great algorithm they have going. It didn’t help either that the big search engines before them were horrible and brought stupidity to the top of any given search query. Now that the others don’t suck as bad, it’s too late. Google has already cemented itself in. The problems that has arose here of late is what happens when we give any one business in the private sector too much credence and power, it becomes corrupt. Who in private business can turn down thousands upon thousands of dollars to keep ROR at the top of the search queries? Google sure couldn’t turn down the pay off could they. You can SEO all day and night to bring the ROR post down, but it probably won’t make a difference. As a matter of fact, the more you SEO your site and/or other sites to make them more relevant to what ROR post are so that you can push the wicked post away, the better the chance ROR is going go to the top instead. Google has made sure that the more you talk about a given person or company, they more ROR’s post about that person or company becomes relevant, which means the more you SEO your site, the more strength ROR has at staying at the top. Am I being too paranoid here? You’d all better hope so. But in this You Tube tell all society of ours, I don’t see this problem going away anytime soon. I see it getting much worse.

  • arie

    Just an idea : How about get many lawyers get listed in the ROR? They are savvy enough to complaint and be heard, then the anger will get DA’s attention in many States, they will not allow the bad joke trashing their reputation, maybe Google will finally wake up, I hope very late.
    If you all agree, let’s do that, sit tight and
    just have fun !!!!
    Arie.

  • Arabica

    Rip-off Report a Big Rip-Off!!
    Now in all fairness, there are probably a lot of consumer services to help complainants deal with their problems that are legit. But for the site in reference I’ve noticed a couple of things that make me believe that the site is out to make money or may be holding companies hostages until they themselves help resolve the issue (of course for a fee).

    Here’s what I’ve noticed. I’ve monitored the events and this site for a couple of days and little by little inside the consumer’s original complaint there are links to advertisers using key words. For example ‘finance’ is now linked to a financial company offering loans. The same is true for lender. Makes you stop and think doesn’t it? If this site wasn’t in it for the money why use sponsors or advertising links embedded in consumers complaints?

    The owners of this site are under investigation and word has it that they are now operating in Hungary. What recourse do you have against a person in Hungary? NONE!
    This site is a rip off disguised as a consumer friendly web service.

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  • PO’d employee

    My boss made a huge mistake by legitimzing ROR and the postings. Once he made a reply, the snowball started. I have access to all customer records and almost all of the postings are NOT FROM OUR CUSTOMERS OR MADE UP! This site killed our sales for months until (I think), our President paid-off ROR. I don’t know as much, but he stated that “things should be more positive now.” Why? Our business hasn’t changed? Our staff hasn’t changed? Our product hasn’t changed? Why would people just stop posting? Our posting did change and was updated with positive comments by ROR, but I still feel that I am working for a good company that was thrown under the bus by a site that doesn’t confirm posting authenticity or true customers. It seems my boss was a victim of extortion and I paid dearly through my lost commissions and he paid whatever he gave the moron who runs ROR.

  • pankaj gupta

    well guys these days people are using it against their competitors only.

  • Common Sense

    That’s not true. It’s still used for anger release as well. Whether the post at Rip Off Report are true or not true, the “pissed off” are using the site as a boxing glove.

  • DebraJ

    I used to think ROR was a legitimate site until I had a false report made about me. I contacted ROR about the report being a fake report from a business I had complained about. ROR refused to remove the report.

    The business then, thinking I had posted another report, stated they had already posted a fake report about me and if I kept it up they would post another one. I made ROR aware of this and they still have my report on their site.

    In the 10 years since I became aware of ROR, it has now become just another corrupt internet business. Much of their funding comes from advertising and the corporate advocacy program (“the bribe us or else” program). In addition, the site is loaded with malware. Anytime I go to the site, my computer locks me out of the site because of the malware.

    ROR is a scam business and hopefully the IRS will catch up with them sooner than later.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    I’m closing comments to avoid abuse.

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