Today’s consumers are increasingly turning to web-based reviews to make their purchase decisions, and this has yielded a highly disturbing practice on the part of business competitors. Companies are using the review sites visited by consumers to defame their competitors, posting negative reviews and comments that appear to be written by customers and making potential clients turn away. For those reading the reviews in search of a reliable, reputable company, the negative reviews do the trick: consumers look elsewhere – often to the unethical businesses that posted the false complaint – and the revenue losses for the original business can reach between 30 and 90 percent.
It is unfortunate that so many companies have decided that the best way to grow their business is to tear down their competitors, particularly because this is a highly illegal act that could result in serious repercussions if they were to be caught. It is equally unfortunate that those who have been victimized by these activities are under the mistaken impression that there is nothing that they can do, and just stand back and watch their revenues get drained away.
Understanding the Attack
Most of the time, Internet defamation is posted on popular review sites such as Yelp, RateMD, Google Places – the sites where potential customers are most likely to look for reviews. The process is simple enough: the competitor opens a fake account – or in some cases several fake accounts in order to enter multiple complaints – then composes a series of false accounts of poor service, inferior products, fraud and more. Another popular venue for defamation are sites such as ripoffreport.com, complaintsboard.com, pissedconsumer.com and consumeraffairs.com that are specifically set up for posting complaints. By posting falsehoods about their competitors, businesses hope to drive business away from the company being reviewed directly into their own hands.
Unfortunately, the approach can be extremely effective because the review sites are so highly ranked. When you do a search for a specific company sites that review performance are usually in the top two or three listings, and that is exactly what most consumers do and see these days. If your business has been the victim of a false negative review placed by your competitor, it is going to be seen, and since the potential customer has no way of knowing that the review is a fake, they’re going to decide to spend their money elsewhere.
Internet defamation attacks are insidious and overwhelming but that doesn’t mean that they are inevitable or that there’s no recourse. There are ways to counter these unethical maneuvers, to fight back and put a stop to these unethical, illegal practices.
How to fight back against competitor Internet defamation
There are generally three steps involved in stopping competitors who are engaging in Internet defamation. You need to figure out exactly who it is that is posting the damaging content. You need to get the false, negative reviews taken down. And you need to figure out exactly how much damage the defamation has done to your business so that you can determine whether or not to file a legal claim against the perpetrator.
All of this may sound easier said then done, and perhaps it is for a layman. But with the help of specialists in the field, including investigators, and tech-savvy attorneys, addressing the situation can be surprisingly straightforward and effective. Trying to go it alone, whether from an investigative perspective or a legal perspective, can be overwhelming and a recipe for failure, or at the very least self-defeat. But hiring the right forensic specialists who now how to trace back to the counterfeit poster as well as how to get the negative content removed from the site can mean the difference between your business slowly bleeding away business and flourishing.
Don’t delay in responding to competitor Internet defamation
There are instances in which the damage that’s been done by a competitor’s Internet defamation is so significant that the services of crisis pubic relations specialists need to be utilized, and it is especially true in those situations that you may need to litigate and seek damages for your losses. There are a number of ways that this type of action can be pursued, including a claim of defamation or under the Lanham Act for false advertising claims. One way or another, if you believe that a competitor is undermining your business via Internet defamation, then you need to act immediately. The longer it goes on, the more damage will be done and the harder it will be to fix.