Reputation Homicide: Ratings, Ripoffs, and Red Flagging – Evil Week

By October 26, 2014 No Comments

Most of the time, we’re in the business of staying far, far away from the dark underbelly of advertising and marketing. But it’s Halloween, so why not shake things up a bit? From now until Halloween, we’ll be posting the most evil, devious, and treacherous ways to decimate your competition. Stay tuned, because this is going to be almost as fun as taking candy from a baby.

Businesses these days live in a world of reputation. If you do good work and go out of your way to keep customers happy, you begin to amass a good reputation. People speak favorably about your company on social media. They leave five star reviews on Amazon, eBay, Yelp, or anywhere else you’re listed. Your reputation, in effect, becomes a collection of ratings.

In today’s world, your competition’s business reputation is just data.

For an unscrupulous attacker, this will put a business to the truest test. Leaving poor reviews or leaving ripoffs riports or poor business practices can significantly impact your ability to do business. What’s worse — you may have little or no control over what’s said about you. In a world where your business reputation boils down to data, and in a world where data is so easily manipulated, your business reputation can be manipulated, too.

Ratings Sabotage

It’s relatively simple these days to hire access to a botnet, or at the very least, teams of very cheap Bangladeshi virtual workers who will click wherever you ask them too. This means that any rating that doesn’t require a purchase, whether it’s Yelp, iTunes, or Amazon, is a prime target to take a nosedive. And there’s nothing they can do to stop it except for an overwhelming amount of positive ratings that continue to pour in from happy customers.

Ripoff Reports

Both, the industry leader (with a very strong SEO ranking), as well as smaller, niche sites or personal blogs, will be a target. An attacker can use carefully selected anchor text to confuse search engines into ranking the scam discussion highly for your company or product searches. In a best-case scenario, your competitor might even have the word “scam” show up in Google Instant (the autocompleted search results) for anyone searching their company’s name.

Red Flagging

Finally, the third prong and perhaps the most devastating, is to simply remove your competition’s presence from the Internet through the use of redflagging or spam flagging. Nearly every site has some kind of community moderated spam flagging. Facebook, Craisglist, even Google. A coordinated attack could wipe your competitor’s site off the Internet as sites begin to delist their eCommerce listings and promotional materials.