Small businesses are expected to double spending on online reputation monitoring services over the next year to more than $700 million. These services promise to minimize negative reviews from crowdsourced sites, such as Yelp and Angie's List.
But are these services delivering on their claims? Maybe not, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal.
The claims run the gamut: One service, called Profile Defenders, claimed earlier this year that it "100% guarantees to get rid of unwanted Yelp results" for a base fee of $5,000. Another, RemoveMyName.com, claimed it can "attempt to remove" unfavorable or false reviews from Angie's List, the outlet reports.
Here's the catch: Darnell Holloway, the manager of local business outreach at Yelp, told the paper that only Yelp's user-support team can remove reviews.
"There's never been any amount of money one can pay--to Yelp or any third party--to manipulate reviews on our site," Yelp wrote in a statement on the company's blog. Yelp said it uses a review filter to prevent paid write-ups and maintain the integrity of the site.
Angie's List founder Angie Hicks told the paper that burying a complaint with positive reviews supplied by paid marketers doesn't work on her company's site either.
"If ever we question the legitimacy of a review, we take it down," she told the Journal.
According to BIA/Kelsey, 24% of small businesses currently monitor their reputation online, and 5% of that group use a paid service to do so.
However, a BIA/Kelsey representative told the paper that more businesses are shifting from using free online applications to paid services in the year ahead because of the amount of work required to monitor online reviews and comments.