RipoffReport, which is one of the most popular review sites for posting customer complaints, has recently launched a program called "Ripoff Report Verified," that acts like an insurance policy that protects you from negative reviews being posted.
The new program will give businesses a chance to resolve disputes in 14 days before negative reviews are posted for $89 a month. I recently spoke to a Ripoff Report sales rep on the phone and had further email correspondence to get more details on the program.
To be accepted as a Verified business, your company should not have any prior reviews in Ripoff Report. Once a verified business gets any negative complaints, they would be alerted via email about the negative reviews and will be able to discuss a resolution with the person that left the negative reviews.
Anyone can post a review on Ripoff Report from a fake email address at this point in time, as Ripoff Report does not currently verify email addresses. But with the new Verified program, if the reviewer used a fake email address, you may be in luck. If the reviewer used a fake email, they will never see the resolution request. If there is no response, the negative review would never get posted.
However, as the Ripoff Report rep explained, if the reviewer responds and "If the business makes every reasonable effort to satisfy the complaining consumer, Ripoff Report is very successful in persuading a consumer to be satisfied." So it seems that most likely they would not post the negative review if the business attempts to resolve the customer complaints!
Forbes recently published an article on Ripoff Report, quoting Ripoff Report owner Ed Magdeson, saying that they are using some outside sales firms to market this new product. He states that he is, "now in talks with several major credit card companies to market the service to their merchants, as well as four major auto related companies to put their dealers into the Verified directory."
Pros and Cons
I have mixed feelings about this program. I hate to see Ripoff Report profiting from negative reviews, especially if they are fake.
On one hand, I see this program as a positive step for businesses that may be at risk of getting negative reviews.
However, the negative thing about it is that your company name will show up in Google associated with the words "Ripoff Report." Some potential customers may not necessarily click to read the whole page and may assume you have bad reviews on Ripoff Report.
Before you engage in this program you should seriously consider the pros and cons.
However, I also feel that many companies would risk to lose a lot more if they do not obtain this insurance policy. SEO professionals, reputation management firms, or anyone who has any experience in how Ripoff Report works, knows how hard it is to prevent bad reviews on Ripoff Report from showing up on Google.
It is virtually impossible to remove Ripoff Report from Google. Once a review is listed, whether it is true or not, it will remain there forever. It may cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees and reputation management services to try and remove it, not to mention all the lost business you would have from the listing by the time it is removed.
To make matters worse, the removal efforts aren't guaranteed and may also fail, depending on the capabilities of the reputation management firm you choose to hire. So you should decide for yourself if it is worth paying $1,080/year for this insurance policy.
I should make clear that Ripoff Report did not want me to refer to this program as an "insurance policy." They told me that it is not an insurance policy, but rather a "customer service enhancement."
As a reputation management consultant, my company has been threatened twice to be posted on Ripoff Report in the last month, only because my staff contacted some businesses listed on Ripoff Report to offer them help with removal services. One company thought we had something to do with the appearance of the negative posting and assumed that we were trying to extort money from them.
Unfortunately, some unethical reputation management companies may do such things. Forbes recently published an Article about this titled "The Dark Side of Reputation Management."
Another company thought that we were trying to profit from his negative review that was hurting his business and was upset that we contacted him. He told us if we were so good we should drop the complete Ripoff Report site from Google!
It wasn't until we made both companies understand that they would face a big business defamation lawsuit if they posted negative info about us online, they agreed not to post. In both incidents, I almost had a heart attack. It would be the worst thing for a reputation management company to be listed on Ripoff Report, so in some ways I am glad that they are offering this insurance policy and I am seriously considering signing up my own company.
noindex: Not an Option
Is there any way to place a noindex tag on the Verified business page so the listing would not show up in Google? Ripoff Report said that isn't an option and it isn't something they foresee implementing.
After reviewing a few currently listed businesses, I noticed that Ripoff Report allows the posting of direct links to the company’s websites and social media sites with dofollow tags, meaning the links will count as a vote in Google. With Ripoff Report having so much PageRank power, this may be a good thing.
Examples of Some Companies Using the Program
There are a couple of examples of companies that have engaged in the program.
Upon typing their name in Google, the Ripoff Report Verified listing appeared on the first page with the words "Verified Trusted Business" next to the first company's name. However, the second company had slightly different text next to it: "Ripoff Report Verified."
You can see both examples below:
I was not exactly sure why the second example had the date August 30, 2012 next to it, since this is a new program. I asked Ripoff Report about this and they stated: "The MCA page was a prototype before Verified was finalized and offered on the webpage."
They emphasized that Ripoff Report has never expunged negative reviews, even though this page would appear to be in the format of a review page without any reviews on it.
The Corporate Advocacy Program
Ripoff Report has another program for businesses that already have negative reviews called Corporate Advocacy Program (CAP). It appears as if the second example may have had paid for the CAP program to resolve negative reviews.
The CAP program starts at minimum of $5,500, depending on the number of listings a business has. It does not insure removal of the negative reviews, but it will turn the negative review title tag into a positive title tag and then let the business provide some text content about their business, which would appear on top of the negative review on the same page.
The majority of the Ripoff Report Verified businesses currently listed in their directory are actually in the CAP program. You can search some of their names to see example of what the revised listing would look like.
Background on Ripoff Report
Ripoff Report has been in existence since the 1990s and is one of the first consumer reporting sites for consumer complaints. Magedson has stated that he is battling on behalf of customer rights, however many think he is unethically making money from many businesses or individuals that are falsely accused of wrong doing.
Magedson has created an extremely profitable company, charging thousands of dollars for his Corporate Advocacy Program, even though the reports aren't removed, but only inspected and titles modified and now he is gonna make even more money from his new program.
The Communication Decency Action Section 230 protects companies such as Ripoff Report against lawsuits from businesses requesting removals for false reviews. Ripoff Report has won many lawsuits due to this protection under the law.
In my opinion, the law is flawed. Although it is a good thing not to make public forums such as Ripoff Report liable for damages, there needs to be serious laws drafted to avoid false and fake negative reviews from being posted anonymously. But until then, businesses have very limited choices in protecting their reputation online and paying for Ripoff Report's Verified program may be a necessity.
Just to be clear, I still have mixed feelings whether businesses should engage in the verified program, so I am going to list a summary of the pros and cons and leave it up to you to decide:
- Avoid getting listed in Ripoff Report in the future, which could cost you thousands of dollars in business and/or reputation management services.
- You get links to your main site and social media sites, which are dofollow from a PR6 site.
- It will cost you $89.95/month, which could be costly for most small businesses.
- The listing does not allow noindex tags, which means it may show up high in Google for your brand, so some people might associate you with having a negative review on that site.
- Do you really want to pay a company with bad rep like Ripoff Report?
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!