The internet abounds with review sites aimed at companies. Everything from Yelp and TripAdvisor to Trustpilot and the BBB, nearly all review sites allow you to create a profile, build a presence, and cultivate a review spread that represents your company.
Ripoff Report is another of these companies, with a slightly different focus. Rather than focusing on a genre or niche of sites (such as food or travel), it focuses solely on targeting the people who are mad about something a company did. Ripped off by a business? File a ripoff report.
In operation since 1997, Ripoff Report is a privately owned company and has accumulated over 2.6 million business reviews since its inception. They even have an estimate of “money saved by consumers”, though it’s a rather meaningless metric all things considered.
No business is safe from Ripoff Reports. Everything from major airlines to small businesses run by a single person out of their living room can be found on the site with reports about their poor customer service, their broken products, or general bad experiences a customer has had.
There are a few problems with this review site:
1. For one thing, while they require an account to leave a report, they don’t verify anything, including the identity of the poster or the status of their use of the service. This means anyone, including your competitors or people who have never been your customers, can leave a negative review and there’s very little you can do about it.
2. Additionally, there aren’t business profiles like you’ll find on Trustpilot. You can’t claim your profile and use it as a base of operations to refute and respond to reviews. There’s a “rebuttal” section, but you can’t do a lot with it. Additionally, there’s no option to leave a positive review, merely a rebuttal, so you can’t even do the usual reputation management trick of soliciting positive reviews to drown out the negatives.
3. Ripoff Report themselves have even stated that they don’t have the internal resources available to verify that reviews are accurate. They even take pride in it. “We’re not a judge and jury,” they say, while actively soliciting negative reviews with no verification.
And yet, Ripoff Report is a huge site, and their negative reviews can show up all over the internet. Their SEO power is huge, so if you get negative reviews on Ripoff Report, you’re going to be hard-pressed to deal with them.
Needless to say, if your business has negative reviews or complaints on Ripoff Report, you need to do something about it. So, what can you do?
Preface: Beware of Scams
One thing to watch out for is that there are people who will essentially attempt to blackmail you using Ripoff Report as their weapon. They will send you an email or customer support ticket claiming to be a jilted customer who has a major problem, or whose order never arrived. They’ll threaten to leave a negative review on Ripoff Report, knowing exactly how hard they are to deal with – unless you give them a refund (on a purchase they never made) or send them a replacement (for a product they never ordered). Once the review is up, you’re then left with expensive options to try to scrub that review.
This is a tough situation. On the one hand, you don’t want to pay an extortionist. On the other hand, you don’t want to pay a different extortionist. The best you can do is consider it an empty threat, and if it does happen, follow one of these options below.
Option 1: Google Suppression
The usual tried-and-true method of dealing with a site like Ripoff Report is to bomb the internet with positive reviews as much as possible. If you go on a campaign soliciting positive reviews, you’re as likely as not to get those reviews on sites that have even better SEO than Ripoff Report itself. When people search for your company looking for reviews, they’ll check the first handful of results on Google. If those are sites like Trustpilot, Yelp, Consumer Advisor, SiteJabber, and Google Itself, there’s a lot less room there for Ripoff Report.
To do this, what you need to do is look at Ripoff Report itself. Visit the site and look at your reports. Ideally, there should only be a few of them. Look at the pages themselves, and look at the metadata. Your goal is to identify the kinds of keywords they’re using, beyond simply your company name and words like “reviews”.
Once you’ve identified the keywords they’re using to rank, you can then use those keywords in a positive light in reviews you solicit. You can get customers to review you, you can guest post or write content for other sites using those keywords and refuting them, and you can even set up microsites with content specifically engineered to refute them. Just don’t link to the Ripoff Report page to refute it; you don’t want to give them more SEO value.
Option 2: Hire a Reputation Management Agency
Ripoff Report is one of the shadier review sites on the market. They’ve been accused of defamation, extortion, and a variety of other crimes, and they’ve been the subject of dozens of lawsuits. While there’s little record of them ever losing a lawsuit (though perhaps they’ve lost one or two), they’ve proven to be very tenacious.
This means dealing with their negative reviews can be very tricky. It’s difficult to circumvent them, you can’t bomb them with positive rebuttals to any effect, and they don’t respond well to attempts to take down reports.
A reputation management company has more resources to leverage in getting negative reviews removed. They can do this through connections both within the industry and to specialists who can get it done. In some cases, you may be able to track down the person who left the report and get them to reverse or remove it. In other cases, you may be able to exert some leverage over the site to get a report removed. In either case, a reputation management company can handle it for you.
Option 3: Use Ripoff Report’s Reputation Manager
Another option is to use the native reputation manager that Ripoff Report provides. This service is called the “Ripoff Report Corporate Advocacy Business Remediation & Customer Satisfaction Program“, and it’s why Ripoff Report is often called extortionate.
Essentially, when a report is filed against your business, Ripoff Report gives you the option to pay them to deal with it. They will “verify” the review, and, if they find it’s inaccurate or false, will… not remove it. Instead, they edit the report to a positive text to reflect that you’ve paid them to do it. They edit your business listing to call you a Trusted Business, give you a badge you can use to showcase it and make your Google listing look a little better for it.
The downside here is that it’s extremely expensive. Pricing varies depending on the number of reports your business has but starts around $5,500. Some people are quoted $10,000 or higher! It’s extremely expensive for a service that only works once, and if you get more negative reviews, you have to pay again to get those changed. This is usually out of reach for your average small business.
Ripoff Report claims that to verify the dishonesty of some reviews, they will reach out to the people who left them, as well as visit your business for an on-site inspection, recommend changes to your business or processes, and hold you to those changes when you make them. There’s little evidence to suggest that they do any of this, as most people simply hire third-parties to remove these reviews.
Sites like Yelp and Trustpilot make an effort to verify and only publish legitimate reviews, positive or negative. Sites like Ripoff Report take the opposite philosophy, turning slander into a business opportunity. What other companies do as a matter of course, Ripoff Report charges for.
As you can probably guess, we don’t recommend this option unless you have a lot of money to burn. You can certainly pay them to edit your reviews into a positive listing, but this doesn’t address any problems, and can be reverted at any time with no recourse.
Option 4: Respond and Rebut Reviews
There are two schools of thought when it comes to rebutting reports on Ripoff Report. On one hand, if you respond, you have an opportunity for customer outreach. You can solve the problem, have the report edited to reflect a positive outcome, and convert an angry ex-customer into a more loyal follower of your brand.
On the other hand, you might trigger a feeding frenzy.
- The initial customer might not even be real and might respond to your rebuttal with more negative reviews, amplifying your negative results.
- Your response might legitimize the review in the first place.
- Others might see that you’re willing to respond and might jump on the chance to try to get a refund or a discount, or whatever else you’re offering.
Some say it’s a good idea to respond, while others call it akin to “cutting your own throat“. It’s up to you if this is a risk you want to take.
If you choose to rebut a review, do your due diligence. Investigate whether or not the review is accurate and real, and if it is, take steps to remedy the issue. If it’s not, provide evidence that no such issue or customer exists. You might also consider dropping the contact information or examples of positive reviews and testimonials, so anyone else reading the report can have a chance to perform their investigation.
Option 5: Consider Legal Action
Pursuing legal action is always an option, particularly in cases of actual false reports and slanderous information. It is, however, quite difficult, time-consuming, and may not result in the desired outcome that you had hoped for. For one thing, you have to navigate the legal system (or hire a lawyer to do it for you) and, most likely, take the actual legal battle to court.
For another, Ripoff Report doesn’t remove reports at a court order. Instead, they remove individual statements deemed defamatory, edit the report to reflect that a court order exists, and copy the text of the court order into the report. This can all be equally bad for some companies and can discourage real reviews, both positive and negative.
Additionally, Ripoff Report is picky about the kinds of court orders they accept. Defaults, in particular, are ignored, because they claim businesses sue a nonexistent defendant to get a default judgment, though evidence that this happens is slim as well.
At least Ripoff Report will remove reports when they seem to be attached to broad harassment or stalking campaigns and not a real review. They’re shady, but they aren’t completely immoral.
You can also attempt legal action that removes a result from Google’s search results, rather than from Ripoff Report itself. This has had some measured success in the past, though there’s evidence that Ripoff Report attempts to get around this and has reasonable success at doing so, so deindexation isn’t always a sure-fire solution.
Option 6: Just Ignore It
The final option you can pursue is to simply ignore it.
Ripoff Report was a big deal in the early 2000s, but these days, online shoppers tend to be more discriminating. Ripoff Report’s site design looks like something out of the early 2000s as well, which leads to some loss of credibility; if it can’t keep up with the times, how valid can it be?
Additionally, Google seems to have finally had enough. At the end of 2018, it seemed as though Ripoff Report was losing a lot of their Google ranking, along with many other sites in a similar vein. You can pick any recent report on Ripoff Reports and search for the business online, and you won’t see Ripoff Reports itself anywhere in the top pages of Google.
The truth is, Ripoff Reports matter the most to the people who already frequent the site. Anyone who doesn’t, probably won’t, and Google is past the point of allowing them to continue to swindle people. You can still strive to have your negative reports dealt with, but in our opinion, it’s likely better to focus on soliciting more positive reviews on sites that matter more.
You can feel free to reach out to us about your specific situation, however, and we’ll do our best to help you navigate this troubling occurrence. If you’re getting fake reviews that are causing your business harm, we can help you address them in the most effective way possible.
Have you had any issues with Ripoff Report? Were you unsuccessful at having your reviews removed? What has your experience been? Let us know in the comments and share with us!