North West digital marketing agency New Age Media, accused yesterday of creating spam Google reviews to negatively mark down its competitors, has told The Drum that it has led to the agency being flooded with calls from potential clients, and has ‘contempt’ for other Manchester agencies.
The spamming was revealed in a tweet by @craftedpixelz, who said ‘So "New Age Media" appear to be going round giving all the Manc digital agencies 1 star ratings - pxlz.me/1q. Not cool.’
The messages appeared under that names Stephen and Peter, for founder Stephen Mizon and head of SEO Peter Wootton, but the agency has said that it was ‘a disgruntled employee pioneering a rather innovative negative PR campaign, involving the high jacking of competitor’s site reviews and leaving suggestive footprints trailing back to ourselves.’
However, a blog post by Technical Faults about the issue said: “any firm worth its salt would take responsibility and apologise rather than simply divert the blame. This hasn’t yet been done.
“This whole debacle is ridiculous and humiliating for New Age Media. If you’re trying to promote your brand, the last thing you do is slag off your competitors and then lie about it. The digital and creative industry in Manchester is a community that works together and talks to each other. And stuff like this gets found out quickly.”
Technical Faults also reported from his Google contact that the reviews have been marked as spam and the accounts blacklisted from reviewing ever again.
All New Media has released a statement on its website about the issue: “Understandable; some of the parties, are somewhat distressed at the negative ratings, left by this ex- employee, (whose name remains disclosed for legal reasons). But in a bold and rather brash move, we have got to laugh at how effective this kind of stunt is at bringing out the SEO trolls.
"All day on twitter, in amongst the constant sales calls, we’ve had nit-pickers, surfing along the wave of disgruntled competitors, trying to pick holes in our techniques, in a vain attempt to discredit our company and our ability to get the job done.
“Perhaps they feel threatened that a bigger bolder SEO company is on the horizon; one that is prepared to leave no stone unturned in order to get top results for their clients.
“Perhaps in reality these same trolls should feel a tad bit hypocritical; because supposedly it’s ok to manipulate companies reviews by rating your own company 5 out of 5; but as soon as someone else rates you (regardless of the motive) it’s then considered wrong, and “ahem” unethical.
“Isn’t that why rating systems are there, in the first place? For people to express their own opinions; it just so happens that our opinion of the vast majority of Manchester based agencies is of pure contempt, namely for the way they bullshit their customers, and make the SEO industry look bad for the rest of us. Of course, there are some exception.”
The post ended: “The simple fact is that you feel threatened, that someone could so easily dominate Google’s reviews system, in less than a day, and understandably you feel the need to respond.
“Now listen here, “the digital marketing agencies in Manchester”, you are not our friends, you are not our buddies, you are direct competition. We are here to stay; we are here to perform and we do not beat around the bush.
“Also, if we were going to manipulate Google site reviews to portray ourselves favourably, we wouldn’t be leaving Footprints…. Come on, we avoid leaving footprints on a massive scale every single day. That would be just a schoolboy error, and we’re not schoolboys.”
The response has not gone down well on Twitter, with @craftedpizels saying ‘The arrogance of the guys at @NewAgeMediaLtd amazes me. They begin the post blaming the ex-employee, then finish by slagging everyone off.’