Confessions of a Review Site Owner – Part II

Conspiracy theories, accusations and creating a sustainable business

Read Part I Here

Have you ever been offered cash for manipulating the reviews?

Surprisingly, to date, no brand has ever directly offered us payment for removing negative reviews, or posting positive ones.  On three occasions, we have had companies insinuate that they would be more likely to buy advertising if their reviews were better (to which we told them that’s not part of the deal).

Our theory is that nobody has straight up offered to pay cash for improved ratings because they know we’d immediately turn around and go public with their shady offer.  Which we absolutely would.

Have you been accused of accepting bribes or allowing fake reviews?

Absolutely – we’ve been accused of this many times.  In one brand’s angry, delusional, threatening demand letter, they stated they will sue us for extortion because we made up a fake, negative review and refused to remove it unless they paid for a sponsorship.  While none of this actually happened (the review was a real complaint from a real customer and we never remove reviews) it didn’t stop them from crying wolf.

Also, a few years ago, there was a diet pill that was getting great reviews – because it worked, really well.  It worked so well that it’s since been banned.  That didn’t stop a lot of skeptics to call us out as “in bed” with the manufacturer.  Many believed that we were secretly owned by that brand – which is another flat out lie.

What’s funny about these conspiracy theories is that as the site owner, I know 100% whether they are true or not.  I can put myself in the shoes of a skeptic and say “I absolutely see how this could be plausible” even though the theory is flat out incorrect. It’s actually led me to be more skeptical of conspiracy theories in my day-to-day life.

Isn’t a for-profit business?  What is stopping you from accepting bribes?

As businessman who wants to run a sustainable business, there’s two reasons I’d never accept a bribe from a brand that wants to buy their way to the top.

The first is that I’d completely lose the trust of our visitors, which is the only reason that we are successful in the first place.  Once word gets out that our rankings can be bought, we’d immediately lose everything we worked so hard to build, and I’d be left with basically nothing.

The second reason is that we’d lose our primary legal defense that protects us from all the companies who want to sue us to death.  We currently have a strict set of internal rules we follow, and that’s basically to never delete or change reviews ever.  By sticking to this, we apply our rules uniformly to everyone, and nobody gets “special treatment”.  If we start taking bribes and doing favors, we’re no longer are following our own rules and can’t call ourselves unbiased anymore.

Have you been sued?

We’ve been threatened with lawsuits many times to remove negative reviews, but no brand has ever actually filed a complaint.  Our theory is that when a brand consults with an actual attorney, they are explained how freedom of speech works and that they have no chance if this thing goes to court.  This still doesn’t stop them from sending angry, threatening letters.  To which we usually laugh and toss in the garbage can.

How can a brand get good ratings on (Or any other review site)?

Every niche has it’s own unique challenges, and every review site is constantly evolving to provide more accurate reviews and make it harder for the fakers to get away with it.  We suggest that you go with a long-term strategy that will continue to be rewarded by an ever-evolving review ecosystem.

  1. Create a quality product or service.  If you’re running something scammy, getting good reviews will always be an uphill battle.  You should be focused on running a sustainable business with repeat customers.
  2. Engage with your customers through reviews.  Put your ego aside and respond to them as a mature adult speaking to another mature adult.  Empathize with their grievances and use their experience as feedback on how to improve your business.
  3. Make customer satisfaction your number one priority.  Don’t just say it, actually do it.


Online reviews are changing the way that businesses operate.  Ten years ago, it was easy to scam customers and get away with it.  Today, it’s getting harder and harder operate a shady business.  Businesses are now competing more on quality of their products or service – which is good news for business owners who are passionate about their product or services and care about their user experience.

Tommy Noonan is the founder of, an unbiased review site dedicated to bringing honesty into an industry full of scams, spin and crazy marketing hype.