Alleged Fake Reviews Draw the Ire of

Automotive News had an interesting article on the back page of this week’s issue about a Houston-area marketing company that was allegedly spamming dealer reviews:

Edmunds sued Humankind Design Ltd., an online reputation management company, last week in a Texas court, alleging the company attempted to post fraudulent reviews on the Edmunds site. Edmunds says the Houston-area company tried to register almost 2,200 fake members.

Edmunds, which is seeking damages and a cease-and-desist order, said it identified 25 dealers who hired Humankind to fill out reviews. It didn’t give those dealers’ names or locations.

I took a couple of minutes to dig into this story to see if I could learn anything.

First, I found an interesting bio for someone named “Colby Black,” who is said to be the “Vice President of Sales for Humankind Inc Reputation Management.” Here’s his bio, copied from a guest post on

The website that this bio appears on is interesting, as it seems to be an SEO blog owned and/or managed by Humankind Design. A bio of Justin Anderson found on the same site says that Justin (who is Colby’s boss) is the founder of

Interestingly enough, HKSEO is the company behind 4 notorious online marketing tools:

  •, which some would say is a blog comment spamming tool
  •, which is a tool some self-described “blackhat” SEO people use to make sure low quality pages are spidered by Google
  •, which is an unabashed private link network (something that Google strongly discourages)
  •, a tool that billed itself as “A Push Button Safe Tool that Posts Positive Reviews to Top Authority Sites on Auto-Pilot! is gone right now (the site doesn’t load), but the Internet Wayback Machine has a copy you can peruse here.

My guess – and this is merely the guess of an outsider who has absolutely nothing invested in this case, nor any reason to care other than pure journalistic curiosity – is that Humankind Design, a.k.a HKSEO, used their automated positive review posting tool to blast’s review system.

Only I suppose we’ll have to wait for a judge to know for sure.

In any case, there are two things we can all learn from this particular incident, regardless of outcome:

#1: Do you know what your marketing company is doing on your behalf? If not, now would be a good time to ask for a run-through.

#2: Beware automated marketing. In my experience, automated tools always disappoint.