Is SurveySoftwareReviews.com a sham sponsored by Prezza Technologies to Promote Prezza Checkbox Survey Software?

It would appear that SurveySoftwareReviews.com is published — or at least sponsored by — Prezza Technologies to promote Prezza Checkbox Survey software using fake reviews of Checkbox and competitors.

I have a number of Google alerts set up to help me keep up to date with new research related stuff on the web. I was going through it today when I noticed a survey software review on a web site called “SurveySoftwareReviews.com” that I had never remembered seeing before. Upon visiting the site, it appeared to contain reviews of Perseus SurveySolutions 6, Prezza Technologies’ Checkbox Survey Server, classapps SelectSurvey ASP, SNAP Surveys, Apian SurveyPro, ConfirmIt, Inquisite, KeySurvey, Quask, Raosoft, SPSS and Vovici.

After spending a little time on the site though, something seemed fishy. So I did a little research. Here are my findings:

1) Prezza Checkbox is the only survey software system to receive an absolutely unblemished review. This in and of itself doesn’t prove anything. After all, SurveySoftwareReviews.com gives it a 9 out of 10 so you would expect that there must be a lot of good things to say. With such a high score it is no surprise that it even received the site’s “Editor’s Choice Award.” But what strikes me as a little odd is the fact that the reviewer couldn’t find anything wrong with Prezza Checkbox to balance out the review. Nothing. All of the other products that were reviewed had their issues — either with pricing, feature set, and/or usability. In fact, no other survey software system scored higher than a 7. Yet everything about Prezza Checkbox was perfect. Great features. Great price. Great service. Even the company has a great reputation. 9 out of 10. Wow!

3) SurveySoftwareReviews.com has all of the qualities of a fake web site.  A whois search for SurveySoftwareReviews.com doesn’t yield much direct information since all of the registration information has been hidden (which is wierd — you wouldn’t expect a real company to do that). All we can tell is that the site was established on February 16, 2006. But hold on — all of the articles on the web site claim to have been written in the spring of 2005? The review of Prezza was posted almost exactly one year before the site came into being. That’s odd. A few other hints that the site isn’t what it is cracked up to be: the only ad on the site isn’t part of a network — in fact, it is the same ad all the time. And it’s not for survey software. Another hint is that most of the reviews aren’t really reviews at all — they’re just pointer designed to give the impression that there are lots of reviews, when in fact there are not. The SPSS review doesn’t even contain a picture of survey software — just Text Analysis for Surveys. Note that both the “Recommendation” link and the “Editor’s Choice” link point to the Prezza Checkbox page.

2) The editor of SurveySoftwareReviews.com, Troy Martin, doesn’t appear to be a real person. Troy Martin is the editor and apparently the only writer for SurveySoftwareReviews.com. I’ve only been able to find one other reference to Troy Martin online and it is for a review posted on the ASP.NET resource index. Th review, which was posted on April 9, is for Prezza Checkbox Survey Software. Not surprisingly, it is his “Editor’s Choice.” Oddly, he hasn’t promoted any of his other reviews for survey software on the internet — only the Prezza review. He has done no other writing, maintains no other blogs, has no directory listings, and provides no information about himself anywhere I can find.

3.5) Every link on SurveySoftwareReviews.com points to Prezza Technologies landing pages: There are about half a dozen links on SurveySoftwareReviews.com that take you to the Prezza web site. None of the reviews of competitor products include links. Also, where the links point to on the Prezza website is extremely suspicious — they all point to landing pages (landing pages are pages explicitly set up by a company to be able to send a special message and/or track people coming from specific web sources). Landing pages with tracking codes, no less. This is something you would never see from a real review web site. Especially galling is the fact that on one of these landing pages Prezza actually refers to the high praise received by SurveySoftwareReviews.com as a reason to buy the product! (archived image of landing page here)

4) SurveySoftwareReviews.com is published by an SEO consultant who claims to have Prezza Technologies as a client. A search for surveysoftwarereviews.com in Google offers a curious result — one of the links points to a spreadsheet at Geocities (view a copy I archived) that lists the clients of an SEO consultant. His top two SEO projects? www.prezzatech.com and surveysoftwarereviews.com. Although the name of the consultant isn’t on the page, it is in a directory labeled “rishi3211us” which is the regular username of an SEO consultant in India named Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury. Saptarshi has a blog at http://www.blogger.com/profile/02459235224428823583 where he describes himself as an experienced SEO who is “proficient in website content writing and article writing” and who is presently doing “freelance SEO and Internet Business Consulting for various UK and US based clients.” Also on his web site is a link to the aforementioned spreadsheet of projects. One of the links on his other blog, http://freelancerindia.blogspot.com/, points to SurveySoftwareReview.com.

5) Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury is also Ray Smith, who also writes survey software review articles about how to use web content to drive traffic — and it includes a link to SurveySoftwareReviews.com. One of the links on Saptarshi’s blog points to a list of articles on ezinearticles.com that he had written. There is no question about the fact that he has written them because his picture appears at the bottom of all of them. Strangely, though, the name that appears at the top of the list of articles is not Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury, it’s “Roy Smith”. One of the articles written by Roy/Ray (and perhaps Troy?) is called “Choosing the Right Survey Software.” At the bottom of the article is a picture of Saptarshi, along with a link to SurveySoftwareReviews.com.

To sum up: Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury a.k.a. Ray Smith a.k.a. Troy Martin is an SEO consultant who says Prezza Technologies is a client of his. His web site SurveySoftwareReviews.com gives Prezza Checkbox Survey Software glowing reviews, and says everything else is a dud. Links on SurveySoftwareRevews.com only point to Prezza ad landing pages, indicating collusion between Prezza and this “independent” review site. Meanwhile, Prezza points to the fake review as reason people should buy its software.

Which leads me to believe that SurveySoftwareReviews.com is an SEO sham apparently sponsored by Prezza Technologies to drive people to buy their product.

These types of SEO tactics aren’t uncommon. Many desperate companies do things like this to drive business. Checkbox is good software, and it surprises me that Prezza needs to sink to posting fake negative reviews about competitors in order to get people to buy their product. It is especially unfortunate for customers who take the reviews on this site seriously and make purchasing decisions based on it.

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