How often do you check reviews before making a purchasing decision? A lot would be the correct guess for you and millions of other online shoppers. Almost everyone relies on reviews to influence their purchasing decisions online.
From Amazon to Google and many other trusted resources, fake reviews have become a virus that infects all trusted review sites.
Fake reviews have become a big problem for product websites and consumers. According to studies, at least 90% of internet shoppers check for reviews before engaging with a product or service online. From this number, at least 74% comprises consumers who have interacted with a fake review in the last year.
Here is everything consumers need to know about fake reviews and how to differentiate them from genuine ones.
Types of reviews
Generally, online product and service reviews can be either fake or real.Real reviews are from actual consumers who have interacted with online vendors and consumer products, thus using their experience to offer well-researched product recommendations to other consumers.
On the other hand, fake reviews are fraudulent reviews meant to drive traffic to a page or product. They are created by a retailer or ecommerce website to trick internet shoppers into making purchases on the site.
The main sources of fake reviews include business owners, vendors who sell reviews, employees, lying clients, ex-employees, and review clusters. Business owners using pseudo accounts are the most common types of fake reviews, followed by reviews from vendors.
Why fake reviews exist
To understand why the use of fake reviews is on the rise, you would need to assume the position of business owner. For your business to be up and running, you will need to invest countless hours and many resources, especially when you need to develop a new product or service, hoping to get a good return on your investment.
As your team works day and night to create brand and product visibility and convert visitors to customers, it only takes one negative review on your product for your whole operation to collapse.
When a brand receives a fake review, most people are inclined to comment on the negative review as they try to get more information about your business. Google algorithm sees the review as popular based on its traffic and thus sees it as more valuable.
Most businesses respond to negative reviews by creating fake positive reviews to counter and outrank the negative review. Most businesses use review vendors and employees to post positive reviews. With time, the google algorithm will pick on the positive reviews and see them as honest and trustworthy.
Fake reviews are created to make it easier for potential clients or consumers to accept a product or service. A competitor can also create them to smear the reputation of a competing brand to be able to outrank it on the google algorithm.
How to spot fake reviews
As fake reviews become sophisticated, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate fake reviews from real ones. However, there are several telltale signs that consumers can look for to spot fake reviews. These include:
- Typos and poor grammar
- Overly positive and generic
- Tens of reviews from the same person
- They lack the how, when, and why regarding the product
- Unverified purchase
- Fake profiles
Open portals and their contribution to fake reviews
Open portals are the most commonly used avenues for posting fake reviews.
These are online platforms where consumers can post feedback accessible to other consumers. These include portals such as Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor.
While most of these portals are ideal for getting truthful information on a product, place, or service, they are also commonly used for fake reviews mainly because guests do not need to verify whether they interacted with a product or service. Anyone can post a review on a product or service on these portals by registering on the site for an account.
The fake restaurant in London that ranked first on Trip Advisor gave the world a clear idea of how open portals can be used to peddle fake reviews. Such cases have made business owners more careful with reviews to safeguard their brand.
The most popular portals are doing more to reduce the chances of fake reviews on the sites. Here is how the most popular portals are helping to fight fake reviews.
Google My Business
Most businesses use Google My Business to create brand awareness and get more visibility online. Guest reviews appear next to the maps tab and Search, giving brands a good chance of edging out their competition. However, reviews can only be helpful when they are objective and honest.
While Google has availed clear guidelines on review writing, it still relies on its users to report inappropriate reviews and check for reviews violating the set guidelines. For every reported review, google conducts a thorough evaluation, after which it determines whether the review is to be removed.
Even with these guidelines, fake reviews cannot be prevented. Businesses on the platform are advised to check their reviews regularly to check for fake ones dragging their brand reputation down.
According to statistics, one out of seven reviews on TripAdvisor is fake.
After the fake London hotel saga, TripAdvisor reassured their fans of their review verification process. According to the report, TripAdvisor conducts thorough checks on all reviews to ensure they align with TripAdvisor policies.
“We have a team of reviewers who check reviews and their quality. On the website we use automatic filters that help to find reviews with questionable content and, moreover, the travelers of our large and passionate community keep an eye on our site.” – TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor also invites users and brands to report any suspicious or fake reviews through their help center.
Yelp is also an open consumer portal that has found itself amid fake review scandals. Through its Director of Local Business Outreach, Darnell Holloway, Yelp was forced to address the issue through the official blog, titled “Scam related to fake reviews and SEO foiled by Yelp.”
In the blog, Yelp accused some companies and brands of bribing users to cancel negative reviews in exchange for money. “If you ask how they keep these promises, the answer is simple: they cannot.” Said Darnell as he reaffirmed Yelp’s stand on fake reviews.
Yelp does not support user bribery and review manipulation and strongly works to fight fake reviews by advising users and brands to report any suspicious cases. They also encourage users to report any brands that contact them with bribery proposals for canceling negative reviews.
Facebook has grown to become an online community that unites users with brands. The upside of Facebook is that every review posted is associated with the reviewer’s profile. This way, the authenticity of a review can be determined by checking the profile of the reviewer. The downside of Facebook is the ability to create fake profiles.
Some fake profiles have been in existence for years, making it hard to determine if a user is an actual consumer or a fake reviewer. Most competing brands use fake social media profiles to attack competing brands. These profiles are also used to write positive reviews on a business to drive up page numbers.
Facebook has a long-standing policy over fake reviews. They can be deleted after analysis once they are reported. However, it is only possible to report and remove fake reviews with star ratings and at least one comment. It is impossible to successfully remove a review with no comments, even when it has a star rating.
Do Fake reviews matter?
The continued use of fake reviews shows that they influence consumer purchasing decisions. While positive reviews can help drive up sales, negative fake reviews are a nightmare for business owners.
At least 80% of consumers read fake reviews annually.
BrightLocal research estimated that 82% of consumers read fake reviews and 92% confirmed that they came across fake reviews, with the numbers being higher amongst consumers in the 18 to 34 – age bracket.
These volumes go to show how common fake reviews have become. This underscores the need to be extra vigilant and ensure all fake reviews are reported and removed. These numbers make it difficult for consumers to trust reviews.
While the ability of most young consumers to spot fake reviews is welcome, it poses significant issues to business owners. Because of the low level of trust young consumers have in reviews and brands in general, a business is charged with the uphill task of building trust with the consumer. Brands need to find a way to use other methods that do not involve reviews to influence consumer purchase decisions.
Review language can be used to prey on the consumer emotions
Most fake reviews come with multiple exclamation marks. While this may seem harmless on the surface, the use of multiple punctuation marks is commonly used in social media sites and messaging applications to show heightened emotions, which can be agitation or excitement.
Most consumers will be drawn to a review with elaborate grammar or syntax use since it is written in a style that speaks to the consumer.
Fake reviews are meant to appeal directly to the business
Fake review writers usually leave reviews containing words or phrases that directly address a company or brand. Words such as ‘go back to’, ‘bring back ‘, ‘please’, and ‘offer more’ can pose a problem when trying to manage a brand’s reputation as these phrases call them to respond to the review.
The frequency and response speed to reviews is a factor considered for SEO ranking. Even when left by a fake reviewer, brands are forced to respond to fake reviews to show genuine consumers that they take all reviews seriously.
Even with an increase in the use of fake reviews, the trust consumers have in online reviews has also grown over the years, showing that positive reviews play a role in the success of a business. Reviews are still important to SEO and sales, which is part of the reason fake reviews continue to grow in numbers as businesses fight for the best ranking on search results.
Based on the evidence above, there is an ongoing effort by consumer groups and government agencies to crack down on fake reviews to ensure fair play in businesses. The best way for any business to survive in the long haul is to generate reviews genuinely.