What’s All the Fuss about Fake Online Reviews?

Fake online reviews have gained a massive traction online for the last couple of months. Last year in September, the State of New York set aside resources to crack down on fake online reviews. Recently, ABC reported that Samsung was slapped with a $340,300 by Taiwan’s FTC for hiring bloggers to positively review their products and paint a negative image of HTCs.

So, what’s the Impact of Fake Online Reviews?

Consumers make purchasing decisions based on the online reviews posted by other customers. However, are these reviews trustworthy? Are they credible?

One of the main concerns with free online review sites is that anyone who has access to the internet, an email address, and ten minutes can create an account and submit product or service reviews even if they have never used them before. Despite the fact that most of these sites have put in place filters, the verification process is still riddled with loopholes that can be exploited to post fake reviews.

Reasons Why Businesses Write Fake Online Reviews

More Positive Reviews = Higher Ranking

This is true for online yellow pages sites, search engines, e-commerce sites and review sites. For example, the number and quality of Google reviews that your business has garnered so far have a direct impact on its ranking on SERPs.

To Compete and Hurt Competitors

This may sound immature, but it is a cause for concern at both corporate and local level. There are companies whose main motivation for posting fake positive or negative reviews is to tarnish the credibility of their competitors. As mentioned earlier, Samsung was fined for paying bloggers to tarnish the reputation of HTC.

Improve Image and Perception

Excellent reviews will improve a brands image and perception in the market. As a result, more customers are likely to purchase the advertised product/service.

Diffuse Legitimate Negative Reviews

Businesses know the impact a legitimate negative review can have on their sales. To cover it up, they use fake positive reviews. Doing so makes the negative review appear like an isolated case that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Why Not Write Fake Reviews

Businesses get frustrated when they see their competitors benefit from fake reviews. Here is why you should not write fake reviews.

  1. You mislead customers: Fake reviews will mislead consumers, and this is the main reason why companies that are found guilty of using this vice are fined heavily. You can expect this kind of lawsuits to become more frequent in the coming months and years.
  2. Short-term solutions: The reviews may help you to get sales, but when you get caught you will lose your current ranking on search engines as well as clientele base on the ground. It will also be difficult to bounce back and regain your credibility and reputation.

Tips on How to Identify Fake Reviews

The following tips apply to both consumers and businesses. When looking to purchase a product online, they will help you to know if a particular review is legit or not thereby helping you to make an informed decision.

Tip 1: Cluttered Reviews

Take a look at the dates when the reviews were posted. For example, a company has been operating for ten years and has 5-star rating after 30 reviews. If you notice that for eight years, the business has only garnered three reviews but in the past three months they have managed to receive 27 5-star reviews, the chances are that the recent reviews are fake. Another example is a list of positive reviews after a negative review.

Tip 2: All Customers Say Had Perfect Experience

Multiple five stars raise a flag especially almost every review speaks of a flawless and impeccable experience.

Tip 3: Consistent Writing Style

Most companies are not willing to hire multiple reviewers to write and post the reviews. As a result, you will notice that all the reviews have the same writing style. For example, use of the same phrases such as “highly recommend” “best experience.”

Tip 4: Check the Reviewer’s Profile

Most reviews sites require users to create a profile. If you click on the profile and only see one review or only positive or negative reviews, the chances are that the profile not legitimate. Fake profiles also don’t have any personal information.

Tip 5: Unusually Long and Too Specific Reviews

Legitimate reviews are usually only a few sentences long and straight to the point. Overly detailed and lengthy reviews that contain industry jargons are some of the telltale signs of a fake review. For example, a review of a construction company that explains the processes in detail is possibly not legit.

What Actions to Take if You Receive a Fake Review

If you suspect that one your ex-employees, competitors, or customers posted a fake review of your product, business, or service, there are certain steps that you can take to salvage the situation.

  • Contact the review site directly and request them to delete the review
  • Visit the site where the review is posted and click on the “flag” or “report” button
  • If the fake review contravenes state and federal laws, contact an attorney to discuss the various legal options available

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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