7 easy steps to spot fake reviews

7 easy steps to spot fake reviews

Why some business representatives think that trashing the competition is the quickest way to the top is beyond us here at Trackur, but more and more are doing it online every day.  Whether it be review sites, blogs, or even Facebook – it seems that no one is safe from the fake reviews or comments these days.

Let me be frank here for a moment.  This does NOT work.  No matter how sneaky/tricky/brilliant you think you are with your made-up review or comment, you’re not fooling many, if anyone.  Did you know that website owners can look up your IP address to see where your post is coming from?  You may think this is a good way to get a leg up on your competition, but really, it’s just making you look foolish.  Even if you get away with it for a while, when word gets out, you’ll just look silly at best.  Worst case scenario, you (and possibly your business) will be banned from the site that you’re posting to.

Let’s just all agree to stop doing this, alright?

I promise, going to your boss and having to explain that the reason your hotel is no longer listed on a popular travel site is because you logged in from work and posted fake negative reviews about your competition having a bed bug outbreak is not going to do you or your business any favors.  Posting numerous glowing reviews filled with marketing-speak (panoramic views! well-appointed guest accommodations! luxurious linens!) in favor of your brand is also not working, so just stop, okay?

Have you ever heard the saying “Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it”? This is a far better philosophy to follow than trying to undermine your competition.  In fact, if your competition is running their business this way, and you do try to trash them online, guess who ends up looking bad?  Hint: not them.

According to technology research firm Gartner, an estimated 10-15% of online reviews will be fake or paid for by 2014.  So, as a consumer, how do you pick out the real from the fabricated?  Here are a few tips:

  • Pay Attention – As a consumer or a site owner, take notice of someone posting multiple reviews in a short amount of time, especially if they’re obviously favorable or negative towards a specific product or business.  For site owners, take a look at where a review is coming from.  The same town as your client’s hotel?  This may be a competitor, not a past guest.
  • Look At The Date – If a review is published before the product being reviewed is released, it is likely not authentic.
  • Check Out Other Reviews – On sites like Amazon, Yelp or TripAdvisor, take a look at the user’s profile and read other reviews that they’ve posted.  If their only reviews are praise for one particular place or product, or complaints about a particular place or product, they’re likely untrue.
  • Be Cautious of Black and White – If a review is all positive or all negative, take a good look at what it says.  Often, especially with consumer products, people will find pros and cons in just about anything.  If the review is filled with nothing but glowing praise or complete hatred, it may be worth a closer look.
  • Look At The Lingo – Keep an eye out for industry-specific terms that the average reviewer would not likely use.  Most restaurant guests are not going to mention “delectable cuisine” when talking about their favorite restaurant.
  • Watch Out For Customerjacking – We’ve all seen the “I tried this product, hated it, and promptly bought the {insert competitor product here} and I LOVE it! Go buy it here now for 20% off!” review.  Does anyone fall for this?  This also goes for reviewers who leave a link to their own site in their review.  Instant credibility loss, horrible link-building tactic.
  • Watch Out For The Crazies – Whether they write in all caps, use terrible grammar, swear frequently, or put seven exclamation points at the end of every sentence (or right smack in the middle for extra emphasis!!!!!!!) it is very hard to take these reviews seriously, let alone view them as credible.  Legit or not, you likely won’t buy what they’re selling.

With all of the review fraud out there, is it even worth checking out online reviews?  Fortunately, the answer is yes.  Many sites are working on cracking down on fraudulent reviews, due to the importance of legitimate reviews for local and online businesses.   Sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor continue to work on their fraud detection, even allowing other reviewers and businesses to submit questionable reviews to be moderated.  Yelp currently claims that a whopping 20% of reviews that are submitted to them are never published due to reviews not meeting their content guidelines. What does this mean for your business?  Great things if you’re running your business properly.  Especially if your competition is not.

The well-run, honest business that is looking out for its customers is always going to come out ahead in the long run, so keep up the good work!

Have you been the victim of an attack from a not-so-reputable business? Check out our tips on reputation damage control.

5 Comments for “7 easy steps to spot fake reviews”
  1. This is great advice, Erin. MANY niches deal with fake reviews, I’d say hospitality is one of the biggies. I’d also add a tip. While having a computer and inviting guests to leave reviews from your lobby or receptionist desk front counter SOUNDS like a great idea, that computer is likely posting reviews as the same IP address as the computer you manage your listing from…..so they’re going to look fake to the review site administrators. This tactic CAN work if done correctly, but you have to be aware that IP addresses and geolocating where reviews come from are a few ways review site admins weed out fakes and suspend “cheaters.”

    A better tactic is to send a follow up email to guests/customers asking for a review a few days after they check out. You can give links directly to the site where you’re looking to build reviews, and the reviews are much more likely to “stick.”

    Great article!!

  2. Agree, if the business is in Colorado, let’s say, then the review should also be from Colorado. Fake reviews can also come with exaggerated, unbelievable claims/stories, so let’s watch out for those. Yelp, on the other hand, is indeed filtering out those reviews that don’t meet their guidelines.

  3. customers to leave reviews on at your workplace (a kiosk) sounds like a
    great idea, but both Yelp and Google have come out and said it isn’t
    allowed. Incoming IP addresses!!

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