As an online consumer, we all at some point look over a business’ review history before deciding to complete an order for products or services. You may notice that sometimes the reviews seem either too positive or negative. For example, Amazon has an average 2.2 star rating on TrustPilot. Yet, as one of the largest e-commerce providers in the world, they usually provide a satisfactory service well above a measly 2.2 stars. Conversely, you may come across relatively unknown businesses with a brief trading history that have hundreds or thousands of mostly positive reviews. So, it can be difficult to ascertain authentic customer experiences by reading these reviews, especially with the existence of fake reviews that are hard to identify. The reality is not all businesses play fair. Gaming customer mindsets with fake reviews, however unethical, is here to stay given the value they provide in gaining consumer trust.
Why do businesses get fake reviews?
Businesses get fake reviews for primarily two reasons:
Rankings – Positive reviews increase the ranking of listings displayed on Google, other search engines, as well as on marketplace websites such as Amazon. The listing on search engines is usually accompanied with a star rating based on the business reviews. The higher the star rating, the more likely search engine users are to click on the listing. Thus, there is high value in boosting these rankings to drive more clicks, which turn into sales.
Trust – Businesses can use fake reviews to gain user trust by the number of positive reviews for a given product or service. The third reason for getting fake reviews is to highlight features or other benefits of the business’ product. Fake reviews often refer to features that the maker or manufacturer deems as a benefit which may or may not be considered beneficial to genuine users.
How can I get fake business reviews?
There are numerous service providers that help businesses generate fake reviews. These providers generate fake reviews on really any website that accepts reviews such as TrustPilot, Feefo, Google Business and others. Generating a fake review entails using bots or instructing a number of human users to leave a review about a business or product. These users access the review site using proxy IPs, fake names and email addresses and spread their reviews out over a period of time to make them seem genuine. It is often difficult for review sites to identify fake reviews, especially If they are mixed in with genuine positive or negative reviews.
How do Amazon Sellers get fake reviews? On Amazon, businesses use fake customer accounts to place orders and send out products for free to random addresses. The business can then control the review process and give themselves a fake five star review once the item has been delivered. This allows the business to boost their rankings for their product on Amazon. The higher the product rating the more likely Amazon is to list the product above competitors.
How can I determine if a business review is fake?
You can identify fake reviews by using a number of different methods. There are tools available, such as Fakespot, that can detect the existence of fake reviews on a review page. However, aside from using tools to identify fakes, you can use some good old fashioned detective work.
A) Multiple reviews left by users using the same name or similar profile imagery. This is an obvious giveaway. Reviews left by people with similar names and profile imagery indicates an amateur level of sophistication. However, these are easy ones to spot.
B) Multiple reviews that have highly similar wording but with words swapped around. These types of reviews are often rewritten through the use of bots or content spinners. They contain the same sentence structures with synonyms being swapped in for various words. Lastly, they have usually express the same level of sentiment.
C) Concentrated burst of reviews that are similar and occur within a set period of time, usually one month or one week. The periods before and after this burst are drastically different in terms of volume, average review ratings and review content.
D) Most of the business’ reviews are left by users with little to no feedback history. Bots creating fake reviews often generate profiles on demand when needed for a new fake review campaign . Genuine business profile review pages have a mix of reviews left by users with varying amounts of feedback history.
E) Overly positive reviews that contain short and often generic statements, or have content that has nothing to do with the business. Many customers keep their reviews to a minimum to appease the business owners. Yet, fake reviews don’t usually specify a product, or individual at the business. They are usually very generic and seem irrelevant to the business.
What are possible repercussions of getting fake reviews?
Getting caught out for obtaining fake reviews can get your business or product moved down in rankings. This holds true on marketplace websites such as Amazon as well as on search engines such as Google. Manipulating positive reviews can be considered a way of gaming ranking algorithms. Courting a large number of fake reviews may be considered as grounds for an algorithmic penalty in rankings. As a result, your site may drop in rankings. This may end up reducing the number of visitors you get organically. Furthermore, this can cause you an embarrassing public relations situation should your business get caught harvesting fake reviews. Your customer base may then feel mislead and seek recourse or terminate their relationship with your business.
In a nutshell, don’t start playing the game of getting fake reviews just because your competitors do.
What can your business do as an alternative?
If you see competitors racking up loads of positive fake reviews, stick to the high road. There are ways of playing fair and getting ahead rather than compromising ethics.
You can build your business review profile by requesting ‘manual’ reviews. Manual reviews entail you sending emails requesting reviews only to customers who have had a positive experience with your business. This allows you target only a subset of happy and genuine customers to provide you with a review. You can direct these users to your preferred platform for gathering reviews, be it Google, Amazon or TrustPilot. This is the best way of building up your reviews when starting out. It also helps you understand what you’re doing right when a customer experience is positive. You can then take these learning’s and apply them to your processes. This will help you to reduce the likelihood of creating customer experiences which lead to negative or no reviews.
Fake business reviews are misleading for consumers and have the potential to hurt businesses in the long term. Although your competitors may engage in dubious behaviour and rely on fake reviews to gain customer trust, you shouldn’t feel obliged for your business to follow. In the near future there will be more tools available to consumers as well as platform policing over the quality of the reviews left by bots or fake reviewers. Thus, best not to take part in the practice of fake reviews and focus on building positive customer experiences so your business gets genuine positive reviews.