When you open your business to the public, you have to deal with criticism and feedback. People will not hesitate to give their honest opinion about your business; the good and the bad ones. With so much content online, a single review can influence your reputation as well as your sales. 

As such, it’s important that you take every review seriously and either improve or correct quickly based on the comments from customers. Since customers can post reviews about businesses on almost any website, identifying if an online review is fake or not isn’t easy. 

After all, there are plenty of people out there who want to hurt small businesses with false information and reviews. Even when a review seems like it could be fake, some points can help you identify if an online review is real or not.

The Rise of Online Reviews

The first online review was posted in 1995, on the internet service provider, The Well. From there, online reviews have grown and are now common on websites like Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor. 

Depending on the study you read, online reviews are now responsible for around 50% of purchasing decisions. And, they are more trusted than traditional media. 84% of people say they trust online reviews as much as or more than reviews in newspapers or TV.

Bad News: Fake Online Reviews

As much as fake reviews have become a problem for businesses, they have also become a problem for consumers. Around half of the consumers have read false reviews and around a third have written false reviews themselves. With so many people writing false reviews, it’s become even more important to be able to identify fake reviews. 

The most important thing to remember is that fake reviews don’t just hurt businesses. They hurt the customers too. If a business has great service and products but has fake bad reviews, it will lose sight of its real weaknesses. 

Moreover, a business with fake positive reviews will lose trust and credibility with customers as well. This is why it’s so important to spot fake reviews to hold businesses accountable and protect customers.

Types of Fake Online Reviews

There are three main types of fake online reviews. These types include: 

Brushed Reviews

Brushed reviews are reviews that have been written by an employee of your company or an employee at a business that competes with your business. Brushed reviews are one of the most common types of fake reviews. This can be problematic for several reasons. 

First, consumers are going to be wary of your company if you have brushed reviews. Second, if you have brushed reviews, other businesses will also have brushed reviews. This can make it difficult to identify fake reviews. Brushed reviews are also easy to spot. Look for reviews that have the same wording or that have the same writing style. 

Finally, brushed reviews are illegal. If you are caught writing brushed reviews for your business or another business, you could face serious legal consequences. 

Purchased Reviews

Another common type of fake review is purchased reviews. This is when someone pays a third party to write a positive review for their business. For example, a business has three positive reviews and two negative reviews.

If they want positive reviews to outweigh the negative reviews, they could pay someone to write a positive review and post it on their behalf. 

Biased Reviews

The last and most obvious type of fake review is the biased review. This is when someone writes a positive review for a business they’ve never visited. For example, they read your positive review and click on your website. To add their two cents, they write a fake review praising your business.

Importance of Online Reviews

Many people may not care about online reviews. They may not care if someone is writing fake reviews about their business. However, online reviews are important for your business. They can make or break your reputation as a business. 

A single positive review can increase your conversion rate by 18%. And, a single negative review can cut your conversion rate by 9%. This is true for all businesses, from restaurants to mechanics. 

Customers have many options when it comes to where to spend their money. If you have a bad reputation, your sales will suffer. However, if you have a good reputation, customers will be more likely to choose you over your competitors.

Points to Consider

Check for Grammatical Errors

Even if a review sounds negative and detailed, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from a real customer. False reviews can be professionally written and sound like the writer is upset about the experience. 

As such, you can check the review for grammatical errors. If the review is in perfect grammar and written in a professional tone, then it’s likely not written by a customer. This doesn’t mean that it’s a fake review, but it can be a sign that someone is just trying to hurt your business. 

Grammatical errors can also indicate that a review is fake as well. If a review has tons of mistakes, then it’s not likely written by a customer.

Check the Reviewer’s History

Another way to determine if a review is real or not is to check the person’s history on the website. Most websites will allow you to see the customers who left reviews for your business. 

If the same person has written positive reviews for many different businesses, then it’s likely that the person is a customer. However, if the person has left several negative reviews, then the review may be fake. 

This method is best used in conjunction with checking the review for grammatical errors. If the same person has left multiple reviews with mistakes, then you can reconsider if the review is real or not.

Check User Behaviour

Some online review websites will allow you to look at the user behavior when reviewing. For example, you can look at what device and operating system the person used to leave the comment. 

This can help eliminate the possible fake reviews since some fake accounts are created from a single device. Behavior can also help you determine if a review is fake. 

A person leaving a negative review after visiting your website but not purchasing anything is likely fake. On the other hand, a person who bought from your store and left a review on a different device is likely real.

Check If It’s a Company Review

Although you want to be open to your customers and encourage feedback, you should be careful about company reviews. Some businesses leave reviews for companies they’ve never worked with. 

As such, you need to be cautious about the reviews you believe. Most companies will have the review with their logo and a link to the website. As such, you can easily identify if the review is from a company or not. 

Most of the time, a company review will be overly positive with no substance. If the review isn’t from a customer, then it may be a fake review.

Look at the Timing of the Review

A negative review posted immediately after your store changes pricing is probably fake. However, if the review is posted several weeks or months after the pricing change, then it’s more likely real. If a review is posted immediately after you make a change, then it may be fake. 

Especially if the review has no substance or doesn’t contain details about the change. A review written when a change has already happened is more likely real. This is also true for reviews that are written a few weeks or months after a change. However, a review written a year after a change has happened is likely fake.

See if There Are Other Reviews

If multiple reviews are negative, then they may be all fake. However, if you have a mix of positive and negative reviews, then it’s likely that they are all real. 

Someone may attempt to hurt your business with a single fake review. As such, a person may leave multiple fake reviews to try to get your overall feedback percentage to go down.

Final Words

An online review can make or break your business. As such, you need to be careful about false reviews, especially if they are all negative. With the tips above, you can identify if an online review is fake or not.

If you suspect a review is fake, there are ways to do your homework. Alternatively, you can also check the reviewer’s IP address, read their other reviews, check their website, and use Google’s reverse image search. You don’t want to accuse a customer of writing a fake review. Nor do you want to ignore fake reviews. Instead, you want to be able to spot fake reviews and either repair your reputation or ignore the false information.

If you want to improve your business, you need to listen to your customers. The best way to do this is by encouraging your customers to leave reviews for your business. When you take the time to read and respond to customer reviews, you’re more likely to turn dissatisfied customers into satisfied customers.

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The Emergence Of Fake Online Reviews: What You Need to Know