There’s no doubt that online reviews can make or break a company. Whether you’re just starting or you want to give your business a much-needed boost, the opinions of your potential customers can be instrumental in helping you grow.
That’s why so many businesses go to great lengths to leave a positive impression on their clients and increase their review count. But as it turns out, some companies take this to an entirely new level by hiring fake reviewers – and it is becoming more and more common.
So what exactly are fake reviews? How do you spot them? And what should you do if you discover that someone has left false comments about your business? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this growing problem – and how you can avoid falling victim to it.
What Are Fake Online Reviews?
Fake reviews refer to fraudulent comments that are posted on websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google. These comments are usually written to increase sales or enhance a business reputation. They can be written by anyone: employees, competitors, or even hired third-party companies.
Fake reviews have been around for a long time, but the practice has become much more common in recent years. This is large since more and more people are turning to the internet for their shopping and services needs. This means that there are more websites on which businesses can leave reviews.
And as more businesses rely on these websites to generate sales, they are also increasing their efforts to leave positive reviews on these sites. Unfortunately, this has led to an increase in fraudulent activity. Companies that leave fake reviews often use deceptive practices to avoid detection.
The Emergence of Fake Online Reviews
It’s no secret that plenty of companies have been caught falsifying reviews. What isn’t so clear is how this started happening in the first place. Experts believe that the earliest instances of fake reviews date back to 2007 – when Amazon allowed businesses to start selling their products directly on the platform.
A lot of sellers were getting their inventory from China and had a hard time getting reviews from American buyers. So they started buying their products and leaving glowing reviews on their own Amazon pages. The fact that many people choose to leave fake reviews for money is quite logical.
Amazon has even gone to the extent of suing a website that charged as much as $80 per review. It seems like they’re not the only ones taking this very seriously. In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of fake reviews popping up on all sorts of websites. From the likes of Yelp and TripAdvisor to your local business directory, the number of fraudulent comments has risen alarmingly.
Who Makes Fake Online Reviews?
If you have a small business, chances are you’re the one writing all of your reviews. If so, it’s important to understand that you can’t use your account to leave reviews for your products and services.
The reason for this is simple – customer reviews are supposed to be unbiased. If you leave a glowing review for your products, it’s obvious that you’re not being sincere. If you do own a business, there are many ways to get around this and leave a review for your product.
You can create a new email and sign up for an account using that address, or you can use an app like Disqus to post your comments without leaving a trace.
Family members may be happy to help you out, but they shouldn’t be leaving glowing reviews about your products and services. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that it’s against the law.
This applies to any reviews that you leave for your relatives, as well as the things that they say about your business. Technically, this is a violation of the FTC’s rules.
This means that if any of your family members (even your spouse) leave a fraudulent review, you could face serious legal consequences. Although this is rare and seldom enforced, it’s still a serious problem.
A customer would rarely leave a fraudulent review of their own volition. More often than not, they are either too embarrassed or simply don’t know that they’re breaking the law. That said, some fraudulent reviews are malicious.
If you’re running a small business and you receive a negative review, don’t panic. There’s a good chance that you can get rid of this once you report it and prove that it has no merit. The tricky part is that you have to do this before other people see the review.
If a fake review stays up long enough, it can have a real impact on your business. This is particularly true if it’s on a site like Yelp, where people are used to trusting the reviews on the first page.
If you run a small business, there’s a good chance that your competitors would love to take you down a few pegs. While competitors will often try to sabotage your company by leaving false reviews, this isn’t always an easy task.
You see, most review sites are now cracking down on malicious reviews. This means that you can get your competitors’ false comments removed with relative ease – as long as you know how to go about it.
If you suspect that your competitors are the ones leaving the fraudulent comments, you can report them to the site’s support team. Yelp, for example, has an entire page devoted to dealing with this problem.
How To Spot Fake Online Reviews?
The sad truth is that it can be very hard to spot fake reviews. Even if you’re diligent about reading reviews, there are a few telltale signs that can help you identify suspicious comments:
Reviewer’s Name Sounds Fake
If you’re looking for a more direct way to spot fake reviews, you can search for the reviewer’s name on a reverse image search. In some cases, you may be able to find out exactly who wrote the review – and whether or not they were being honest when they published it.
If the reviewer’s name appears to be fake, you can always try to reach out to the company to notify them that their product is being shilled by fraudulent people. If the company is legitimate, they should be able to remove the fake reviews for you.
As an added measure against fake reviews, you can try asking your clients to leave you reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and Amazon. While it’s not uncommon for businesses to ask their customers for reviews, it’s far less common for a fake reviewer to leave a comment for your legitimate clients.
As we’ve already discussed, unverified reviewers are likely to be false reviews. But how do you go about verifying your reviews? Well, on sites like Yelp, Google, and Amazon, you can verify your business’s reviews if you have their email address.
This way, only your legitimate customers will be able to leave reviews for your company – and they’ll be verified. If you don’t yet have an online presence, you can also try asking your customers to leave you reviews on social media.
This might not be as reliable as an actual review site, but it will still help you to get a better sense of your clientele’s feelings towards your business.
Extremely Positive Review
If a review is extremely positive, it may be a fake review. You don’t want all of your reviews to be negative – but if you have too many extremely positive reviews, they could be harmful to your reputation.
Extremely positive reviews can make your business look like a product of hype, leading consumers to distrust your other reviews. As with everything else, moderation is key. Make sure your positive reviews are balanced with a few negative ones to keep things real.
Extremely Negative Review
On the other hand, extremely negative reviews can be just as problematic as extremely positive ones. An overly negative review can make your company look incompetent, and it can also damage your reputation.
When extreme negative reviews go unanswered, they can also make customers think you don’t care. So if you come across an extremely negative review on your page, it’s best to respond to it as soon as possible. Let the customer know that you’re working hard to improve your product and that their review has been taken into consideration.
You can also try to reach out to the reviewer and ask them to take down their negative review. If they agree, likely, they aren’t trying to maliciously hurt your business.
Unfortunately, these signs aren’t foolproof. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to report fraudulent reviews and take every complaint seriously. If you see a review that you suspect is fake, you should report it to the website hosting the review and make your case for it being removed.
What to Do if You Find Fake Reviews?
First and foremost, you should report the fake reviews to the website hosting them. If you’ve been the victim of paid review fraud, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Remember that it’s important to have proof that the reviews are fraudulent before you make your report. This will make it much easier for your complaint to be taken seriously. Start by asking your customers to leave honest reviews. You can also try to engage with your clients on social media to get their feedback.
Remember that you should take every complaint seriously and address them as quickly as possible. If a customer has a complaint, they want a quick and easy solution – and they don’t want to feel like their complaint was ignored.
Fake reviews are a serious issue that is increasingly damaging the reputation of online reviews as a whole. While it can be hard to spot these fraudulent comments, it’s important to do everything you can to protect your business.
That means being diligent about reading reviews and taking action whenever you suspect that someone has left false comments about your products or services. If you have reason to believe that a review is false, there are a few things you can do to combat the issue.
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