Fake reviews come in two flavors: positive and negative. But both can leave a sour taste in your mouth, and neither does anyone any good.
False-positive reviews can be used to help a company gain speed on selling platforms like Amazon, to increase potential traffic to physical locations through Yelp and Google, or to increase the star ratings of a specific product. These reviews are obtained by either paying a company to write blatantly false reviews or by providing incentives to actual buyers to leave a review. In the latter case, the buyers rarely use the products but are coached to leave specific information on the product and rate it 5-stars.
There are many ways that fake reviews affect the free market, says Steve Wyer of Third Coast Interactive, based in the Nashville, Tennessee area. First, these reviews have the power to alter buyer behavior. Around 90 percent of online buyers read reviews before making a purchase. The majority of these buyers base their choices, in part, on feedback provided by users. When this feedback is tampered with, buyers often wind up with a bad product or poor service.
Another way fake glowing reviews take a toll is the negative impact on sellers that have followed the rules. These “rule followers” get less attention, which is a shame because many are small businesses that provide a superior product or service over the mass-market sellers that buy their way into public favor. The health and beauty industry is one of the most affected by these bought reviews.
A third way that fake positive reviews hurt is that they can discredit the website where they are posted. Yelp is a great example here, acknowledging that about a quarter of reviews posted to the site are fake. All of these issues are problematic for shoppers and small business owners who would never resort to stealing the spotlight.
Reviews as a weapon
Just as concerning as reviews bought to inflate a company’s profits are those procured to cause harm. Both good and bad reviews can be used as a weapon against competitors. It happens all the time, from rival restaurateurs bashing each other on Yelp to unscrupulous sellers paying for fake positive reviews for their competitors on Amazon in an effort to have these accounts flagged and frozen.
But sometimes, the reviews take an even darker turn and begin to appear for no discernible reason. This scenario played out last year when millions of fake 4-star reviews showed up over a single weekend. The reviews targeted companies at random, leaving thousands of business owners scratching their heads. While this incident was handled quickly, it proved that hackers have the means to alter the way we see the world from our screens. Google and other search engines get better each year at filtering and blocking these reviews, but the people behind them also make progress.
Steven Wyer understands the frustration of the people impacted the most. His company helps businesses collect real reviews from real customers in real-time, and he’s been in the online reputation management game for more than a decade. Things are getting better, he says, but there’s a good chance that there will always be fake reviews out there, waiting to sway your decision-making dollars.
The best way to protect yourself from making an expensive mistake: don’t believe everything you read. If the reviews you find sound like a scripted commercial, they probably are.
Latest posts by Steven Wyer ( More about this Author )
- Marketing Through TripAdvisor? Don’t Offer Review Incentives April 16, 2020
- 7 Reasons Online Reviews Matter March 2, 2020
- Why Aren’t 4 Stars Enough? February 16, 2020
- Who’s Listening to Your Private Conversations? February 5, 2020
- Flip the Script: How to Combat Negative Reviews January 31, 2020
- Be the Star of Your Own Reviews December 18, 2019
- What Are Fake Reviews, and Why Should I Be Concerned? July 3, 2019
- FTC Strikes Blow to Fake Reviews, Amazon Shoppers (and Sellers) Will Benefit June 6, 2019
- FTC Targets Paid Reviews; Calls Out False Product Claims May 23, 2019
- Replies Made Easy Via Google Maps May 7, 2019