How to combat fake online reviews?

Explore the internet for long enough and you’ll inevitably come across a blatantly fake review of any kind. Whether it’s an app review on Google Playstore or a product review on Amazon, and whether it’s positive or negative, it’s just one of many. Now, as a site visitor, you might shrug it off, but as a business owner, such reviews can cost you dearly. We here at Digital Dot have had many clients with this issue before, and it only seems to worsen over time. Thus, let us explore how to combat fake online reviews, from understanding their types to identifying and reporting them.

The growing problem of fake online reviews

Initially, let us explore why fake reviews are indeed a notable problem.

Most digital marketers, web design companies, and business owners will agree that reviews carry tremendous power. That’s why many strategies hinge on prominently featuring or otherwise promoting reviews; they offer social proof that informs buyers’ decisions. Indeed, data clearly illustrates this; consider, for example, Dimension Search’s study, cited by GMRWebTeam:

Survey results on the effect of reviews on buying decisions.

Brightlocal’s surveys paint a very similar picture as well. Put simply, people do read and trust the reviews and experiences of other people. Whether it’s for local businesses or online retailers, this psychological reflex applies universally.

However, fake online reviews are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Many are not, by all means, but online users are now finding them increasingly hard to identify. For example, consider the following Google Survey cited by PCMag:

Survey answers to the question "how confidently can you detect fake Amazon product reviews?"

Combine the two, then, and you reach a grim conclusion. Customers are heavily influenced by reviews, and they’re finding it harder and harder to spot fake ones. Thus, any given fake review campaign can have a substantial impact on your revenue – and that’s before considering legal woes.

Types of fake online reviews

That said, fake reviews can come in quite different forms. The 3 most common types of fake online reviews are the following:

  • Positive fake reviews. This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common type of fake review; business owners using review farms to their benefit. This practice you should steer clear from, as it presents the risk of platform suspensions, penalties, and even legal action. Most importantly, however, it can irreparably ruin your reputation with customers, sabotaging all your brand-building strategies.
  • Negative fake reviews. Another common type, this practice uses review farms in the opposite way; harming the competition. As we’ve covered above, this type of attack can seriously harm your reputation and revenue, so you should react swiftly.
  • Troll reviews and coordinated campaigns. Finally, these are less common, but also far less predictable. Usually, individual trolls and malicious internet users will act alone or in small groups and do so for amusement. However, communities and groups may rally behind any given cause, like political objections, customer displeasure, and so forth, and organize. Consider Rotten Tomatoes and Google Playstore review-bombing as notable examples of this type.

Identifying and monitoring fake online reviews

Types aside, to combat fake online reviews you will need to identify them reliably – as mislabeling genuine reviews can also discourage customers. Dealing with negative customer reviews can certainly pose challenges, but it is indeed a different front to address.

Some of the most common signs and attributes of fake reviews are:

  • Overgeneralization. Instead of focusing on a specific experience, the review remains vague.
  • Excessive use of verbs. While not exclusive to fake reviews, this trait is very common to them.
  • No prior user review history. Many fake profiles will only feature a handful of recent reviews or none at all.
  • Identical reviews. Similarly, fake customer profiles will copy-paste the same review across products and pages.
  • Location or name mismatch. Because of the above, fake reviews may also not match your business location or name.

For a blatant example of review mismatches, consider the following by Whitespark, as shared by Digital Marketing Institute:

A vague, fake product review about furniture left for a marketing company.

Combating fake online reviews

Should you run an eCommerce store, you may consider specific tools to help you combat fake online reviews. 3 among the most notable ones are the following.

Fakespot

Fakespot does market itself somewhat aggressively, or at the very least bluntly, as it launched “because Amazon allows their own customers to get ripped off”. Nonetheless, it offers an excellent tool to help combat fake online reviews across many online shopping sites, including eBay. At the time of writing, it offers browser extensions for Chrome and Mozilla, as well as apps for Android and iOS.

ReviewMeta

Unlike Fakespot, ReviewMeta exclusively focuses on Amazon. Still, it too offers a powerful, free, browser-based fake review detection tool. To use it, you may simply paste a product page’s URL into its search bar and it will handle the rest.

TheReviewIndex

Similarly, TheReviewIndex offers a functionally identical fake review detection tool.  To use it, you just need to paste the URL of a product you suspect is receiving fake reviews. Just like ReviewMeta, it too is browser-based and free.

Reporting online fake reviews

Should you be receiving fake reviews on other platforms, the process of reporting them will somewhat vary among them. Here, we may address 3 among the largest platforms and their processes.

Yelp

To report a fake review on Yelp, it will need to have violated Yelp’s content guidelines. For this to apply, it will either need to

  1. constitute a “conflict of interest” as per content guidelines, or
  2. be inaccurate or not a personal experience, as per review guidelines.

Fortunately, most fake reviews will fall under one or the other, as Yelp’s support center asserts. The process is fairly simple:

  1. Locate a fake review in your business account’s Reviews section
  2. Click on the 3 dot symbol on the upper right
  3. Click “Report Review”

TripAdvisor

Similarly, TripAdvisor will remove reviews that violate its guidelines, which explicitly include fraudulent reviews. To report reviews on TripAdvisor as a business owner, you will need to:

  1. Log in to the Management Center.
  2. Click the Reviews tab in the top navigation bar.
  3. Select Report a Review.
  4. Under What is the problem with the review? select the most appropriate reason.
  5. Select the title of the review in question.
  6. Leave your comment and click Submit.

Google

Finally, Google also takes an explicit stance against fake online reviews. The process will vary across devices and platforms, but the option will always be dubbed as “Flag as inappropriate.” For specific instructions for each device and platform, you may refer to the GMB support article linked just above.

Conclusion

Person looking at customer reviews on a phone.
You need to be persistent when it comes to combating fake online reviews.

To summarize, it is crucial that you combat fake online reviews swiftly and decisively. Failing to do so may tarnish your reputation and affect your revenue, among other penalties and legal concerns. Hopefully, this article helped you do so more effectively and avoid such unpleasant outcomes. For additional tips on how to grow your online presence, reach out to a New York SEO consultant that you can trust and rely on. Contact us today to learn more!

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