We’ve worked hard on our online reputation, gathering reviews on multiple platforms by providing consistent top quality service. The other way we could’ve built our online reputation is to pay for a bunch of fake reviews. Unfortunately, this kind of behaviour is rampant on the internet so its vital that you understand how to spot a fake review.
- Sort by most recent first. This will give you an idea of the reviews coming in day by day, if they have a 50/50 mix of 5 star reviews full of glowing praise next to 1 star reviews, the companies probably paying for those 5-star reviews.
- The highest-rated reviews are short and similar. Lots of short reviews that are similarly worded aren’t necessarily fake but it may mean that they’re paying for those reviews or offering inducements
- High rated reviews that seem to directly address concerns you might have about the product or service. Companies will create reviews specifically designed to be picked up by googles algorithm so that they will rank higher. They will also use their own marketing materials when creating fake reviews. So if the review looks like the company “about us” or “what you can expect” page, there’s a good chance it’s a fake review. In the example on the right, the review was wedged between two 1 star reviews with very specific complaints with the exact opposite experience. This looks more like a review designed to target people in the suburbs mentioned.
- Companies that don’t reply to or address negative reviews. Obviously, this is within reason, if the company is getting hundreds of reviews a day you can’t keep up, but a few a week is simple enough to keep track of. It’s a big red flag because it tells you that the company doesn’t care that much about customer satisfaction, their own reputation or that they know they can just dump a bunch of fake 5 star reviews and artificially inflate their rating.
- The reviews are all over the place. If right below a glowing review there’s a stinging rebuke it tells you that either the company doesn’t provide consistent service or they’re using paid reviews. Obviously every now and again you can get a difficult or unreasonable customer but you don’t get 20 or 30 of those a year. For example, the low rated reviews are much longer and provide much more detail than the highly-rated reviews, the low rated reviews are probably genuine and the high rated are probably fakes.
- Check other reviews that have been left by the person leaving the review. In the example below I have removed the names of the business’s being reviewed as we can’t know with certainty that it’s fake but it is suspicious that they have two reviews for Melbourne based services and one for a Cafe in Brisbane where they “will be back”. All of the reviews are 5 star, one-sentence reviews that don’t provide much detail about the customer’s experience. If they are genuine reviews, they offer no real insight as to why it was such a good experience.
There are plenty of ways to create fake reviews but fortunately for us you can’t stop the genuine reviews of the customers you actually do work for or with. Those reviews will always be longer and more detailed without feeling like it was written by a marketer. The people who sell reviews know this and will try to write more convincing reviews but they’ll always look silly next to a detailed 1-star review about another customer’s horrible experience. so keep your eyes peeled and spend a few minutes scrolling through not just the highest or lowest rated but by the date they’ve been left, that’ll give you the best overview of their customers experience.