Are Online Reviews Like Free Falling or Will They Hold You Safely?

Updated by Amanda Marie on Nov 2, 2017

Share

From choosing the best hotels and restaurants in town to consulting the right doctors, most people rely on online reviews. In fact, we rely on online reviews so much that a single bad review can completely tarnish the online reputation of a company. A study suggests that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations—as long as the reviews are authentic. But about 20% of reviews are fake. So can you really trust online reviews?

Fake Positive Reviews

Recent research suggests that reviews found on social networks and review sites like Yelp may not be as reliable as people think. According to this study, roughly 16% of restaurant reviews (positive and negative) are filtered by Yelp. That could mean Yelp believes that about 16% of reviews are fake or at least untrustworthy.

Fake Negative Reviews

Not all fake reviews are positive. In another study, researchers found that businesses often leave fake negative reviews to undermine their competitors and usurp potential customers. This practice is common when a major chain hotel is surrounded by boutique hotels. The smaller hotels may write negative reviews about the chain in order to entice travelers to have a look at their properties instead.

5 Steps to Improve Reputation E-Book

Buying and Selling Online Reviews Is a Big Business

It’s hard to find neutral reviews on the web when so many people write fake reviews for a living. There are companies based in India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and elsewhere that have large teams of fake reviewers working tirelessly day and night to make bad businesses look good and vice versa.

A simple Google search will give you dozens of services that can be hired to create fake reviews on any site or social network you want. And since many people trust online reviews, brands regularly hire such services to increase their positive reviews and polish their reputations for prospective customers.

1. Buying and Selling Online Reviews Is a Big Business

It’s hard to find neutral reviews on the web when so many people write fake reviews for a living. There are companies based in India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and elsewhere that have large teams of fake reviewers working tirelessly day and night to make bad businesses look good and vice versa.

A simple Google search will give you dozens of services that can be hired to create fake reviews on any site or social network you want. And since many people trust online reviews, brands regularly hire such services to increase their positive reviews and polish their reputations for prospective customers.

2. Companies Use Fake Reviews To Damage Rivals

As mentioned above in the boutique hotel scenario, a scarier aspect of fake reviews is that many brands hire companies to start propaganda campaigns against their rivals and damage their rivals’ online reputations. There are even firms that specialize in negative PR.

Every year thousands of small and medium-sized businesses suffer because of fake negative reviews on sites like Amazon, Yelp, and Facebook. For example, a UK-based chef was recently fired for leaving fake reviews on TripAdvisor in an attempt to tarnish the reputations of rival restaurants.

3. Consumers Use Reviews To Get Discounts

Businesses know that one bad review can turn away hundreds of potential customers. This is why businesses make every effort to please dissatisfied customers who leave negative reviews.

Unfortunately, many consumers take unfair advantage and use negative reviews as a blackmailing tool to get special deals and discounts.

Such reviews are misleading and tend to blow small things out of proportion, yet brands often have to give in to this “blackmail” to avoid greater damage to their reputations.

4. Many Companies Have In-House Reviewers

It’s a poorly kept secret that many companies have in-house teams hired specifically to write favorable online reviews and counter rivals with negative reviews. Online, these employees appear to be different users from different locations. Many brands manage anonymous social media accounts, and even websites, to publish positive news about themselves and to damage their competitors with negative propaganda. These types of accounts can be easily purchased from places like BlackHatWorld for about a dollar per profile.

5. Internet Trolls Defame Brands for Fun

Trolling is a phenomenon that emerged with the growth of social media. Internet trolls are people who intentionally start quarrels and controversy by posting inflammatory comments on social media posts.

Most of the time, their objective is to get the attention of other people following the post. But trolling has also become a major problem for brands. Internet trolls routinely post fake reviews and negative comments about brands for fun.

Even some of the biggest brands in the world, like Target, have been victims of trolling on social media. But they have the budget to counter such attacks with positive content. Most small to medium-sized business, however, don’t have that luxury.

6. Online Portals Are Struggling To Stop Fake Reviews

Perhaps the scariest thing about all this is that even the biggest social media platforms and review sites have failed to effectively counter fake reviews.

A few years ago, Amazon sued more than 1,000 fake reviewers selling their services on Fiverr. But that didn’t stop people from finding other ways to manipulate reviews.

Review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have taken several measures to counter fake reviews and trolls including automatic detection systems and manual moderation teams. Some sites only allow verified users to leave reviews, and this has worked well for review platforms that can easily verify real users.

Topics: Review Management, Brand Reputation

Follow Reputation X to get free guides and tips.

Have something to add?