Companies depend on reviews to promote their business and products online. The problem with this is many companies are willing to pay for fake reviews. These reviews mislead customers into believing the reviews actually reflect the value of the product. Many consumers rely on customer reviews to help them make a purchasing decision. This is true for products, restaurants and vacations. People trust reviews, which makes them an essential part of purchasing decisions. This is way fake reviews are a significant problem.
Some fake reviews are easy to spot. For example, when reviews are so broad they could be applied to nearly any company or product. However, as search engines are becoming more discerning, companies have had to increase the quality of their fake reviews.
Although there is no sure fire way of spotting a fake review, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) offer consumers a number of suggestions to help them identify fake online reviews.
First, if there is a sudden or abnormal spike in reviews, they are likely paying for reviews. The number of reviews a product has should grow organically. As more people buy the product, some will leave reviews. If it is a new product with high sales, there may be an initial spike in legitimate reviews. However, it is unlikely for an existing product to get a sudden spike in reviews.
Second, if the bulk of the reviews or overly positive or use a marketing writing style, they are likely fake. Sometimes reviews simply do not make sense or there are several reviews using similar language. These are all indications that some or all of the reviews may be fake.
Review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp dedicated a large amount of resources for the sole purpose of detecting and eliminating fake reviews. The reputation of these websites is staked on users being able to get reliable and honest reviews from people, who have actually experienced the product or service.
According to the ACCC, it is estimated that between 10% – 20% of online reviews are fake.