What is “Fake Reviews” and Why Should You be concerned?
I am sure you saw products, eBooks, etc with a lot of sparkling reviews so you can buy them. Then you find out after buying them that it is far from what the review what saying: eBooks have misspelled words, products do not do what the review said it would, and so on.
What does it tell you? Yep, I think you were a victim of fake reviews! Do you see now where I am coming from with “What are Fake Reviews?”
Let’s find out more about What is “Fake Reviews”
They’re reviews that make incorrect statements likely create a false impression for consumers to purchase their goods.
Those Reviews are false even if they seem to be truthful. They are created with only one thing in mind “SALE”, not the consumer.
What you see online is a mixture of both positive and negative fake reviews. Confusing right?
Let me explain this to you….
“Fake Positive Reviews” are boosting an image that is nowhere close to reality. But Carole, why is that? It is to influence the consumer to buy their goods! They make it like you got to buy this!!!! At this point, you really want to buy it! They will do anything for a sale even criticize the competitor same product!
Additionally, when businesses have more positive reviews they rank higher with many search engines. Also, more positive reviews can help offset negative reviews.
Another dishonest reason for Positive Fake Reviews is to blemish the brand reputation of a competitor. By faking that they were a previous customer of a competitor, the review appears more truthful.
“Fake Negative Reviews” are like they will destroy a person’s image or business reputation. Example of Fake Negative Review on a business: “Don’t go to that restaurant I went and I saw bugs crawling and the taste of the food was so disgusting that I got sick'”. Here is a Fake Negative Review on a person: “Warning guys do not go see that therapist or you will be sorry you ever did, she ruined my life”.
For a while, Fake Negative Reviews were often thought to be left by a competitor trying to turn away people from similar products or business but a new study from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Northwestern University says that’s not usually the case.
In conclusion, positive or negative fake reviews are fictive.
Why Are Consumer Real Reviews So Important?
[stextbox id=’info’]A positive reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets a business has to convince new customers to contact them. The social proof contained within reviews and star ratings helps consumers short cut their research and make decisions faster and with greater confidence than ever before. – Bright Local, Consumer Review Survey 2016[/stextbox]
According to Bright Local Consumer Review Survey again, reading reviews has been called: “One of the final stages of the purchase path.”(1)
And why would you say that? Because when customers research a product for review, at this point they are in need of that product or service. They will look at reviews for positive comments before engaging themselves to purchase. By doing so they are making sure they are choosing the best product to match their need and the best merchant to purchase from.
In conclusion, positive and negative, fake, and real reviews will have an impact on the final purchase.
According to FTC over 70% of customers rely on Online recommendations before buying. A 2016 survey reveals that as many as 84% purchasers rely on the online recommendation the same way they would trust a good friend! This is 4% increase from 2015.
But why Writing a Fake Review??
You are a waiter at a well-known restaurant and you got fired. You’re very upset wondering how will you ever find another job? So to get even with your employer for letting you go, you write a negative fake review online under a fictitious name of course.
Your coffee shop is not doing too well compared to your competitor right around the corner. You never step foot there but you can see the customers are lining up every day. You are thinking “Well he is taking business away from me I will fix that”. You go online and write a review saying I will never go back again to this place, the coffee taste burns, seems it has been brewing all day, not fresh at all and let me tell you about their baristas, so rude I don’t even know why they are still in business!
You’re asked to write a review of a certain product after using it. You get lazy and do not bother to try the product, you go online and start reading a couple of reviews about the product. Without even verifying the truth about those reviews you go ahead and write a review based on the reviews you read and repeat their misleading information.
But the main reason for all those fake reviews is “Financial Gain”
We just spoke of WHY writing fake reviews now let’s talk about HOW:
- Some people get hired to write reviews for money
- Individuals working for a company: They are acting as proxies meaning that they are employees of the company and they write reviews for them without disclosing their real identity by changing their IP. If you do a Google search you have people showing you exactly how to do that!
- Affiliate Marketers. People that will earn a commission if a visitor buys the item or service that they are reviewing. These reviews are often just a speech sale without even knowing the product because of the commission they are earning if a sale is made. Normally the Affiliate marketer has a lot more knowledge of the product than the prospective buyers. Here is a quote from an article:
[stextbox id=’black’]”If you’re researching pretty much any internet marketing training product, odds are you can find a TON of fake positive reviews for it. If you search pretty much any keyword, you find videos and pages upon pages of search results ranting and raving about how wonderful it is — even for the worst products you’ve purchased in your life.”[/stextbox]
Fake Reviews are Far More Pervasive Than We Realize.
Here are the 2 most deceiving one:
Fake Reviews: Platforms
Here some examples that I am sure you are very familiar with: Review sites for Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Glass Door
Millions of people are posting reviews on them.
Consumers rely on these platforms for almost all their purchase decision. If you put aside the fake reviews, they can be very helpful. You can find anything from the best luxury hotel in Ottawa capital national of Canada to an eye doctor in Cape Coral, Florida.
Sadly those Review Platform can be disrupted by fake reviews that either promote or attempt to blacken their reputation.
With those Platforms purchaser’s bad experience can destroy their credibility very quickly.
Fake Reviews: Individual
Individual Reviews can be worthy. A review written by a reliable business can also spread the entire product experience in a single, deep, expert article.
The sharp online business does not “sell out,” writing an enthusiastic review about a poor product, because they know it’s better for the business to think long-term.
Here is an example: It would be a very bad tactic to write a strong review that recommends a poor villa in Florida, run by a moody owner who is ready to pay a lot of money to recommend it.
This is a perfect example to show you short term gain. Yes, that is good but you want to think long-term gain. If those stories end up to TripAdvisor their reputation is going to be affected.
Sadly, there are people, companies, businesses that think only about making a quick gain and take rejoice to ruin other people’s life.
The key here is to maintain a long term trustworthy niche content.
This is taking us to…
Fake Reviews: Affiliate Schemes
Negative Marketing: It is a company that writes negative review attacking directly a competitor. Normally a consumer disapproves of that.
Some companies will get around but encouraging their affiliate to write reviews on products or other affiliate companies.
Here’s how it works:
- A company will persuade their affiliates that their company is by far the best of its kind.
- They will motivate their affiliates to write a review of a product from a company competitor even if the affiliate has no knowledge of the product (What does it tell you…see where I am coming from with this).
- Then they make sure their affiliates understand that their review needs to end with a recommendation from their company’s product even if the review is positive or not…Here again, it is all about financial gain not about honesty!
- If the affiliate review on the competitor product is based on a truth actual usage that reflects a detailed review of the product, if you can back up your review with evidence and if – the affiliate offers the prospective buyer with an honest review; and if the affiliate discloses the affiliation with the company and at the same time informing them that he/she is getting a commission from selling the company‘s product, there’s no problem.
- The affiliate wins appreciation by referring the visitor to a superior product and that makes everyone happy.
- But if the competitor’s product has never been tried, if you don’t have any evidence to prove the product superiority, and if the company affiliate does not disclose to the buyer that he/she is selling an affiliate product and earns commission from the sale, then it is considered FAKE.
- Why is that?
- Because there is no evidence of superiority established. Therefore the review is clearly for financial gain. The buyer has been misleading and most likely purchased an inferior product that will not match their needs.
- Legislation on this is clear. The purchaser is entitled to an honest review.
Let’s look at how this works at a practical level.
- Angela, who is searching for a reputable counselor following a distressing assault, has heard of “Saintly Counselling”, so searches for “Saintly Counselling reviews.”
- She finds multiple fake negative reviews, written by affiliates for “Devil May Care Counselling” who get paid for every client they introduce.
- She doesn’t know they’re fake. It wasn’t completely obvious: one said “Saintly” destroyed her life forever, one said it was “Meh” and one said it had some good points.
- Each of them ended their review with a recommendation for “Devil May Care,” calling it the most effective counseling in the world — even though they had never experienced it.
- Angela clicks on the affiliate link and books an appointment with “Devil May Care.”
- “Devil May Care” gets the counseling fee, of which they give a percentage to the affiliate on whose link Angela clicked through.
- Of course, some part of each review is fake, but the biggest fake point is the recommendation of “Devils”‘s superiority.
- In all cases, the company and the affiliate, with the complicity of the company, gain financially at the consumer’s expense.
But there’s more to it than that, even. Because Angela is not only defrauded, she may also suffer immense hardship. Poor counseling can lead to catastrophic damage.
The same principle applies to any product, even though it may not have the same ruinous results. But picking the wrong dentist may result in an expensive, incompetent root canal that you didn’t need; selecting a bad hotel will ruin your vacation.
Grey Areas: Are Reviews of Reviews Fake?
The European Parliamentary Research Service defines the content of fake reviews as follows…
A fake review can be defined as a positive, neutral or negative review that is not an actual consumer’s honest and impartial opinion or that does not reflect a consumer’s genuine experience of a product, service or business.
It may be difficult or impossible to experience some products before writing a review recommending them. If your niche is the island of Sicily, for example, it won’t be possible for you to stay in every hotel on the island (unless you’re very lucky and very rich!).
Such subjects require credible research of objective data and wide coverage of the subjective experience of others. Original research such as a survey, if properly conducted, adds to the value of such coverage.
This type of “review” should present as balanced a picture as possible.
A review not based on personal experience, even when carefully researched, crosses into a “grey” area. The key to whether it’s a fake review or not is intent.
- When performed rigorously and in a balanced way that honestly tries to reflect the truth, this type of “review” can be valuable to the reader.
- But if it has an agenda to mislead, it would be considered a “fake review” for the purposes of this article.
- The review should clearly identify that it is based only on research, that you have not personally used the product in the manner that a typical consumer would.
Included in this kind of “researched review” is the “review of reviews” category. Here too, the onus is on the author to thoroughly assess each review for accuracy and to present a balanced picture.
This type of review becomes “fake” if it…
- is passed off as personal experience
- knowingly includes fake reviews (or if it should have known)
- intentionally fails to be a thorough and objective reflection of the user experience
- indulges in practices such as seeking out others who have had a negative experience. A few angry ex-customers (or ex-employees) can unite to create a powerful, but inaccurate picture that fails accurately to represent the views of the much larger general user base.
Fake Reviews Are Neither Fair nor Just…
Readers who find a review via an online search are entitled to expect an accurate reflection of a user’s experience, written by that user. In a perfect world, a true review would accurately and fully fulfill that search intent.
But fake reviews are not, in fact, reviews. They are actually sales pages disguised as reviews.
If you sense that this borderline on fraud, so does Amazon which has suffered from fake reviews for several years:
Since the beginning of 2015, the company has filed lawsuits against more than 1,000 people in relation to this issue, taking on both those who offer to sell fake reviews as well as those who buy them.(5)
The US Federal Trade Commission and consumer protection groups are increasingly interested in stopping this rampant practice with lawsuits. And it’s not just an issue in the US:
“International collaboration is increasingly important for enforcement agencies combating deceptive practices online.” (6)
Following the FTC’s lead, it’s very likely that more class-action by other, smaller companies will follow.
Fake reviews can be a short-term, high-yield strategy. But they are potentially illegal and morally reprehensible.
Where large amounts of money are to be gained or lost, fraud will almost inevitably follow.
And since reviews of a product are the closest thing to purchase intent, it is for some the opportunistic vehicle of choice to rank high at search engines and, using deceptive methods, alter choice for the consumer.
Teams of well-trained affiliates can certainly create and maintain the illusion of truth over a period of time. Ultimately the truth will out, but until then they will happily do their visitors a disservice in return for juicy commissions.
Marketing an inferior product through fake reviews should be ruled out on moral grounds. It’s simply not principled knowingly to sell an inferior product to a customer.
For some, though, principles are unimportant in the rush to make money. In those cases, the risk of legal action may be the only thing that stops them. Care for the customer is starting to motivate honorable companies to follow that path.
Behaving ethically may be a slower road to success. But ultimately, it’s the right road. You may earn less money by giving the best product the best review, but the road to long-term online success is by OVER delivering high-value content to your visitor.