Last Updated on July 31, 2020
Give Us Your Opinion
Products displaying at least five reviews are 270% more likely to get purchased, according to a Northwestern University study. So getting online reviews is big business. However, fake reviews are a growing problem. Earlier this year Amazon was investigated by a UK advocacy group; they analyzed hundreds of tech products to find false reviews were skewing searches for popular items. As watch groups crack down on brands displaying fake reviews, let’s explore the guidelines and costs to your online reputation.Ready to Talk?
Do Fake Reviews Really Matter?
The short answer: yes. Online reviews are a valuable trust indicator, especially to customers who don’t know your business, products or services. 97% of customers have looked at online reviews for a local business. With 9 out of 10 people saying they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, your online reputation is just as important as your ‘real life’ reputation.
Spotting Fake Reviews
74% of consumers read at least one fake review last year. Depending on the size of your business, this might be obvious. If you’re running a relatively small business you might know all of your customers, or at least be able to guess which ones are likely to write reviews about your company. But if your business is a little larger, you might not be sure if one is fake or not. Here are some ways you can tell:
- Look out for several reviews coming in all at the same time. This could be a sign that you have been targeted. These reviews are often automated, so they tend to appear in “batches.”.
- If you’re in the news for any reason, it raises your visibility as a target. Jealousy seems to be the motivator here, with some people not liking to see other businesses do well. So take care to read through all your reviews, especially if you’ve received publicity.
- Pay attention to how they’re written. It’s unlikely that any of your reviews are going to read like they were written by Mark Twain or Hemingway. While grammatical missteps are common, fake reviews are often filled with misspellings and incomprehensible English. Companies hired to create fake reviews often use offshore staff where English is a second language.
- Reverse image search if you suspect a fake profile. Photos are often stolen from stock image websites or from people’s social profiles. Sometimes photos of celebrities are used on a profile. Ask yourself, would Tom Hanks really give you 1 out of 5 stars for customer service?
- Check punctuation. According to MIT, reviews with several exclamation points are more likely to come from reviewers who haven’t purchased from you.
You know something’s serious when the government steps in. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC_recently ruled that selling likes and followers is illegal. A flip side to negative fake reviews are fake positive reviews. The FTC recently released its own set of guidelines on how to avoid accidentally sharing “deceptive ads”. A deceptive ad is where you are not declaring your affiliation to a product before promoting it. For example, if I say “Spectrum Group Online is awesome”, you’ll take that with a pinch of salt because you’re reading it on our website. But if you see it posted elsewhere, by someone who seemingly has no connection to our company, you might pay attention. If however we paid that person to share that opinion, they must disclose that affiliation
This video shows just how industrialized these schemes can be. It might seem harmless to ask a friend to give you a nice review on your new business. But when you see large multinational companies like beauty brand, Sunday Riley, gaming the system you can understand how it manipulates the impartiality of review systems. By the way, the FTC found Sunday Riley guilty in this fake review scandal.
How You Can Fight Back
“Google My Business is your new homepage” is a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot recently. Managing your Google My Business profile and other review platforms is something you should be doing on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
The first thing you can do is report any fake reviews to the platform that’s hosting them. If your reviews are on Google My Business, Yelp, or any other review platform, there will be an option to report a review. This is the first step.
Once you’ve reported the review, you need to respond. Ignoring it might seem like the sensible thing to do, but it isn’t. As long as the review is live, it can be seen by potential customers, you need to get out ahead of it and attempt to control the message. You need to respond to all reviews your business gets, positive, negative, or fake. If the review is spammy and mentions a product you don’t sell, say something like “thanks for the review, but we don’t sell X”. If it’s something more malicious, thank them for taking their time to review and suggest they contact you directly. Until the fake review has been removed, it will look like you are tackling the issue head on.
An important side note – nobody expects you to have a 5-star rating. An occasional negative review can actually help you; most businesses don’t have a 100% positive track record. Seeing a negative review amongst positive ones adds legitimacy. According to BrightLocal – The average Google Reviews star rating for a local business is 4.42 stars. So don’t be scared of acknowledging bad reviews. Negative feedback can be hard to take but if you address it, it says more about your business than fake 5 star reviews ever could.
Drown Out Fake Reviews
Another way to fight the fake reviews is by getting more real ones. The best way to do this involves having a plan. Reach out to customers regularly after a purchase to make sure they are satisfied. If you can speak to an unhappy customer then maybe you can fix their problem before it becomes a bad review.
A big part of building your online review profile is asking at the right time and in the right way. You can ask for reviews in-store (if you have a physical location), in-person, or at a later date, automated emails, or via follow-up phone calls. There are pros and cons to each approach. Obviously some will suit certain types of products or services better than others. The point here is to build a process that works and A/B test it until you’ve perfected it.
Filtering out the Fake News
83% of U.S. shoppers who visited a store in the last week say they used online search before visiting a store. And your online profile is often the first thing they see about your business. So you need to make sure you’re controlling the message that they see as best as possible. While you can’t silence all negativity, you can certainly combat fake reviews. Making sure you report fake reviews as soon as you find them will not only help your profile, but it will also help companies like Google and Yelp learn how to make their systems more robust. A big part of communication is controlling the message, so don’t let someone else control yours with spammy tactics. Regardless of FTC rulings or the fear of fake reviews, you should never stop asking for legitimate reviews for your customers!
As part of our Local SEO package we offer reputation management services. So if you don’t think you have the bandwidth to manage your online profile we’d love to talk about how we could help.