How to Spot Fake Reviews – 4 Warning Signs
Nearly four out of five people consult online ratings and reviews – discover how to spot the fakes so you can protect the legitimate ones and increase conversions.
You might want to sit down before reading this, but this is something you need to know. The most trusted form of marketing isn’t your glossy brochure, expensive website or helpful YouTube videos. In fact, it’s not any form of marketing you’ve created at all. It’s the ratings and reviews of customers that are the most powerful in persuading consumers to buy.
This was the finding of Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report and, as you’d expect, we tend to agree. The power of word of mouth was backed up by our own survey of 2,000 UK consumers, in which we discovered that:
- 77% consult online ratings and reviews before buying.
- Nearly two-thirds are more likely to buy based on a positive rating or review.
- One out of five will spend more with a retailer that has good ratings and reviews.
With the help of maths wizard (or mathemagician) William Hartson, from Cambridge University, we calculated that positive ratings and reviews can boost revenue by as much as 40% a year, as a result of reduced shopping cart abandonment and higher trust. Being the clever people they are, Harvard Business School arrived at a similar conclusion. They assessed that a single star rating increase can boost restaurant bookings by nearly 10%.
Clamping Down on Fake Reviews
The massive influence ordinary people have on buying decisions has, inevitably, led crafty types to try to abuse the system for personal gain.
- In true cloak and dagger fashion, crime writer RJ Ellory was exposed for posting glowing reviews of his own books while besmirching those of his rivals.
- In New York, 19 companies were fined a total of $350,000 after being fooled by a sting operation involving a fake yoghurt shop in Brooklyn.
- US Coachways was fined $75,000 for posting positive reviews in an attempt to whitewash all the negative ones.
Gartner predicted in 2012 that up to 15% of online ratings and reviews could be fake by this year. A shocking statistic, but thankfully the fight against fake reviews is well underway.
While authorities are starting to take action, they’re going to need some help. Fake ratings and reviews harm the validity, trustworthiness and power of legitimate feedback. Ratings and review communities need to be empowered to spot fake reviews and get them removed. Thankfully there are common tell-tale signs that a rating or review might not be kosher.
4 Warning Signs of Fake Reviews
Once again, academia has come to the rescue with Cornell University stepping in to identify the warnings signs of fake reviews:
Excessive use of ‘I’
In a misguided attempt to appear like a real person, fake reviewers will refer to themselves in the first person more than a genuine person.
Over the top
An obvious red flag is when a reviewer talks about vacuum cleaners as the dawning of a new age in carpet hygiene. When reviews are over the top and emotional, with excessive superlatives, exaggeration and exclamation points, they give the whiff of someone trying too hard to convince others of something they don’t really believe themselves.
Like mischievous gremlins, the same keywords will crop up in reviews posted by a fake reviewer in various corners of the web. For hotel reviews this includes ‘nice’, ‘deal’, ‘comfort’ and ‘stay’. They may get jumbled up, but a fake review’s keywords come from the same song sheet.
Extreme positivity or negativity
It’s natural for people to be enthusiastic after a good shopping experience, but fake reviews take this to the extreme. If someone says something is the ‘best ever’ or the ‘absolute worst’ without getting into specifics, something may be amiss.
Weed Out the Fakes so Your Real Reviews can Flourish
As all the studies mentioned have proven:
- Cultivating ratings and reviews is the single most effective way of increasing conversions and boosting revenue.
- Ratings and reviews can only be effective as long as customers believe they are real. This is why, whether you run an ecommerce store, a consultancy or a bricks and mortar business, it’s wise to monitor your ratings and reviews so you can foster stronger, more profitable relationships with customers.
Find out more about how to eliminate fake reviews so your genuine reviews can do the talking with this eGuide: Get in shape: How to deal with fake reviews