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Fake online reviews: How to identify and prevent themSeptember 25th, 2019 by
Whether a consumer is in the market for something as small as a new lamp or complex as a complete home remodel, online reviews will help guide their decision-making process.
Today’s consumers rely on reviews to give them key information about a product or service. People like to know what their peers think about a company or service, so reviews are usually seen as more trustworthy than information from the company itself.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As consumers rely more and more on reviews, fake online reviews are becoming a larger concern. If fake reviews of your company’s services are left unchecked on any site, your reputation can take a hit.
The good news is that you can take steps to fight them. Your company’s online reputation is worth its weight in gold, so keep reading to learn how to spot and address fake reviews.
Signs of fake online reviews
A real review comes from a verified customer of your business. Fake reviews are typically purchased by competitors and may consist of positive reviews for the purchasing business or of negative reviews for other similar companies in the area.
Depending on the size of your customer base, you’ll likely catch fake reviews of your own business fairly easily. That being said, it never hurts to know exactly what to look for.
Watch out for the following signs you may be dealing with purchased reviews:
Bulk reviews. Yesterday your competitor had five positive reviews; today it has over a hundred. A sharp increase in review numbers typically means a company has purchased them.
Generic content. Because the authors of fake reviews usually have not used the service in question, they have no specific information to provide.
Real reviews often include facts about the type of project, issues encountered along the way and specific ways the company helped. Many even include photos of the product or service. Purchased reviews, however, tend to contain vague claims and information. Large numbers of similar-sounding reviews are a huge red flag for inauthenticity.
Profile red flags. Many purchased reviews are posted by fake profiles. They may use a generic name or a stock image as an avatar. Some profiles are used by professional reviewers who earn money by posting positive reviews for companies willing to pay.
Test this out by clicking on the reviewer’s profile. If you see a record of exclusively five-star reviews, chances are high that the reviewer is a compensated pro.
High number of mistakes. A large number of reviews containing typos and basic grammatical mistakes can indicate that they were written and posted by paid employees located overseas.
Exaggerations and inaccuracies. Negative fake reviews tend to contain inaccurate or overblown claims, particularly regarding the services your company provides.
Once you have identified fake online reviews, you can look at your options for handling the problem.
How to combat fake online reviews
If you catch a rival company buying reviews, your best course of action is to submit a report to their site host. Organizations like Amazon, Google, and Yelp have policies against fake reviews and will typically investigate reports and take action to remove reviews that violate site policy.
Another way to keep your competitive advantage in the face of fake reviews is to gather more of your own positive, genuine reviews. Don’t wait for your satisfied customers to decide to post a review. Life gets busy, and people forget, so using the following simple strategies to make giving feedback easy.
Remind. Once the project is done, your customers will move on to the next thing in their lives. Contacting them by text, phone, or email can spur them to act and leave a review.
Simplify. Don’t make your customers jump through hoops to leave feedback. A user-friendly interface and clear, short instructions make it easy for them to rate and review.
Surveys are a great way to get feedback, since they provide customers with a list of structured questions and response options. Most people don’t want to write an essay but are willing to click a few buttons.
Incentivize. Acknowledge that you are asking your customers to do something to help your business. Offering a small content-neutral incentive such as a coupon can show customers you appreciate their feedback.
The bottom line
If fake online reviews take the form of attacks on your company, you may need some additional strategies. Your first course of action should still be to report these reviews to the site host. While you wait for the host to respond and hopefully take them down, there may be some things you can do about the false negative reviews still attached to your name.
Look into the option of simply deleting reviews, but tread carefully. In some cases, such as for reviews containing extremely offensive language, this may be a good idea. Bear in mind, however, that deleting or hiding reviews can be interpreted by customer as dishonesty.
Replying to the review can make sense in certain circumstances, such as if a review makes very specific false claims. If you opt to reply, keep in mind that your purpose is not to change the mind of someone who left a fake review. Your job, rather, is to bolster your company’s image for legitimate consumers who might see the review. Stay calm, professional, and objective.
Another tactic to deal with fake attack reviews is to get a higher volume of recent, genuine positive feedback. Achieve this goal by putting resources toward a third-party customer satisfaction surveying program.
Online reputation management can seem like a full-time job in today’s marketplace. For this reason, many businesses partner with professionals who take on a large portion of this responsibility.
GuildQuality works with businesses in the home building and services sector to help establish a solid online reputation. With optimally designed tools such as surveys, it is easier than ever to get the quality feedback you need from happy customers. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you take your business to the next level!