Attacked with fake reviews? Fake reviews are the bane of many businesses’ existence. It goes without saying that if a customer has a bad experience, the owners can take it as an opportunity to engage with the customer, apologize and work toward improving the experience for everyone. But fake reviews, usually in large numbers in a short period of time, can torpedo your business quickly.
Amazon, Google, Yelp, and pretty much everyone else already has rules in place that forbid fake reviews. But enforcing them is usually on the company, since the reviewers have figured out how to game the system to let reviews pass through the filters. In many cases, fake reviewers can even pose as verified users by buying the product and then request a refund immediately after they leave their negative review.
How Receiving Fake Negative Reviews Can Hurt Your Business
In 2017, BrightLocal did a study with consumers and found some great information about online reviews. They found that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more. But, the bad news is that 79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year, but 84% can’t always spot them. A similar and even more alarming study by Cornell University showed a sample size a number of fake and real reviews, and the fake reviews were perceived as real 50% of the time. In other words, online reviews were considered highly credible, but fake users can exploit that credibility, often without being detected.
It’s possible that sites like Amazon have a perverse incentive to not try as hard as possible to purge fake reviews. In an interview with NY Magazine, online retailer Pat Lum observed, “If Amazon were to suddenly do a massive sweep of existing reviews as aggressive as what [the services] Fakespot or ReviewMeta might do, you’d suddenly see a lot more products with far fewer reviews, and a lot of customers suddenly uncertain about what exactly to buy.”
Fake reviews usually come from other countries. There are click farms in China and Eastern Europe (Russia) where they literally have thousands of phones dedicated to affecting the scores of mobile phones. It is common that someone can attack competitor by buying hundreds of 1-star reviews.
No business is too small or too large to being attacked with fake reviews. In one case, a small mobile phone repair shop in Texas refused to do business with a vendor who sold shoddy screens. The vendor responded by spamming his Facebook business page with 95 1-star reviews between 5:40 and 6:10 AM, and from users in Brazil. It could not be any more obvious that they were fake reviews, but Facebook refused to help, and the incident caused immeasurable damage to his business and his reputation, and cost him time fighting it that took away from his business.
Why You Should Not Consider Buying Fake Positive Reviews
You might consider fighting fire with fire and buying your own positive reviews. That would not be advised. As legitimate business, you are much easier to track down than some fly-by-night fake review site. As already mentioned, all major companies have rules against fake or solicited reviews, and can punish your company by tanking your ratings, temporarily or even permanently taking your site down. Even worse, you may be breaking the law. In the US, penalties can start at $5,000 and can even include jail time.
How to Fight Being Attacked With Fake Reviews
There are a few giveaways that a review is bogus. The obvious ones are the location of the reviewer (especially if you are a local business rather than an online business), bizarre and easy to spot syntax, and if a number of them come in short period of time. If it is not immediately clear, you can spot fake reviews if you see that they lack detail, they overuse verbs compared to actually describing the product or service, or they overuse the words I and me, rather than, again, actually describing the experience.
It may seem like the obvious first step is to flag the review and report it. While you should do that, the review site may be of little help, and if they do help, it will be a long process. The best thing to do first is actually to take an hour or two to calm down rather than act while you’re hot and angry.
When responding to a fraudulent review on the review site, you should find a way that calls out the ad as bogus without attacking it. Jon Hall suggests a template like this:
We take these matters very seriously. However, we have no record or recollection of any customer experience fitting your story and description, nor can we verify anything about your identity from your…account, which appears to have just been created for the purpose of disparaging our firm.
Another good way to respond bogus reviews to is to proactively share the fake reviews with your social media following. You might engender some good will among your followers, and maybe encourage some customers who haven’t yet posted a review to do so. If you can, do it in a way that shows your sense of humor; if you aren’t up to making it into a joke, be open and honest, and show why you care about your real customers.
Then, I suggest you ask yourself a tough question: how much is my time worth? Based on that question, you can decide whether the best course of action is to follow up yourself with the review site, hire a professional reputation management service, or just tough it out and let it go. In some cases, the time spent away from your business fighting being attacked with fake reviews may have been better spent proactively improving your reputation, especially by pleasing your customers.
The Final Word
Being attacked with Fake reviews is a problem that will never go away, and by some estimates, the problem is even getting worse. There is little you can do to proactively prevent fake reviews, and only a few ways to counter it.
With fake reviews, sunlight really is the best disinfectant, so the best way to counter it is to shine a light on it, flag it for review to the site, and then decide how hard you want to fight it before moving on and either hiring a professional to remove it for you or even do nothing more and let your potential customers know that the reviews don’t represent your business. It may sound counter-intuitive, but your best defense against being attacked with fake reviews is your ability to stay calm after an attack and hire a reputable agency for help.
About the Author:
Reuben Yonatan is the CEO @ GetVoIP, a leading VoIP systems comparison guide that connects shoppers with relevant providers.