Are Online Reviews Reliable?

We live in an age where information is power. With that in mind, there is nothing more powerful than the internet for the amount of information it contains. We rely on the internet so much that we’re looking to it for online reviews about restaurants, hotels, products we want to buy and everything in between. We trust the reviews online so much so that even a single negative review can sometimes put customers off from buying a product or service.

A recent study said that as many as 88% of all people surveyed trusted online reviews as much as they did recommendations from family and friends. There is, however, a caveat. The reviews need to be genuine. With more than 20% of all reviews online fake, Can you really trust online reviews?

Fake Positive Reviews

Another study done about the authenticity of online reviews found that reviews on social media sites may not be as reliable as once believed. In fact, the study found that almost 16% of all restaurant reviews are fake.

Fake Negative Reviews

Businesses may be trying to buy positive fake reviews to enhance their reputation in the eye of the public while at the same time leaving negative reviews for their competitors. For instance, if a major hotel chain is crowding out the smaller boutique hotels, the smaller competition could get together and write negative reviews for the major hotel chain in order to drive more customers their way.

Don’t Buy or Sell Reviews

Maintaining the online ratings is so important to businesses that they’re willing to hire people to write fake positive reviews for them or fake negative reviews for their competitors. It’s such a big business in fact that there are many services offering the writing of fake reviews. Most of these services come from India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines and have teams of writers ready to write reviews for their clients.

Doing a simple Google search for these kinds of services you will find hundreds if not thousands of results each competing with the other. You can hire companies to write reviews on any social media account or even the main Google listing of a business.

Don’t Write Fake Reviews For Competitors

Things really start to take a negative turn online when brands hire companies to start a smear campaign against their rivals. They mean to begin a propaganda campaign that would damage their rival’s reputation online and help them muscle in on all the customers. There are several firms all over the world that even specialize in negative PR.

It is not uncommon to see small and medium-sized businesses being ruined by malicious and fake reviews written about their products online. These companies use platforms like Amazon, Facebook, Yelp and more to tarnish the reputation of their client’s rival.

As late as last year a top UK Based chef working out of a popular restaurant was fired from his post for writing ill intended fake reviews on TripAdvisor. He would do that in an attempt to call out his rivals and belittle their reputations.

Don’t Use In-House Reviewers

At this point, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that apart from hiring companies to write reviews for them, some companies hire people on their payroll to do the job. They handle multiple email addresses, social media accounts, and profiles just to ensure they can handle a large amount of review work from a single computer.

Their secret is not only to write positive reviews about themselves online but to counter competitor’s positive reviews with their own negative ones. Such black hat practices are frowned upon, but when the competition heats up, brands look for every advantage they can get.

Watch Out For Internet Trolls

Internet trolls are individuals with a lot of free time and who love getting under peoples skin for a kick. It’s a phenomenon that has really kicked off with the growth of social media. Trolls only have one simple objective, to get as much attention on themselves as possible.

Trolls are a problem for big brands because they are very unpredictable. While someday they might be saying positive things about a brand, the next day they could be ripping the brand apart. Internet trolls are also responsible for posting regular fake reviews for fun. Some do so in jest and it can be seen that they are having fun, while others are simply malicious and want to hurt the brand.

Remember Review Sites Are Struggling To Prevent Fake Reviews

The biggest issue with fake reviews is that the big platforms like Amazon, Yelp, even social media site have not been able to do much about the fake reviews. Amazon was the last company to try. They sued individuals selling their review writing on sites like Fiverr. It was a drop in the ocean as reviewers always find interesting ways to get around the problems. While efforts have been made to ensure that only the most honest reviews remain, it is hard work for these brands.

Summary

Knowing that so much of what you read online could be paid for by the company itself do you really think you can trust the reviews anymore? The truth of the matter is, you can. More honest reviews are made than fake ones, and you should do your part as well.

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