The Business Owner's Guide to Spotting Fake Online Reviews

Online reviews are an incredibly influential type of content. Studies show that 85 percent of consumers read reviews to determine whether a business is good or not.

The information, however, isn’t always reliable, and could even be deceptive. According to Gartner, by next year, 10 to 15 percent of all reviews will be fake and paid for by businesses. This is despite the various review filtering and verification measures being set up by Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor and other major review sites.

Needless to say, consumers should remain vigilant and read everything online with a grain of salt. So should business owners. Typically created by competitors attempting to game the system, these fakes mislead and hurt those who play by the rules.

Is your business at the receiving end of deceptive, paid-for reviews? Here are great tips to spot the fakes:

Examine the writing style. Several common indicators give away a fake review: anonymity (unverified “customers”), lack of detail, exaggerated praise or criticism, liberal use of exclamation points or ALL CAPS and an over-the-top tone that urges people to avoid your business at all costs and buy instead from the competition.

Check the time frame. Fake reviews are often left within a short period of time between each posting. Ungodly hours can also be a dead giveaway: if your business receives several consecutive bad reviews at, say, four in the morning from totally random people hiding behind usernames, well -- your alarm bells should be ringing.

Look out for brochure vocabulary. According to Chris Moran, senior editor at The Consumerist, the average consumer won’t use phrases that typically belong in a brochure. “For instance, if you’re looking for a modem and you see ‘explosive speed’... No one talks like that, even if they love (the product or service).”

Google the username. If you can’t verify the reviewer’s identity, Google the username and see what comes up. Is the person reviewing products/services in one exclusive category? Say, you’re selling dishwashers: it’s not unreasonable to be suspicious if “TerrificTrevor5429” has been posting outrageously bad reviews not just of your brand, but also of a bunch of other dishwasher brands.

If your business is getting fake reviews, contact the site on which the review is posted and reach out ASAP to the support staff. By submitting a report, you can have the review evaluated, help the site take appropriate action, and protect your online reputation.

Chris Campbell is the CEO of Review Trackers, a leading online review monitoring and management platform for multi-location businesses looking to track, analyze, and generate reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Foursquare.

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