By Oliver James
With online shopping becoming more and more popular, it’s important to be able to navigate the reviews, comments and information attached to online sales pages. This article will give you some basic information to help you tell the difference between a fake and real review online.
It’s no surprise that companies and online retailers like Amazon have their fair share of fake reviews, both positive and negative. With 90% of Yelp users saying that a positive review influences their choices, business are scrambling to get a positive reputation online. Here’s how you can tell the difference between a fake and a real review.
1. Length of the review
While not all short reviews are fake, a short review or one that only uses the star rating may indicate that it’s fake. If you see a product page that only has 5 star ratings with no actual comments on why that 5 star rating is warranted, it might be fake.
2. Vague reviews
If the product page has vague or general reviews that could apply to any product in that industry it might be a sign of review tampering. Let’s say we’re looking at a TV product page and most of the reviews look like this:
“Great TV, a must buy”
“Best TV ever”
These comments could apply to any TV and if the TV product page you’re looking at has mostly reviews like this it’s a sign that they might be fluffing their reviews to get sales.
3. Feature rich reviews
People write reviews because they are happy or unhappy with a product. These are emotions. Look for evidence of that emotion in the reviews not just a list of features. For example:
Genuine emotional review:
“I’m freaking stoked. Finally a tv that I can actually see from an angle. My previous 2 tv’s were great but anyone not directly in front of the screen would get a faded image or barely an image at all. With this bad boy everyone get’s a good image. Thank You!”
Fake feature rich review:
“This ABC company plasma high definition television unit looks great at any angle as opposed to IPS LED TV’s and S-PVA LED TV’s. The viewing angle of this unit is 72 degrees while the closest competitor is only 36 degrees.”
Now while some consumers are really knowledgeable and use facts and data in their reviews, it is typically a sign of ulterior motives.
4. Multiple reviews that say the same thing
A product page that has multiple reviews with the exact same language is a dead give away that the reviews are not genuine. I mean honestly when was the last time 10 people had the exact same opinion on one thing.
5. Reviewer only has the one review
If you’re unsure about a review try finding the reviewers profile. On many sites it will have a list of their reviews. If they only have the one review in question it’s a good sign that it’s fake. Genuine reviewers like to give their opinion either to help others or just to have a voice, and will typically write reviews on multiple items.
6. Product name and model number stuffed in review.
Online retailers will over use their product name and/or model number in reviews in an attempt to manipulate search engines like Google into ranking them higher for people searching for that product. Remember that online retailers are in competition with each other. So it’s not only the manufacture you have to look for fake reviews from but also the online marketplace themselves.
7. They link to another site to buy the product
In the online world there are marketers known as affiliates. Affiliates are people who market a site online for a percentage of sales that come from their affiliate link. Most affiliate links have a code embed in the URL like this: onlineretailer.com/product123/?affiliateID456. While most are not this obvious, the ?affiliateID456 portion lets onlineretailer.com know that affiliate #456 brought this person to the site and should get part of the sale.
Example of fake review with affiliate link:
“Great product, does everything it says and more. If’ you’re thinking of buying go here and get free shipping. onlineretailer.com/product123/?affiliateID456”
In the above example we see a combo of affiliate link and a vague review. Definitely a fake.
8. Majority of reviews and/or accounts created at the same time
If the majority of the reviews and/or reviewer accounts were created with in a small time frame it may point to review tampering. Companies will pay an employee or outsource fake reviews. When this happens the person assigned the task may create dozens of accounts and reviews with in a short period of time to complete the task and move on. If you notice that the majority of the reviews were posted within a couple days or a week try seeing if those accounts have other reviews to double confirm their authenticity or lack there of.
9. Negative reviews that suggest another product
Not only positive reviews are fake. Many competitors will slander their rivals product pages to gain customers. Look out for reviews that aggressively attack a product and include a link to another option. Use the previous suggestions like vague/short reviews to further rule out false negatives.
10. Overly aggressive negative reviews
Sometimes you read a review and are amazed that the amount of passion and time this person put into a negative review. Beware, those reviews may be fake or not trustworthy. This one is hit or miss and should be evaluated with the other 9 suggestions. i.e.
“This product is the worst. Company F makes a much better version”
Excuse me Sir/Mam. Do you work for Company F? This negative review is short, vague and suggests a competitor. While you can never be sure that it’s 100% fake, I wouldn’t factor reviews like this into my decision making process.
This is just a short even-numbered list of red flags. There are numerous other factors that come into play. You have to use common sense and the tools of the internet to verify the information in front of you.
Some research suggestions:
- Google a part of the review and see if there are multiple listings on sites with the exact same review.
- Use multiple sites to get a better over all picture. Don’t just look at the reviews on the online retailer you will use to make the purchase. I suggest at least 3 different sites for research. You may even find a cheaper price in the process.
- Many online retailers will have “Actual Customer” or “Verified Purchase” tags next to reviews of actual customers that bought the product on that site. These can be helpful. Just make sure you trust the site you’re on to not just hand those out to any review.
- If you can find the product you’re researching in a store, go check it out in person even if you don’t plan to buy from the store. You can get a lot of answers from store personal as well. (Try not to do this to small businesses. They have limited staff and resources. Maybe ask them if they can match your online price.)
Oliver James is the owner and Marketing Director of Realize Internet Marketing and San Diego SEO. Oliver dedicates over 30% of every work week to local San Diego Non-Profits and Community Groups helping them with design, code and training. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.