When shopping online or looking at the app store, fake reviews are an unfortunate reality that muddy the waters when you're trying to assess quality. Whether they manipulate search rankings with a deluge of five-star ratings or try to snuff out the competition with fraudulent criticism, they create problems for customers who want an honest view of a product.
This fake review phenomenon stems from sellers seeking sales growth and reviewers desiring rewards or compensation. It has spawned an underground market with companies selling review bundles, social media groups organizing reviewer teams, and various incentives for genuine buyers to leave positive reviews. Here's how you can slice through the phony reviews.
HOW TO SPOT FAKE REVIEWS
Spotting fake online reviews can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can employ to increase your chances of identifying them. Here are some tips to help you spot fake online reviews for products, apps, and websites:
LOOK FOR EXTREME RATINGS
If a product, app, or website has many five-star or one-star ratings with little in-between, it could indicate that the reviews are fake. Be cautious of a page with a barrage of excessively high ratings, especially if most are short or use identical phrases. Genuine reviews usually span a range of opinions and ratings, describing numerous reviewers’ unique experiences with the product. A disproportionate amount of extreme ratings are an indicator of manipulation.
ANALYZE THE LANGUAGE AND WRITING STYLE
Fake reviews may exhibit poor grammar, incoherence, spelling errors, or generic language. Be wary of reviews that sound overly promotional or repetitive, such as using the product's name in every sentence or exclaiming that the product is perfect. An authentic review usually thoroughly describes the reviewer's experience, laying out both the good and the bad. In addition, you’ll see differences in language among reviews according to each reviewer’s style.
EXAMINE THE REVIEWER'S PROFILE
Check the reviewer's profile for suspicious patterns. It could be a red flag if a reviewer has posted multiple reviews within a short time frame, particularly if they all read similarly. For example, a barebones profile solely reviewing electronics on Amazon using the same vague, positive phrases for each is probably a fake review account. On the other hand, a robust profile with the user’s description and a review history of thoughtful, balanced feedback is likely genuine.
EVALUATE THE TIMING AND FREQUENCY OF REVIEWS
A sudden surge of reviews, especially if they all appear within a short period, can be suspicious. Genuine reviews are likely to be posted over time, reflecting a product's continued popularity or usage. Therefore, products that receive a ton of reviews overnight could result from fake reviews. Additionally, reviews following a pattern of positive or negative sentiment may indicate manipulation.
INVESTIGATE REVIEWER ANONYMITY
Anonymous usernames or profiles lacking personal information could suggest that the reviews are not genuine. Legitimate reviewers often provide background information or have a history of contributing to online communities. On the other hand, anonymity means less accountability, and anyone could be behind a blank, sparse profile.
LOOK FOR BALANCED OPINIONS
The more nuanced a review, the more likely it originated from a real person. Most products have advantages and drawbacks, and authentic reviews will spotlight these even-handedly, even if the overall product is excellent.
TOOLS TO SPOT FAKE REVIEWS
Numerous tools can assist you in spotting fake reviews. Here are some popular ones:
- Fakespot is a widely used tool that analyzes product reviews on platforms like Amazon, Yelp, Best Buy, and Walmart. It provides an overall rating for the authenticity of reviews, along with a breakdown of the ratings and analysis of individual reviews. Best of all, it’s free as a plugin for most web browsers and as a mobile app.
- ReviewMeta focuses on Amazon reviews. It evaluates the credibility of reviews, identifies suspicious patterns, and offers a rating of its own for falsely characterized products. Like Fakespot, it offers free internet browser extensions and mobile apps.
- The Transparency Company helps governmental entities identify fake reviews online. It bases its methods on a database of fake business reviews. The company's AI tools compare new online reviews to known fraudulent ones to assess authenticity quickly. Then, consumers can avoid companies using fake reviews, while honest companies can register themselves on The Transparency Company’s website to attract customers.
- Pasabi helps companies track fake reviewers, especially those paid by competitors to leave negative reviews. This company’s service includes compiling relevant evidence for lawsuits against fake reviewers and those who employ them.
These tools can be valuable resources when you want to verify the authenticity of online reviews. However, it's crucial to note that no tool can guarantee 100% accuracy, as fake review techniques constantly evolve. Therefore, it's essential to exercise critical thinking and employ multiple strategies to make informed decisions.