Fake Reviews – A Competitive Tactic or Act of Desperation?

by | Jul 17, 2021 | Marketing, SEO

Reviews are a major part of online marketing and can lead to new business. No matter the type of business, reviews from customers and clients are always welcomed. However, the world of digital marketing faces an issue with occasional fake reviews. These reviews are most often a result of a disgruntled competitor who makes an attempt to hurt a brand. So, this tactic begs the question – is this a smart competitive move or an act of desperation?

Where Fake Reviews Happen the Most

The three largest websites for reviews are Google (left through Google My Business), Yelp and Facebook. Any customer of a business can create a profile on these sites, then proceed to leave a review of their experience. Because it’s easy for real customers to follow this process, it’s also easy for competitors to create fake profiles and do the exact same thing only with negative intentions in mind.

Each review site will do its best to review any questionable reviews, they don’t always remove every single review. Google offers an option to flag a review as inappropriate with further actions to mark it as spam, a fake review or not relevant to a business at all. Yelp also allows business owners to request a review of a noticeably fake review and Facebook reviews may also be flagged. The problem with flagging reviews is that they go in a queue with several other issues and will not be quickly resolved. As an example, we worked with one client who had to wait 7 months for a fake review in Yelp to be removed.

How to Spot a Fake Review

To the average consumer, reviews probably look authentic. However, to a digital marketer or an SEO professional, it’s easy to spot a fake reviewer. Here are a couple of ways we can immediately know a review is fake:

Only One Review

All major platforms will show how many reviews a customer has contributed. If a person has only left one negative review about a business, it’s mostly likely fake and from a competitor.

Several Reviews On the Same Day

Another quick red flag is when a business received several negative reviews in a short amount of time. This usually occurs when a spammer creates multiple fake profiles all with the intention to leave fake negative reviews. In my professional opinion, this is a sad use of time as a competitive tactic.

Customer Profile / Name Only Exists On the Review Platform

When a client asks us to look into a suspicious review, the first thing we do is try to look up the person’s name. Not surprisingly, the name of the reviewer doesn’t exist anywhere outside of the review. We’ll try to find the person on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even some people finder sites, but they simply don’t exist outside of one negative review.

What Can You Do About Fake Reviews

It’s unfortunate, but fake reviews do happen and they could happen to your business. If you run a successful business, there could be a competitor out there who is jealous of your success and will leave a negative review in an attempt to damage your reputation.

The first thing you should do is respond to the review. Show your real customers that this is a fake review left by someone who is not customer. The sooner you respond to the review, the sooner it will show the spammer that you know it’s a fake review. Remember to be professional in your response and let the reviewer know they have been reported. If they continue to abuse the review platform, their account could be banned.

Second, be sure to flag the review in whichever platform you are dealing with. Even though it will take a long time to receive a manual response, it’s a good practice to flag it and leave it with the right people to properly assess it as a fake review.

Next, to offset any competitor and fake reviews you receive, ask your real customers to leave reviews for you. Each system will be quicker to show newer and positive reviews to your audience. These will help suppress any fake reviews you receive.

And finally, if you are able to identify the competitor leaving the fake review and can find their contact details, don’t hesitate to report them for their shady behavior. If it’s an employee of a business, how would their boss or company owner feel about them spending company time to leave fraudulent reviews?

If you do receive fake reviews from competitors, don’t get discouraged. If a competitor has time to leave phony reviews for you, they likely don’t have many customers or much work to do. It’s a poor use of their time and an act of desperation to try to hurt your business’s reputation.

If you have any questions about reputation management or how to properly respond to reviews (real or fake), feel free to reach me at jeff@octivdigital.com.

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