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How To Report a Fake Online Review?

Customer reviews are a vital element to the success of every business. This is because many consumers already use online reviews as the first step when deciding where to get dinner, buy a new outfit, or choose a new stylist. Taking charge and evolving your brand’s online presence for the better involves generating and interacting with online reviews.

What are fake reviews?

Fake reviews are simple enough to understand. They are those reviews that are posted online but people who have tried neither the product nor the service that they are writing.

Why do people write fake online reviews?

There are a number of reasons why people and business may resort to the posting of fake online reviews.

  1. Monetary gain

For one thing, we have already mentioned that online reviews are important in today’s business world. They are and extension of the word-of-mouth phenomenon that has always been in existence and, therefore, account for large amounts of commerce that takes place. In simple terms, online reviews are worth money, and where there is money, there are some people who are inevitably going to try to game the system.

Carry out a search on Google and you will come across a wide range of sites that sell online reviews. If you are a business and you are tempted to buy from these people, then this is something that you should probably strive to stay away from.

Most of the online listing companies that are out there, including Yelp, frown upon fake reviews, and there is a risk that you will be penalized should you be tempted to buy them.

  1. Disgruntled customers

This is another reason why there are so many fake reviews floating around on the internet. Okay, this type of review may not be entirely fake. What happens is that a business may find itself on the crosshairs after providing a less than stellar service to a customer.

Negative feedback is, as we are always saying, an inevitable part of the business world. This applies particularly to those that deal with a lot of customers on a daily basis. Where there is interaction with people, there is always going to be some level of dissatisfaction.

We are also always mentioning that negative reviews should not be viewed as a calamity. Instead of panicking, what you need to do is determine their cause. Indeed, negative reviews are something that you can turn into a positive for your business.

They give you an opportunity to introspect and to discover your areas of weakness. Not only that, but they can also be turned into a positive. By reaching out to the affected customer, you can create the kind of rapport that will give them motivation to go back online to change the review. You also ensure that they become a regular for your business by ensuring that all their concerns are taken care of.

  1. Dissatisfied customers can take it to another level

Failing to address the concerns that are raised by a dissatisfied customer is usually the reason behind many of the ballistic reviews that are out there.

  1. Malicious Competitors

This is the third reason why you could end up having negative reviews on your profile. Should you have competitors who are motivated enough, they may just go to Yelp, TripAdvisor or Google to leave a scathing review about your business.

If you do not deal with a high number of customers on a daily basis, it will be possible for you to identify fake reviews of this type because you will have full knowledge of who you dealt with on a particular day. However, for businesses that handle very high volumes of customers, identifying a fake reviews of any type tends to be doubly difficult.

How to spot a fake review?

To avoid falling for a fake review and making a purchase you’ll regret, use our top tips below:
  • Don’t rely on ratings – delve deeper and read the reviews. Do they sound natural? Are they too long or short? Are they repetitive?
  • Check the dates – look at when the reviews were posted. If many of them were posted in a short time period, it might mean there has been a push for reviews on Facebook groups or other platforms.
  • Are the reviews impartial? – click on some reviewers and check their history. Do they give everything five stars? What else have they bought? If they’ve bought multiple of the same type of product in the space of a couple of months, they might be a member of a review group.
  • Difference of opinion – if people are praising an aspect or feature of the product that others are highly critical of, it might be suspicious.
  • Pattern of ratings – are the ratings at different ends of the scale with very little in between? It’s rare that people are completely polarised about a product.

What to do when you identify fake reviews

The fortunate thing is that there are a number of things that you can do in order to remedy the situation should you fall prey to fake reviews. The unfortunate bit is that this is not always simple and straightforward. Indeed, most people simply prefer to ignore fake reviews. Here are some of the things that you can do counter the negative effects of fake reviews;

  1. Have fake reviews taken down: Most platforms, including Yelp, Google and TripAdvisor provide you with ways through which you can get fake reviews removed from your profile. However, as already mentioned, this can be rather difficult. For one thing, how are you going to convince Yelp or Google that a review is, indeed, fake?
  2. Get positive reviews: The good thing is that most online review platforms put the latest reviews at the top. What this means is that you have the ability to swamp out fake reviews, by getting more and more of your satisfied customers to leave feedback on your profile. Once you have done this, the fake reviews will fall to the bottom.
  3. Sue: A recent case in Italy saw a man being jailed for selling fake online reviews on TripAdvisor. What this means is that you can take the legal route to get fake reviews removed from your platform. If the person can be identified, you would actually be doing the online community a favor because, as we have already mentioned, people across the globe now depend on online reviews when making their purchases.

What if Someone Posts a Fake Review About You?

Just because you’re following the rules doesn’t mean your competitors will do the same. As hard is it is to watch them get ahead breaking rules you choose to follow, it only gets worse when they start posting fake, negative reviews about your company.

A recent New York Post article outlined a scary incident where an Amazon merchant saw his sales plummet from 450 units a day down to just 150. It all started when a few negative reviews reached the front page of his Amazon product. Even though most of the reviews were positive, the negative ones had received enough upvotes to outrank the others.

Customers scrolled down to the reviews, saw the bad ones first and didn’t bother to keep scrolling.

Suspiciously, the man was contacted by a “list optimization” vendor who offered to help clean up the review page by generating upvotes for the positive reviews. When the man turned down the service, the negative votes rapidly increased, nearly doubling within a day. The vendor contacted the man again, saying the price to fix the review page had doubled. The vendor admitted that one of the Amazon seller’s competitors had hired him, but that he would be happy to turn against the competitor if the price was right.

The seller contacted Amazon and reported the incident, but Amazon was unwilling to fix the problem.

Negative reviews are as much of a commodity as the positive ones. Chances are your competitors will use them against you, and there’s not much you can do about it unless you can prove that a review is fake (and that’s tough). Yelp, Google My Business, TrustPilot, and other review sites will not take a review down unless they are sure it was put up in bad faith.

As the New York Post example shows, the issue is even more complicated thanks to users’ ability to upvote negative reviews. You can’t please everyone, so chances are your product will receive at least a few genuine negative reviews. If your competitors upvote those to give them more prominence than your positive reviews, they may successfully scare away your customers.

How do companies fight back against fake reviews?

Since there are so many businesses in different industries that depend on customer reviews, steps had to be taken to prevent such practice. For example, TripAdvisor penalizes properties which have been found fraudulent: such property will get a large red penalty notice on their listing page and may drop significantly in the TripAdvisor popularity index.

Some companies try to fight the problem by introducing verification processes to prove that customers have actually made a purchase from the business before reviewing it. For example, earlier this year Google introduced “Verified Customer Reviews” which are available for businesses with an online store. This feature requires a Merchant Center account where it is possible to set up a process of having customers receive an email survey after they make a purchase. Such measures definitely make customer reviews more trustworthy for the potential buyers.

However, it is not just review sites that are fighting against fraudulent reviews. Submitting or encouraging fraudulent reviews is not only unethical, it’s also illegal in many jurisdictions. There have been quite a few law suits about fake reviews all over the world. Such a law suit may destroy your online reputation, to say nothing of the risk to incur legal costs and hefty fines. To illustrate the point, let us remember a case when a cosmetic surgery company Lifestyle Lift was accused of posting fake consumer reviews and had to pay $300,000 in penalties and costs to the state of New York.

Consumers also often get sued for leaving defamatory reviews on review sites. A recent case happened in the UK when Sarah Gardner left the High Rocks restaurant a one-star review on TripAdvisor and then got a law suit from the restaurant claiming that her comments were illegal and caused the restaurant considerable financial harm.

Although one can understand restaurants which want to protect themselves from unfair reviews, such publicity still may be unfavorable for their online reputation. Customers may be afraid of leaving their honest feedback and may decide not to visit a property which is well-known for suing its customers.

How to report a fake online review

You have responded to the possibly fraudulent review, but still would like to inform the review site regarding a violation of their review policy? We have touched upon the topic of what to do if you have got a fake review on Google in one of our previous articles. Let us give here a short summary of what you need to do in such cases on the biggest review sites, such as Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp.

1. On Google, you can hover over the review in question and click on the Flag icon which appears next to it. You will be taken to the Report a policy violation page. Then enter your company email address and select the violation type. The review will be assessed and removed from your listing. If it is not removed and nobody has got back to you, contact the Google support team from your Google My Business page.

2. On TripAdvisor in your account choose “My Business” from the menu in the upper right-hand corner and choose your property. At the top of the page click on “Reviews” and choose “Report a Review”. There you can fill out a form to flag the review in question. You will need to provide some evidence that demonstrates that the review violates TripAdvisor’s guidelines.

3. On Yelp, you should be logged in on the Yelp for Business Owners website. Locate the suspicious review in the “Reviews” section of your account and flag it. After evaluation, you will receive a notification from the Yelp moderation team.

As the online reviews and reputation management landscape evolves we will continue to update.

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