30% of all reviews are fake. That’s according to a 2020 study conducted by Fakespot. This study looked at reviews on over two million eCommerce sites, so it’s a good indicator of the digital environment your company is working within today.
But what exactly does this statistic mean for your business? What do you do about fake reviews — and do they really even matter?
The number of fake positive reviews companies pay for likely sways this stat. Paying for reviews is becoming more common, but it has its drawbacks, and we don’t recommend it.
If you’re not paying for reviews, the fake reviews that pop up on your review sites will likely be negative. Whether they’re paid for by one of your competitors or written by a bot, these fake negative reviews could certainly influence your customers’ opinions.
Don’t panic. Having at least some negative reviews (fake or not) can be a good thing. With that said, however, it’s always a good idea to have your finger on the pulse of what your reviewers are saying. Assuming all your reviews are fake will get you nowhere — but it’s smart to identify which ones are.
If a review is real, you need to quickly reply in a way that leaves that customer coming back. Or reply in a way that wins back someone who had a poor experience. If you suspect a review is fake, you can respond accordingly, and report it through the appropriate channels when needed.
10 Ways to Identify Fake Reviews Online
- Extreme Tone with Few Details
If a review is overly negative about a product or experience but doesn’t mention many specific details, the reviewer could just be an individual of few words. Or, this sign could point to a fake review. Usually, a real review will include at least a few details of why a customer didn’t like the product. Or it may include why the customers thought their service experience wasn’t great. The review will also usually contain a positive or neutral element alongside the negative feedback. For example, “I usually enjoy shopping here, but today one of your cashiers was very rude” vs. “I hate your store and your cashier was incredibly mean to me.”
- Too Much Detail (a.k.a. “scene setting”)
On the flip side, a fake review may include details that feel unnecessary. A fake review might overemphasize why the customer went on their grocery shopping trip. (“I headed to the store to buy items to bake my aunt a cake for her birthday, and nothing I wanted was there.”)
A real review instead may focus on a specific issue. (“I was at your store today and couldn’t find the brand of chocolate powder I usually purchase.”)
- Influx of Reviews on Items in a Similar Price Range
Harvard Business Review conducted a study that found fake reviews are most common on Amazon products priced in a competitive range — $15 – $40. This is especially true when these products have already-high ratings. This point might not be completely transferable if you don’t sell on Amazon, but it’s something to keep in mind. In fact, an influx of negative reviews all at once in any price range should put you on alert for fakes.
- Reviewer History Shows a Pattern
Some review websites allow users to create profiles. If you receive a negative review, checking the profile is a great place to start when trying to identify if it’s fake. If lots of reviews have been posted in a short amount of time — especially if the reviews show a similar pattern — that could be a sign this user is a bot or paid by a competitor to leave a negative review. Review sites aim to prevent these types of profiles from popping up, so don’t hesitate to report.
- Mysterious Profile
As with all of these signs, this one alone doesn’t necessarily indicate a fake. But, if you click on the user’s profile and nothing’s there, their name is akin to John Smith or they’re using a stock photo, it could mean it was created by a bot.
- Poor Grammar
Not everyone aced high school English, but lots of misspelled words, forgotten articles (a, an, the) and switching tenses could indicate the review writer is from a different country. If your business is mostly U.S.-based, this is a possible indicator the reviewer was hired to write a fake review.
- Too Many Exclamation Points
Perhaps the review is just written by someone’s great aunt, but lots (!!!!!!) of exclamation points could suggest a fake, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Marketing Research. An example given: “My gloves ARE NOT WATER PROOF !!!! They are not the same gloves !!!”
- It’s All About Them
Some legitimate reviewers really do believe the world revolves around them. But according to a study done by Cornell, fake reviews were more likely to include “me” and “I” than real reviews. The Cornell researchers took analyzing the language of reviews even further and found that fake reviews used more verbs while real reviews used more nouns. Counting the “me”s in your reviews might not be the most beneficial use of your time. But in combination with other warning signs, an overly narcissistic-sounding review could point to a fake.
- You Reach Out But Don’t Hear Back
Before assuming a reviewer purchased your product and hated it, make sure to check your records. If you can’t find the reviewer in your system, consider reporting the review, especially if some of these other warning signs are present. Or, reply asking for more information. You could also private message them or email them, depending on what contact info you have. The review may be fake if you don’t hear back — or get a reply again chock full of warning signs.
- It Simply Sounds Crazy
A wall of ranting text combined with plenty of grammatical errors, exclamation points and expletives — this type of fake review can’t fool you. Hit report.
Unsure How to Respond to Fake Reviews?
At the end of the day, most people (according to this researcher at least) can’t guess if a review is fake or not with much accuracy. Replying to most reviews as if they are real (and reporting those that really raise these warning signs) is a safe bet.
What’s an even safer bet? Working with Let Us Respond! Our team of experts will take out the guesswork and manage your review response for you. They’ll even help you reply to, identify and report fakes.
Book your online review consultation today.