For many either ignoring reviews on these websites or creating fake ones has become standard practice, however this can put you in breach of consumer protection legislation, not to mention is not a good way to gain a customer’s trust.
When it comes to online reviews, there is a fine line between what is ok and what is not. As reviews are being taken into account more and more, our perception of what is acceptable and not has changed, fakery is being tolerated less and it is worth making sure that you are on the right path when it comes to your reviews, or they could land you in a spot of bother.
What is acceptable and what is not?
The following are not accepted as a means to gain reviews and you will find yourself in breach of consumer protection legislation if you are doing any of these:
1) Offering incentives: offering money or gifts in exchange for a good review is not acceptable.
2) Pretending to be a customer and writing positive reviews about your products is fraudulent.
3) Hiring an external agency or person to write good reviews for your products is again a breach in consumer protection legislation.
If you are an agency you must be cautious, and if you are handling reviews for another party potentially you can get caught up too. Using review sites for SEO purposes is fine, but posing as customers unfortunately will not fly.
The importance of online reviews
Online reviews are now influencing our decision making and are increasing likelihood of a conversion by 63% (iperceptions 2011). This shows that now more than ever we are taking customer reviews into consideration.
9/10 Consumers are shown to have used reviews to determine the quality of a local business, to add to this another 39% are shown to do so on a regular basis. This shows the growing need of businesses to manage their online reputation (figures from Search Engine Land).
- 67% of consumers said they read up to 6 reviews (vs. 77% in 2013)
- 85% of consumers said they read up to 10 reviews (vs. 92% in 2013)
- 7% of consumers said they read 20+ reviews (vs. 2% in 2013)
- 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more (vs. 73% in 2013)
- 10% of consumers don’t take any notice of online reviews (vs. 12% in 2013)
- 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (vs. 79% in 2013)
- Only 13% said they do not trust reviews as much as personal recommendations (vs. 21% in 2013)
- The split of what drives the trust is 50/50, some users trust more based on how many reviews there are. The other half of customers are motivated by authenticity. As users become more discerning, the importance of trust will increase no doubt.
(Search Engine Land)
These figures dictate a trend that is moving towards customers becoming more savvy when choosing their online purchases, reading up to 10 reviews. They also show a move toward trusting reviews, especially local business reviews outlining how important your local customers are to you.
How to gain honest reviews
The average customer is not going to actively look for ways to leave a review, this is where you need to ask for a review and make it as easy as possible for customers to do so. Asking for reviews is fine, as long as you are not encouraging you customers to review positively for a reward.
We have put together a few hints for your review strategy:
- Ask for a review while the purchase is still fresh.
- However similarly don’t ask too early so the customer has not had a chance to use the product.
- Just ask for a fair review of your services, there is no need to offer vouchers or money off.
- Add links to review profiles in multiple places, encouraging customers to visit them.
- Add the yelp button to your site, this will encourage users to visit yelp to review and promote trust in your services.
How to spot fake online reviews yourself?
We wanted to include a section to help you wise up, some companies unfortunately either actively participate in generating fake reviews or don’t do enough to prevent them (like TripAdvisor, who have been under fire for neglecting prevention of false reviews).
These are some ways of spotting a fake review yourself:
- Look into other reviews in the same name, if there is a one off review and it is overly positive or enthusiastic, it may be worth questioning.
- Look out for multiple reviews on similar sites. Reviews for the same hotels using similar language is a sure sign of fakery.
- If the terminology is overly specific it can sometimes ring alarm bells. This is when the fake reviewer is using the review for SEO benefit, quoting the whole title of a product several times in one paragraph.
- Focus is on the hotel facilities and activities available, basically a list of extras the hotel offers written in the description of the hotel. This is a dead giveaway that the reviewer may have written the review without even having set foot in the hotel!
However, there are ways to define the validity of a review, some of the below are verifications that you may see alongside reviews that will help determine which comments will be the most helpful.
- Verified reviews – for example some sites like Amazon will verify the review to show if the commenter has truly purchased the item online.
- Some sites use a social media login in order to leave a review, this allows the user to see if the reviewer is a genuine person.
- You can use tools like this nifty one: Review Skeptic, which allows you to copy and past a review for the tool to analyse, with up to 90% accuracy! The results are based on research from Cornell University, and work based on language analysis.
We feel what this all comes down to is taking into account the growing amount of internet users who are becoming highly internet savvy, and not attempting to apply trickery. In addition, when reading reviews, it is worthwhile reading a range of reviews and being aware of the signals fake reviews give. We hope in the future businesses will look to improve their service to gain genuine positive reviews instead of using review fakery.