Think you can trust every online review you read? Not so fast.
In the past, we’ve talked a lot about fake reviews here at HighYa, in articles like Winning the Battle Against Fake Reviews and 7 Ways To Spot Fake Reviews, as well as in hundreds of different product reviews. But why are we so focused on them?
Because, as consumers, online reviews are as important as personal recommendations when we’re making purchasing decisions. But if we can’t trust what we read, then we’ll ultimately lose confidence—not just in the companies who use them to mislead us, but also in the websites where we might read fake reviews.
And there’s perhaps no better example of this crisis than Amazon.
If you’re one of Amazon’s 244 million active users, you probably recognize that customer feedback is the lifeblood of their business, so it’s no surprise that they’d be one of the first—and largest—companies to actively take a stand against fake reviews.
To help provide some perspective, let’s first take a look at what Amazon has done in the past to address fake reviews. Then, we’ll talk about their most recent “chess move” in the battle against fake reviews originating from Fiverr.com. Finally, we’ll wrap things up by helping you learn what you can do to take your own stand against them.
The Back Story
First, in April 2015, Amazon announced they were suing four different firms who were paid to write 4 or 5-star product reviews on their site. The problem? All of the reviews were all fake. Or, as one company decided to spin it, they were “unbiased and honest.”
In response to this, a couple months later, Amazon then announced they were implementing artificial intelligence (more specifically, a “machine learning algorithm”) that would help discern which reviews a consumer might find most valuable. This included reviews that were newer, those that had been voted “helpful” by other users, and those that were Amazon Verified purchases (we’ll come back around to this in a second).
Based on these groundbreaking actions, it’s clear that Amazon is on a mission to filter out as many fake reviews as possible, so that we can trust what we read on their site.
But the company isn’t resting on their laurels. Based on their most recent legal action, they’re intent on stopping fake reviews at the source.
The Present Day
Now, Amazon has once again announced that they’re filing suit against fake reviewers. This time though, instead of going directly after companies, they’re targeting individual account holders on Fiverr.com (we’ve also frequently discussed the problem of fake reviews generated from sites like Fiverr and Task Rabbit).
During an extensive investigation, Amazon found that for as little as $5, these users would “offer positive or 5-star reviews for Amazon sellers' products. Indeed, many encouraged the Amazon seller to create the text for their own reviews."
Remember when we talked about Verified purchases in the previous section? This was certainly a step in the right direction, but any time new rules and regulations are put in place, someone is always going to figure out a way to sneak around them.
During their investigation, Amazon also found that, "In at least one instance, the seller of a 'Verified Review' was willing to receive an empty envelope, not the product itself, simply to create a shipping record!" In order to avoid raising suspicion, Amazon also found that these users posted reviews from several different accounts and IP addresses.
Fake reviews have been a concern for years, so all of this is great news! We’re finally seeing a large (ok, massive) company formally recognize all the harm that comes from fake reviews, while also taking legal action companies that promote them.
What’s the end result? Based on Amazon’s previous lawsuit, the named companies have mostly been put out of business. After all, creating fake reviews is all about money, so the best way to put an end to the practice is by making sure no one will profit.
And with Amazon embarking on such high-profile cases, we believe we’ll start seeing a big reduction in the number of fake online reviews (at least, those posted to Amazon).
In the mean time though, if less-than-stellar freelancers can easily skirt Amazon’s guidelines and post fake reviews, what can you and I do to for avoid them?
Keep reading, because there is hope!
What Can You Do To Avoid Fake Reviews?
It’s almost impossible to know just how many fake reviews are floating around online, lying in wait to mislead and misinform you (although Yelp admits that as much as 20% of their reviews are fake).
But as the old saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” As such, here are four tried-and-true tips you can use to avoid fake reviews in the first place:
Tip #1: Watch Out for Too Much Positivity
Remember the classic song Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys? (Sorry, you’ll probably be humming this for the rest of the day.) Well, too many good vibrations for a product might be a bad thing.
Do you find that a product only comes with 5-star reviews? Yes, it might really be that good, but this could also be a warning sign that you’re reading some fake reviews. The solution?
Be sure to research reviews across several different websites. Do you find that they’re all saying pretty much the same thing? Or, are all the reviews positive on one or two websites, while reviews on other sites tell a completely different story?
If so, this could be a red flag that they’re fake.
Tip #2: Watch for Language Cues
Fake reviews often use a lot of personal pronouns (e.g. I, me, he, she, etc.), in addition to overzealous language (e.g. “this hair tie completely changed my life!”) and too many adjectives.
Is someone talking more about their feelings than the product itself? Is it based on flowery language instead of facts? Are you finding a lot of spelling and grammar errors? These could all be signs that you’re reading a fake review.
Tip #3: Look at the Big Picture
When you’re reading an online customer review, you’re probably excited about the possibility of a new product, and how it might make your life better.
But before you get too caught up in your emotions, be sure to take a step back and analyze what you’re reading from an objective perspective. Are the claims over the top? Do they almost seem unbelievable? If so, they could be fake.
Also, remember that, although good reviews will contain a lot of facts, they’ll also contain plenty of opinions. And like any other opinion, what one reviewer found useful, you might not. Be sure to take these opinions with a grain of salt (unless, of course, multiple reviewers are expressing the same opinions).
Tip #4: Share Your Knowledge
Last but certainly not least, tell us what you think. Do you feel that Amazon is justified in what they’re doing? Have you ever purchased something from Amazon based on a fake review, and were unhappy with your purchase? Do you have any more tips for helping others avoid fake reviews?
Whatever it is, leave a comment below and let’s start a conversation!
Also, be sure to share this article with all your friends, family, and social networks. After all, you know someone who could benefit from this important information!