How to Spot Fake Business Reviews Online

You know what they say: not everything you read on the internet is true. And while online review sites are a great place to look up a business or a product for more information, there is a possibility that what you are reading online may not be true.

For example, did you know that up to 15% of online reviews are fake? That’s why you should always be on the lookout for fake business reviews, both as a business owner and as a consumer.

Here are four questions you can ask yourself to determine whether or not a review is real or fake.

Does the Reviewer Seem Real?

Real customers have no reason to hide online. A real review, especially on Google or Yelp, will typically show a reviewer’s full name (or first name and last initial) and a profile picture. If you notice comments from anonymous users or those with vague identities, be wary that they might not be real customers. Be sure to read these comments with care and skepticism. If you are not sure whether a person commenting is legitimate, you can always check their profile to see if they are a real person or if the user made their profile simply to write a review.

Is the Reviewer Pitching Another Product or Company?

Be aware of users who comment poorly about a business then turn around to promote another product or business. Oftentimes, this is a competing company trying to steal customers with fake, bad reviews. Also, be wary of video reviews that go over a company website for the first half only to talk about a competing company (or their own business) at the end. These are likely sales pitches from the competing company and not an honest review.

Does the Review Make Sense?

Legitimate reviews should be logical, justified, and should answer the five W’s: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. For complaints, there should be a clear reason why the customer was disappointed with the service or product they received rather than an emotion-filled comment. If there is no reason why the company is in the wrong, it’s a waste of your time to listen to someone rant about how much the user hated the company. Remember to read through all of the comments to understand both sides of the story. You can always contact the company directly just to be sure.

Did the Company Respond? If So, How?

Since they are a great source of feedback, real reviews are taken seriously by companies. Companies can typically identify who the customer is and analyze the issue. If they are unable to identify these traits in a legitimate review, they will likely reply to the user and take the issue offline or message them privately. Some companies are able to check their database based on information the reviewer provides. If they respond saying they can’t identify the reviewer based on the information they have, then the reviewer may not be an actual customer, and their feedback should be taken lightly.

Reviews provide great feedback for both businesses and consumers. Make sure what you’re reading is accurate so that you can make the best decisions about where you want to give your business. And, if you’re a business owner but you’re unsure whether or not a review is describing a personal experience, make sure to reach out to the reviewer and ask them to contact you directly so you can gather more information about their experience. To learn more tips about managing your online reputation, read our Reviews FAQs series here.

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Louisa Karam

Louisa was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She is entering her junior year at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and is pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Analytics. At Creighton, she is a member of the Women's Rowing Team and is passionate about community service. Excited to learn, Louisa is an intern within the marketing department. She is looking forward to working with the ReachLocal team and meeting new people.

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