How to Spot Fake Online Reviews
Everybody Uses Online Reviews to Help Choose Suppliers
However, some less scrupulous companies have resorted to putting up fake reviews online in order to mislead prospective customers. These are either put up by the company staff themselves or their marketing agency; alternatively, online reviews can be bought in bulk from a number of less reputable sites.
Such fake reviews are usually easy to spot. One of the obvious tell-tale signs is that a batch of reviews suddenly appear over a short period of time. This usually happens after a long period with no reviews at all or after a negative review.
We will now look at an example of a company that has got a lot of fake reviews on Google. The company is Trade Frames of Martock in Somerset and the fake reviews are on their Google My Business directory listing. You will see that 15 of the 23 reviews have been posted two months ago (September/October).
Now let’s have a closer look at some of those reviews…
On the right is a screenshot showing the first four reviews by Linus Berry, Chantal Wellavize, Joanne Wood and Anna Attard (click on the image to bring up a larger version).
Now, each of those people have reviewed other companies as well. If we click on each person we can see their other reviews. These are captured in the four screenshots below (again click on an image to bring up a larger version).
From this we see that those four people have reviewed the same unrelated (by geography or by service) companies: Trade Frames, Edward Mellor Estate Agents, Stick With Us Ltd, Bambach Saddle Seat Europe and Titchmarsh and Bagley. Looking at profiles of the other reviewers we see these same companies cropping up again and again. It is highly likely that all these companies have paid the same agency to purchase these fake reviews.
We can also see that the reviews are mostly bland and don’t say much about the products or services provided. However, in some cases the reviews talk about windows installation which Trade Frames don’t do (they are a manufacturer and distributor). The reviews are consumer focused and Trade Frames supplies products to other businesses.
Interestingly, there is also a review by Charlie Eddlestone of Rocketfish Digital who are Trade Frames’ web development agency. Rocketfish Digital also have a review by Lee Riordan who has also reviewed the same group of companies (he has even reviewed Edward Mellor Estate Agents twice in two months). One of the other companies cited in his reviews are Amar Jones Ltd whose website was also developed by Rocketfish Digital.
It is likely that these fake online reviews will be taken off at some stage in the near future as I have reported them to Google (you can see the online discussion about that here). I have also reported Trade Frames to the Trading Standards Officer.
I must also disclose that Trade Frames was a supplier to another of our companies Premier Conservatories & Windows. We have had major issues with quality and delivery from Trade Frames which is how (when leaving a poor review) I found all the fake reviews.
No reputable company or marketing agency should ever put up fake reviews online. If you want to find out how to properly manage your reputation and to get real reviews from your customers please read about our Reputation & Reviews service. We with our partner reputation.com to facilitate this process.