TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Online reviews are a great way to make an informed decision when buying a product or hiring a service.
But, scammers are out there trying to ‘game’ the system to better their companies position in the search engine rankings.
You can be a smart consumer (and business owner) by doing your homework and spending some time looking into the authenticity of these reviews.
Here are 8 ways you can make a better decision next time you’re shopping online.
Look for Patterns
When checking out a review, take a look at the verbiage and compare it with other similar reviews – especially regarding the same types of services. If you notice similar words and phrases, you should be suspicious that it could be the same service posting fictitious reviews.
Check Website Lists
There are several websites out there offering help in identifying fake reviews. In our piece, we focused on ReviewFraud.org to get access to businesses with questionable reviews on Google in our area. You can find a full list on their website – the author is constantly adding more businesses. Other sites like FakeSpot.com claims to identify fake product and services reviews for sites like Amazon, Yelp, Trip Advisor and more. ReviewMeta.com also claims to help discover fake Amazon reviews.
Look for an Online Footprint
If you suspect a review is questionable, check out the author. Search his or her name in a search engine. Add your city next to the name. The more detail you add to the search, the more you’ll find something related to the person in your area – if they exist. If you can’t find anything related to the person, it doesn’t mean the review is fake, but you should be suspicious and keep looking or move on.
Analyze the Profile Picture
This is perhaps the quickest way to see if you’re on the right track to tell if a review is questionable or fake. You can save the image to your desktop by right-clicking and choose the ‘save image as’ option. On Google, you can do a reverse image search. Go to http://images.google.com and click the camera icon in the search box. You can upload the image or you can paste the link of the image. Google will search for similar images and you can generally find the source of that image. If you see the image on a lot of websites, you may have a fake reviewer.
Pay close attention to the language
Fake reviews are oftentimes generated overseas so the author may not be great in the English language. Note punctuation, misspellings, sentence structure and bizarre phrases.
Check that Date of the Reviews
If you look at 10 reviews for a product and service and 9 of out 10 of them were from ‘5 months ago’ that could mean they were all added at once and are likely fake. Look for these types of patterns. You’ll want to see products and services reviews that have a healthy history of reviews from various times and dates.
Look for Repeated Codes or Titles in the Review
If you read a review that uses the same phrase over and over (for instance, Super Gadget 123), you’ll want to be cautious. This is done because the author is trying to build search rankings from the review itself. They are hoping that when someone types in ‘Super Gadget 123’ into a search engine, the results for that post will show up on the first page of the search engine. But what they are doing is actually spamming the listing of the product or service. This isn’t good and you should avoid the product or review, or question the author on the authenticity of the review.
FOR BUSINESSES: Don’t Buy Into the Hype and Do Your Homework
If you run a business and want to be found online, you’ve probably heard of search engine optimization or local search marketing. There are thousands of companies out there promising to get you on the ‘first page of Google’. While this is actually possible, it takes work and it doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, in many cases, it can take months to tweak your website’s content, list your business in certain citations and directories and promote the right content. As we found in our story, one company went with a company that offered this promise but it resulted with questionable reviews on their website. And now that company making the promises is nowhere to be found.