Online reviews have become one of the most powerful tools in helping consumers determine whether to purchase a product or service. According to Review Trackers, customers are willing to spend 31% more money with businesses that have several excellent reviews, while 94% of consumers say a negative review can convince them to avoid a business.

Because online reviews are so valuable to consumers and business owners alike, it is important to be aware of fake reviews. Online reviews are very easy to manipulate. This means that pretty much anyone (or any bot) with the intention to mislead the public can write and post a review that spreads false information about your business.

Common sources of fake reviews include:

  • Service providers or vendors that sell both positive and negative reviews
  • Business owners and marketers who create their own fake positive reviews to attract customers and/or write fake negative reviews of their competitors
  • Former employees who post negative reviews of their employer in retaliation for being fired or laid off
  • Friends, family and employees who write positive reviews on behalf of a business they’re closely associated with
  • Customers who write negative reviews in exchange for benefits such as a refund or a discount

How can I spot a fake review?

It is very important to closely monitor what is being said online about your brand. Identifying fake reviews can be challenging. Luckily, many business review websites have automatic filters set in place to detect fake reviews and remove them. However, they do not catch everything so you must manually stay on top of all your business reviews.

The following tips will help you spot the red flags most commonly associated with fake reviews:

Check the dates

If several reviews pop up on your website or on a business review site on the same day or around the same time, you are probably looking at a set of fake reviews posted by an internet bot. Typically, organic reviews are gradually posted over an extended period of time.

Check the reviewer’s profile

A sure way to determine the authenticity of a review is to check the reviewer’s profile. Where is their location? When was their account created? Do they have any linked social media accounts? Fake profiles tend to be shallow and have vague-sounding names or an absence of a profile photo. Be sure to also check their review history. A profile with no review history is suspicious. A review history of extremely positive reviews for one company and negative reviews on competing companies is also a red flag.

Check for specifics

A lack of details in a review can be a tell-tale sign that it may be fake. You should be wary if the reviewer fails to make specific claims regarding their experience with your brand and does not seem very knowledgeable about your offerings.

Check for statements that are too positive or too negative

Though consumers may have strong opinions, reviews that are too positive or too negative should raise some doubts. Real reviews tend to reflect a more neutral tone. Customers who may have had a generally pleasant experience with a brand may still include things that need improvement while a customer who had a less than satisfactory experience may still point out aspects of the business that they enjoyed.

Check language choices

When trying to spot a fake review, look for words and phrases that the average person would not use. For instance, if you are reading a review for a WIFI service and the reviewer uses phrases such as “robust data transmission” or “explosive speed”, it is probably a phony review as most consumers do not actually speak this way. Other red flags include vague, universal terms and incorrect use of words. Unnatural language patterns are usually a dead giveaway.

How do I handle fake reviews?

Fake reviews can cause harm to your brand reputation. If you suspect that you have found a fake review, you will want to deal with it immediately to avoid turning off potential customers. There are a few different ways to handle fake reviews.

Get the review removed

Getting a fake review taken down before it has any major effect is the most obvious and ideal solution. This can be done by directly flagging or reporting the review on the website where it was posted. Understand that it is essentially your word against the reviewer so there is no guarantee that it will be taken down. However, business review websites generally do try their best to remove obviously fake reviews.

Respond publicly

According to Bright Local, 89% of consumers read business’ responses to reviews. This means that you can use a fake review as an opportunity to showcase your professionalism and commitment to customer service. Do keep in mind that this is only a good strategy if you already have a protocol in place for responding to all reviews. If not, it will appear to customers as if you are not responding to any other negative reviews because they are true. If you do choose to respond, keep it polite and professional. Do not use insults or accuse the reviewer of anything. Here are a few examples of ways you can respond to a potentially fake review:

  • Consider that the reviewer may have posted a review for the wrong company: "We appreciate when our customers take time out to review us, but it seems that you may have the wrong company as we don't have any record of you ever having visited us. Maybe you have us confused with another company? If not, then we'd love the opportunity to make things right."
  • Politely draw question to false claims: "I think there may be some confusion here. You wrote that we closed early on Sunday so you could not get in. However, we are not open on Sundays. Was it possibly a different day (or another company)? If you wouldn't mind calling us so we can better understand the issue, then I'm sure we can figure out what happened."

Attract more authentic reviews

Though you cannot directly control whether you get good reviews, you can actively encourage satisfied customers to review you on your preferred websites. When you have a majority of positive reviews about your business, the negative and/or fake reviews will ultimately hold less weight.

Remember not to offer discounts or other benefits in exchange for positive reviews. It is illegal to pay or bribe customers for online reviews. Besides, it is much more rewarding to earn your positive reviews fairly while upholding your brand’s integrity.

Though it may be your intention, it is not likely that your business will satisfy every customer. An occasional negative review is not the end of the world and can even provide you with the proper feedback to make improvements. Completely false and defamatory reviews, however, can be aggravating and ultimately damaging to your brand. Nonetheless, you must remain calm and handle the situation professionally, whichever solution you see fit.

Customer reviews are essential to finding new leads and closing more deals. A businesses that is highly recommended can also charge more for services because customers trust the company to do the work well and efficiently. Learn more about integrating customer reviews into your marketing plan.

To supercharge your business with curated customer reviews and extra visibility for the reviews that make your business shine, has reputation management programs to fit your needs. We’ll keep track of your projects, reach out to customers on your behalf and ensure that every transaction ends with a satisfied homeowner.