A recent push by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has resulted in the removal of over 16,000 Facebook groups by the platform that were trading fake reviews on the platform. The move highlighted the increasing impact of fake reviews on how businesses are running in the modern world and their urge to remain relevant and competitive.
What are fake reviews?
Companies that engage in fake reviews do not do it out of ignorance. They know how having a high review on their products impacts their clients’ decision to do business with them, and therefore, engage in such activities to be more competitive. To understand why businesses and digital marketers use fake reviews, we need first to understand what a fake review is.
A fake review is a review that is written by someone who has no prior knowledge of the products, services, or businesses they are writing a review for. These reviews can be written by friends, family members, or company and business employees advertising the products and services.
In recent years, fake reviews have also gone commercial, with the rise of review farms that lets companies and businesses use their services for a fee. These ‘farms’ are hired to run multiple fake reviews in a bid to attract business to their clients’ sites and businesses or destroy their competition.
Fake positives and Fake negatives reviews
The main purpose of fake reviews is to not accurately describe the products and services they refer to because they are designed to go after clients’ wallets. To achieve this, companies and businesses are using two types of fake reviews:
Fake positives reviews: These are fake reviews that are posted praising the products and services offered by businesses, even though what is being described bears no resemblance to reality. Most fake positives are posted on the actual business pages praising them for their quality products and services.
Fake negative reviews: These types of reviews are posted on competitors’ business pages and try to persuade clients not to do business with them. They are written to persuade clients not to take action on products and services being reviewed.
Why do reviews matter?
Research shows that over 95 percent of online shoppers use ratings and reviews to evaluate and learn more about products and services. If a business has low reviews and ratings, it means that potential customers overlook it and go to their competitors.
Rather than compete and improve their services, many businesses opt to go for fake reviews to become competitive. This results in dishonest descriptions of a business’s products and services, resulting in poor customer experience interacting with a business.
Why fake reviews are bad for business
Online user reviews are a double-edged sword that can spell the success or failure of a business. In many cases, they provide a perfect snapshot of the environment a business operates on, giving users the ability to see in real-time other clients’ experiences and satisfactory levels dealing with a business.
Done correctly, reviews, both positive and negative, help clients gauge the best and worse case scenarios of a business. However, that is not always the case, and some businesses engage in having fake reviews on their business pages to become competitive. The consequences for fake reviews include:-
Destroys trust with your business
Consumers have gotten good at spotting fake reviews. Research done by Bazaar voice that involved over 10,000 consumers from U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Australia showed that 42 percent of the respondents would lose trust in a brand if they found that their employees did fake reviews. The research also showed that 34 percent of the respondents said they would not trust a brand that outsources their reviews. The study also showed 82 percent of the respondent indicating that they would not use the brands again if they found out they had fake reviews.
This shows just how risky outsourcing fake reviews can be for businesses looking to be competitive without putting in the work.
Businesses engaging in anti-competitiveness tactics can be legally sued. In New York, for instance, businesses caught engaging in fake reviews online can be fined up to $350,000.
In cases where businesses post fake negative reviews of their competitors, they can also be sued and held liable for losses incurred due to such false advertisements.
Local traffic can drop
Review sites such as Google and Yelp have become very proficient at tracking and predicting trends over the years. Posting fake reviews that appear unnatural is therefore easy to detect by these sites. Once caught, your search engine traffic can be affected and in some extreme cases, your review page can be deleted, resulting in huge consequences for your business.
Your business may appear scammy
In the current digital world, your potential clients are also aware that some companies use unscrupulous methods to gain an edge over their competitors. Reviews containing only five-star ratings for a product may raise questions to your potential buyers who may suspect you of gaming the system.