Did you hear about the author who admitted to bashing fellow writer’s books online? His self-labeled “lapse of judgement” lasted over ten years. Needless to say, it’s cast a lot of doubt on the weight online reviews play in our choices of everything from books to vacuum cleaners, from mechanics to restaurants. Here at CarHelp, online reviews are our business. So when NPR published an article on “Five Ways To Stop a Fake Online Review” we paid attention.
As readers of online reviews intuitively know, merchants and authors post glowing reviews of their own products, and harsh reviews of their competitors, all the while pretending to be authentic customers. Now and then, fake reviews come to light, but most of the time, we don’t know if that five-star restaurant review was posted by your neighbor down the block or the chef at the restaurant — writing under a pseudonym.
That’s because many fakers have things down to a science. “What you’re trying to do is to be indistinguishable from a real review,” said Dina Mayzlin, a marketing professor at the University of Southern California. “So it’ll be, by definition, very hard to tell the good fakes [apart] from the real reviews.”
The Federal Trade Commission has tried to crack down on fake reviews by imposing fines and penalties, but the incentive for cheating — especially when combined with the low odds of getting caught — remains high. NPR, 12 Sep 2012.
Here are a few helpful tips, courtesy of NPR, for getting the most out of online reviews:
• Compare reviews between several sites for similarities or copies.
• Place more importance on verified reviews. For example, Amaazon.com uses a “real name” icon to indicate an authentic review and verified identity.
• Place less importance on the amount of stars given, and more on the details of the customer experience.
• Get important information from reviews, like how long a pool stays open, that often isn’t included in a business description.
• Focus on trends in the reviews, rather than outliers. Any business will have great or terrible customer stories. Looking at trends will show if a bad review is abnormal.