According to a survey published earlier this year which analyzed the behaviors of more than 1,100 U.S. consumers, “More consumers are reading online reviews than ever before.” A whopping 98% say they read online reviews, including 78% who say they “use the internet to find out information about local businesses more than once a week.” Consumers are also selective when it comes to what other reviewers are saying, with 40% reporting that 4 stars is the minimum rating they’ll accept before considering a business.
The conclusions to draw from this data are obvious: consumers value online reviews and look for highly-rated brands. The more reviews you have and the higher ratings you earn, the more consumers will trust and want to shop at your brand. If your clients are struggling or going through a slow period, publishing positive reviews would definitely help them reach a greater audience — right?
As you probably expected, the answer’s a little more complicated. While authentic reviews build buzz and boost brand visibility, fake reviews can backfire by producing the opposite effect — and, as we’ll discuss in this week’s post, consumers can spot them from a mile away. Follow along as our response scribes identify some of the tell-tale signs and red flags that consumers use to identify fake reviews, then learn how Shout About Us offers a superior alternative through our flexible, scalable review generation service designed for brands, digital agencies, and their clients.
11 Ways Consumers Can Tell When Positive Reviews Are Fake
We recently covered some of the reasons why your agency or brand should never pay for positive reviews on our blog. Not only can you be penalized by platforms like Yelp, which prohibit fake reviews (and flag noncompliant businesses) — you even face the risk of government fines and lawsuits.
While these types of consequences are definitely daunting, they aren’t the only problems that can result from fake reviews. You also run the risk of turning off consumers — whose overall trust in online reviews is already at a low point, having plummeted sharply over the past two years. In 2020, nearly 80% of consumers reported that they “trusted online reviews as much as the recommendations of family and friends,” but by the end of 2021, when the same survey was reconducted, that number had plunged from four in five consumers (79%) to just half of consumers (49%). With consumer trust in reviews so low, it’s arguably more crucial now than ever to ensure that your reviews are authentic and legitimate.
You can read more about the risks and dangers of fake reviews in this article, where our response scribes covered this topic in depth. Today, we’ll be focusing on some of the signs and traits that consumers say make them suspicious of reviews (or, for that matter, owner responses). According to research by BrightLocal, here are the top 11 features or details of online reviews that are most likely to make consumers believe they are fake.
- 45% of consumers said they would be “suspicious” of a review that seemed to be “over-the-top in its praise.” Of course, different consumers have different ideas about what qualifies as “over-the-top,” making this entry more subjective than some of the others on the list.
- 40% of consumers would be suspicious if “the review is one of lots of reviews with similar content.”
- Almost as many — 38% — would distrust a comment posted by an anonymous reviewer, or a reviewer using an “obvious pseudonym,” like a string of words instead of a first and last name.
- Interestingly, only 36% of consumers would distrust a review that was “over-the-top in its negativity,” compared to the 45% who would draw the same conclusion about “over-the-top” positivity.
- About one third of consumers (32%) said they would suspect a review that “is one of very few positive reviews among mostly negative reviews.”
- Almost the same number of consumers (31%) said they would mistrust a review that “is just a star rating and hardly any words.” This also lines up with recent research by Yelp, which we wrote more about here.
- You may want to pay especially close attention to this one: just over a quarter of respondents (26%) said they would be suspicious of a review if “the business owner has responded to the review and suggested that the review is fake.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you should turn confrontational or start picking fights with your commenters. Learn all about the right (and wrong) ways to respond to fake reviews of your or your client’s businesses here.
- 25% of respondents would suspect a review that contained “lots of capital letters,” which is also useful to keep in mind when writing review responses. For more review reply tips, check out some strategies for responding to negative reviews, or educate yourself about three common review management mistakes to avoid.
- 21% of consumers said they would mistrust a review that was “one of very few negative reviews among mostly positive reviews,” in contrast to the 32% who stated the opposite.
- Only 16% of consumers would be dubious of reviews that didn’t feature profile pictures.
- Last but not least, a review that “mentions staff [members] by name” would set off alarm bells for 12% of consumers. We actually recommend acknowledging staff members who are named in your reviews, which can help to make your reply sound more friendly and personalized to the commenter — for example, “We’re thrilled to hear how Samantha went above and beyond to help you find the perfect fit for your family!” Learn more about why it’s important to customize your responses to business reviews.
A tiny minority of respondents — just 5% — said “none of the above” factors would make them suspicious of a review’s authenticity.
Shout About Us Provides Review Generation and Review Response Services for Digital Marketing Agencies and Brands
Positive buzz is crucial for success — but fake reviews undermine all the effort you’ve poured into past campaigns. Not only can fake reviews cause you to lose credibility on review platforms like Yelp, which can flag your account with alerts that warn consumers about you — they also cause shoppers to distrust your business, defeating the purpose of utilizing fake reviews in the first place. As we hope today’s post has made clear, consumers are skilled at identifying fake content, making a fake review strategy both risky and ineffective — especially once you factor in the potential for fines or other penalties.
Fortunately, there’s a better alternative. Using a simple three-step process, we take the headache out of requesting reviews with a system that caters to your client’s unique needs. Your clients have the option to manually send out personalized requests via email, SMS, kiosks, or your very own white label mobile app — or, for a truly hands-off approach, we can seamlessly connect to their CRM or POS to send out requests automatically. Whichever method your team prefers, your happy clients will quickly see reviews roll in — complete with custom, on-brand responses delivered within 24 hours.
Whether you’re looking for a comprehensive suite of reputation management services, or you just need a nimble and lightweight review generation solution, Shout About Us has you covered. To learn more about our review reply service, review generation service, or review management platform, contact our team online today or schedule a demo with Shout About Us.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.