The words slithered across the page, “Trip Advisor fined $600,000 for fake reviews” and “Give Yourself 5 Stars?” It Might Cost You. I don’t know why the headlines surprised me. You can’t believe everything you see on the internet, you know.
I often check out online reviews before I make a purchase. When choosing a hotel for a trip, the first thing I’ll do is pick out some hotels and read the online reviews. I continue to use Trip Advisor but like anything found on the world-wide-web verify, verify, verify. Always cross check your information with other sources. When I switched dentists, I scoured the internet in search of a good one and read many reviews. Choices, choices, there are review sites for nearly everything these days, from lawyers to line dancing instructors. How reliable are online reviews and should we use them? The answer is both yes and no.
A survey by Bright Local found that almost 75% say that good reviews make them trust a business more. Another at Harvard Business School study by Micheal Luca determined that a restaurant that boasts its Yelp score by a full one star can see its revenue increase 5 to 9 percent. This fact makes reviews crucial to businesses bottom line; it also creates a strong incentive to cheat. Companies that don’t have a good reputation online may try to create one by posting fake reviews. They may also attempt to destroy competitors with phony bad reviews. What can you and I do to weed out fake reviews when researching products and services.
- Check out the reviewer. Look at other reviews written by the reviewer. Have they only written one review or several. Be wary of someone who has only written one review, especially if it is either extremely negative or extremely positive. Extreme reviews sometimes show the writer has some extreme motivation for writing it, think–competition, compensation or an ax to grind, it may be fake. If the writer has only written a single review, take a close look at the author. Google them and look them up on Facebook. If they have written more than one report, read several of their posts to get a feel for if you can trust them or not. Is the reviewer using the same phrases and wording in multiple reviews? This is a sign they might be getting paid for their reviews. Yes, some companies pay people to write good reviews.
- Look at several reviews on several sites. Do your research, you don’t have to turn picking out a restaurant into a week-long project but if you are using online reviews be sure to check several sources. I make sure I have read numerous opinions, then I can make the best decision. You want to look for trends.. You should also discount the very best and very worst review. I take into account that many times, reviews are opinions. They may or may not apply to me. Take a look at this guide to Opinion Spam Detection
- Stick to major review sites. Amazon, Yelp, and TripAdvisor have a major interest in not having bogus reviews on their sites. Amazon marks their reviews with whether or not the writer actually purchased the item they are reviewing from the online store. The travel site Expedia requires that reviewers actually buy the service they review through the site itself. When business school professors Yaniv Dover, Dina Mayzlin and Judith Chevalier studied thousands of hotels reviewed on TripAdvisor and Expedia, the trio found that fakery was more prevalent on the pages of smaller, independent hotels versus large, corporate hotel brands. “Smaller hotels have more of an incentive,” says Dover, who teaches business administration at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “There’s seemingly more incentive for you to fake because the rewards are high, and implications are not so bad as if you were part of a corporation.” I suspect that this ratio of fake reviews to legit reviews between large and small companies exists throughout the business world. A study at Cornell University developed software they say can detect fake hotel reviews. Try it here. I tried it out it, and it seemed very accurate. I even plugged in reviews for other things besides hotels, and it worked. I bookmarked it for later use.
How carefully should you examine the reviews you use before making a buy? That depends a lot on what you’re buying. I would look at reviews for a babysitter or a new car a lot closer than I would one for who has the best spaghetti. Nice seeing you, Have an excellent week and God be with you until we meet again.