How To Spot and Respond To Fake Product Reviews

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It’s common knowledge that customers put their faith in other customers. Product reviews can often be the turning point in a customer’s purchasing decision. A recent study by Podium showed that 93% of customers claim that an online review influenced their decision to purchase, and according to BrightLocal, 84% of consumers said they trusted online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend. Your reputation is your company’s strongest asset, and while online reviews might only seem like a small detail in your online presence, shoppers increasingly turn to reviews when deciding on a purchase.

But that’s not the only reason product reviews matter…

Product reviews have become a stream of communication between businesses and customers. When a customer writes their post-purchase opinion, listing the pros and cons of that specific product or service, you’re essentially collecting feedback and enriching your insight into the quality of a product. Product descriptions are a key player when boosting SEO and convincing a potential customer. E-commerce contenders should implement information from product reviews to enhance descriptions, ensuring potential customers get as much useful information about a product as possible.

How do fake product reviews affect SEO?

Any website views obtained by online reviews will have an impact on SEO, however the reviews themselves aren’t a search ranking factor. Instead, negative reviews can have a serious effect on a customer’s first impressions of your business. Supplemented with on site optimisation and building citations, search engines place a lot importance on reviews simply because they have a strong effect on consumers. If you’ve gained some trustworthy backlinks from other websites, you’ll be able to gauge the similarly positive effect that review websites can have for your business.

E-commerce merchants have a demanding task, trying to juggle attracting new customers with earning their loyalty and converting them into loyal brand followers. It’s a challenging enough process without fake reviews. Fake reviews are conceived from a number of agendas, such as spamming and sabotage. Knowing how to overcome them is an essential part of having a successful ecommerce business. Tackle these head on before they have a negative effect on your SEO ranking and your reputation.

How to spot them: tell-tale signs of a fake review

Extreme reviews

Reviews awarding your product 1 or 5 stars should awaken some scepticism. Many fake reviewers are actively trying to alter your overall average value, but they need to publish extreme reviews to do so. It’s futile for a reviewer to leave a 2-4* rating as this won’t manipulate the average significantly.

Incorrect product information

It’s pretty easy to spot incorrect product information by reading through your reviews or comments. If someone details information about a product that is clearly incorrect, it’s likely that it’s a fake and the reviewer may have an ulterior motive.


The review is vague, without any specific details, or with sweeping generalised statements. 

Promotion of another website

Keep an eye out for reviews that link to another website. If a review suggests a competitor’s product it’s likely the review isn’t sincere. 

Overly negative reviews

If you receive a negative review that is quite extreme, look into the account holder’s history: if their account isn’t verified, you’re right to feel dubious.

They've posted a similar/the same review on other websites

If you’ve seen a reviewer post similar content elsewhere, double-check their comments on other websites, which should reveal if they’re a repeat offender.

And lastly...

Once you’ve responded to their comment they:

  • Don’t reply, or reply with a formulated, template-like response
  • Aren’t able to further explain their complaint
  • Don’t respond (even when you offer to resolve the problem). 

How to confront fake reviews

Flag it

When you’re certain that the review you’ve received on a review website is deliberately false and harmful, it’s time to flag it. Most review sites will contact you, so prepare your case for an informal moderation. If proven, the most common outcome will involve the removal of the review on that website.

Have a verification system in place

Ensure that you have a system that validates and verifies the reviews posted on your site. Protecting the authenticity of your product reviews is imperative when instilling trust in your customers. Businesses who rely on dedicated review websites like Yelp, Google + Local and TripAdvisor should look closely into their policies, which differ from platform to platform. Similarly, each platform deals with exclusivity differently: whilst some retain reviews for their own site, others correlate their data, which will affect SEO.

Authenticity badges

It’s impossible to be 100% certain that your website is protected from fake content, but designing a display feature like an authenticity badge will streamline honest content on your website. Yelp does this with a yellow ‘A’ to highlight the authentic reviewer to prospective customers. See the image below.

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Keep cool, calm and collected 

Business is personal, but as with any general criticism, it’s important to separate your emotions when handling negative online reviews. The best exchanges occur when both parties treat the review as a conversation. Successful businesses use negative feedback as a trigger to improve their business, highlighting the need for a superior customer service or even making changes to the product itself.

Google Alerts

Google have come up with Google Alerts, which you can setup to automatically notify you every time your company is mentioned online. If you’re tracking what people are saying about you, you can have a much more active grasp on your reputation.

Review Acquisition Strategy: obtaining more reviews

Marketers are defining review acquisition strategies in a bid to counteract false reviews that are harmful for their business’ reputation. By designing customer forms that encourage them to leave reviews, you’ll increase genuine review content about your product. Whilst it’s natural to try and counteract negative reviews, especially those that are deemed false, Google have warned businesses not to offer discounts or free gifts in exchange for a positive review. You can include a form that invites reviews in your email marketing and social media channels to reach your most engaged customers. Provide step-by-step instructions, highlighting some of the different sites that customers can leave a review. Leave a link to review sites on your own website to redirect customers and attract more attention to your products.

Be real, not fake

Ensure you are not solely displaying positive reviews on your website. In actual fact, it might be more beneficial than you think to display negative reviews, too. Reviews act to validate your website to consumers, building up a clearer picture of your product before they purchase. Better still, most customers are impressed when they see a business actively seeking some conflict resolution on a product review. Confront negative reviews by responding politely, opening a dialogue that fairly addresses the problem. A public discussion demonstrates you are confident about your products and willing to address your customers’ needs.

We're here to help

Here at Elkfox, we’re digital marketing experts. We know how important your online reputation is for growth and success. For more information on online reviews and getting the most out of them, get in touch!