As a small business, online reviews are critical to our success. Reviews from past customers can help give legitimacy to small businesses and products that you purchase online. As we are becoming more e-commerce based, reviews are critical to the success or failure of a product. Fake reviews are a growing problem in small business and e-commerce space. In today’s post, we want to discuss why fake reviews are a problem for business and consumers alike.

Why Reviews are Important

The ultimate form of advertising reviews. Business with good reviews will get a lot of free exposure; ratings will sort search engines and online sites like Amazon or Yelp. According to a BrightLocal study, 84% of people will trust an online review as much they trust a friend. As a result, well-received businesses will overshadow competitors, and products with low reviews will be buried on online retail sites. The bottom line is that reviews can be critical to a business’s survival. As a result, some businesses will pay for a fake review

Fake Reviews

Now you may be thinking: Where do these fake reviews come from? People leave more fake reviews than bots. AI or robot generated reviews can stick out, and websites are pretty good at catching bot activity. Website administrators can see where the reviews come from.

For example, if a restaurant in Wilmington has 30 reviews from a British IP address, there will be some red flags. Another example, Google will take away reviews if you get too many positive reviews in a certain amount of time. Businesses will turn to freelance writing outlets to find people to write fake reviews for them. Depending on the platform’s terms of service, they may offer gifts or incentives for leaving excellent reviews.

Snowball Effect

Since we know that websites will give more exposure to hide poorly better-reviewed products and services; what about new content? To allow new products or services a chance for maximum exposure, the sites will factor in how new the post is and the quality of the first couple of reviews. If new products first reviews are high or positive, it will have a better chance of getting picked up by the algorithm.

Once this happens, the item will be exposed to more people causing more people to purchase it. After the purchase, they will have the ability to leave a review, allowing it to be exposed to more people. The cycle will continue to repeat itself. The opposite can happen if the item first reviews are bad.

As you can see, manufacturers, authors, and anyone else who sells something on an online platform has to essentially ‘game’ the system to drive sales.

Purchasing Fake Reviews

Shady businesses can buy bad reviews, hurting their competitor’s ability to do business in the process. For example, Amazon has automated systems in place to protect buyers from counterfeit products. If an item gets multiple ad reviews in a short timeframe, the site will suspend the seller. This could cripple a business during important retail days like Black Friday. The Wall Street Journal reported on the unethical practice. Check it out below:

A Symptom of a Larger Problem

While fake reviews are unethical, and it can be easy to point fingers at the sellers, the e-commerce giants, and other; the reviews are part of a more significant problem. E-commerce is all about exposure. Since a business can live or die from it, some will do whatever it takes to get in front of the customer. Unless the e-commerce infrastructure changes, these fake reviews are the status quo. Make sure you do your research before buying a product. Read a mix of the good and the bad to form an opinion.

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