How do fake reviews manipulate you online?
Fake reviews can be found all over the Internet, positive and negative, and they influence our decisions about the purchase of goods or services every day. In addition to their obvious unethicalness and harm to consumers, their presence is also a symptom of a larger problem that plagues online commerce.
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Reviews are worth their weight in gold
In the world of online commerce, reviews are considered a reliable indicator of a successful or unsuccessful product. A lot of good reviews means the product is popular and people like it. But everything is far from transparent, since reviews are also a form of advertising. Using this, companies can more effectively promote their products, because on many sites, offers that have a lot of positive reviews are placed in the top of the search, moreover, they are shown in recommendations and even advertised in mailing lists.
According to a study by SEO company BrightLocal, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust friends or acquaintances. These incredible statistics show what a huge impact even a poorly written review posted by an unknown buyer can have.
The rating system based on trust in consumer reviews has created a highly competitive market with almost complete freedom to manipulate the opinions of the target audience in various ways. As a result, companies struggle to build a good reputation to stay afloat, including through fake reviews.
Who is writing fake reviews?
Most of the fake reviews are written by hand by real people. Large sites are struggling with bot activity in every possible way, and their intelligence technology is not yet sufficiently developed to be able to compose truly realistic comments. In addition, some services use IP address validation to track down questionable reviews.
Most often, companies are looking for freelancers for promotion, or they use the services of marketing agencies. True, it’s worth noting that, not to mention advertising firms, not every freelance exchange allows you to place orders to create fake reviews and reviews. For example, Upwork prohibits both ads that offer illegal activity and those that violate the terms of service of any product, service or site. As you might guess, writing fake reviews falls into these two categories and is technically prohibited on Upwork and many other freelance sites. But adventurous marketers are not so easy to stop – they usually just send veiled ads to find freelance writers without specifying a specific type of work.
Another loophole that companies are exploiting is the provision of free products and services in exchange for a consumer review. This practice is quite legal, but in fact a significant part of such reviewers are not objective, since they receive additional bonuses for good reviews.
Fake social media reviews
Fake reviews have flooded not only major Internet resources. Promotion by dishonest methods is also actively used in social networks. The various communities with themed sections are tempting targets for businesses. And the easiest way to achieve this goal is to create custom reviews on behalf of gamers, especially since the level of trust in reviews is even higher on forums.
Online stores and other sites are designed so that, first of all, content with positive reviews and a high level of rating is shown to visitors. Thus, the success of a new product depends a lot on the first few reviews. If they are positive, there is a high probability that popularity will only grow in the future, but if negative, little will save you from failure.
But the problem is that it is not so easy for a completely new product to attract the attention of buyers, which means that reviews will not appear soon. For example, let’s say you’ve just published your first novel and posted it on the Amazon Kindle bookstore. Is it likely that he will soon become popular? Not really, and primarily because of the feedback system. Most likely, it will simply get lost among the many unpopular self-published books, not bringing you the expected income.
But what if you decide to reissue a novel with 20 fake reviews? There is a real chance that Amazon will start offering this to its visitors. As the “snowball” grows, the book may appear at the top of the site’s search results, appear in recommendations and eventually clamber into the bestseller lists, even if you do not shine as a genius. It sounds like a crazy fantasy scenario, but unfortunately, this is not uncommon. As a result, even talented and recognized authors are sometimes forced to use fake reviews in order not to lose their rating positions.
Negative reviews as a weapon against competitors
Bad reviews are just as effective at manipulating consumer opinion as positive ones. Moreover, many large services, like Amazon, remove products with negative reviews at the end of search results, and when a certain rating threshold is reached in a short period, they automatically block the seller altogether.
This type of sabotage is especially popular among large companies. Fake reviews allow you to temporarily remove competitors from the path and gain a foothold in the market. If a company that has fallen victim to such “marketing” does not quickly regain its reputation, it could go bankrupt. But what’s the fastest way to the top of online commerce? Of course, hire authors to write tons of positive reviews for the product you want to sell.
Symptom of a more serious problem
Of course, you can blame the dishonesty on business owners, marketing agencies, freelance copywriters, or anyone else. But these are all just moving parts of one big system. Nowadays, the fate of many types of business is closely related to the algorithms of search engines, rankings and the constantly changing opinion of the Internet audience. Any action on the part of the company causes an instant response, which gives almost no room for error and makes us strive for quick success at any cost. In such a situation, the decision to avoid fake reviews, while competitors do not hesitate to use this method, can be fatal to the business.
Does this mean we have to accept user review fraud as some kind of norm? Of course not. But unless online platforms come to rethink a business model based almost entirely on reviews and reviews, we will continue to see fake reviews in all areas of online commerce.