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This article was published on November 16, 2015


How to protect the authenticity of product reviews

How to protect the authenticity of product reviews
Aimee Millwood

You’re working hard to earn your customers’ trust to boost customer loyalty of existing shoppers and prove your worth to potential customers.

But there’s insidious content lurking on the Web that has the potential to seriously hurt your SEO, reputation, and overall purchases:

Fake reviews.

So how can you protect the authenticity of product reviews and boost customer confidence in them?

Why do fake reviews exist?

Throughout the history of time (er, well, the history of the internet), there have always been spammers. The digital world and annoying scammers have a torrid love affair.

For one, no one likes scammers, but on the other hand, scams make us see potential weaknesses in our technology so that we can better protect ourselves.

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One reason why fake reviews are so dangerous is because they pose as real human opinions.

While big publications, such as news outlets and magazines, have heavy standards in place for fact checking and assessing authenticity, and therefore write reviews that we can trust, online it’s a little different.

Social media sites, blogs, and review sites do not have the same policing methods, and it can become a free-for-all that’s not always the best for brands.

Brands are at at risk for falling victim to fake reviews or inaccurate information that doesn’t properly reflect them. Even for the biggest sites, like Amazon, fake reviews have proven to be a difficult enemy to fight. But it’s not an impossible battle.

Why do fake reviews matter?

First, in order to understand the damage fake reviews can do, you need to understand the impact the voice of the masses has on authenticity.

Why do consumers choose to overlook a few terrible reviews when the majority are overwhelmingly positive? The crowd effect.

This principle says when forming an opinion, we measure the total aggregate data, which means if the majority of people sway in one direction, we put our trust in the numbers.

In other words, we tend to trust the voice of the masses.

The crowd effect argues readers can easily spot opinions that deviate from the average, and the majority opinion will dominate.

If there are just a few fake reviews, it is assumed that these will be outweighed by the majority of authentic reviews.

Even search engines follow this formula – the crowd effect is essentially the basis on which SEO relies.

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Information that is well indexed and digitally up-voted by users rises to the top of page rankings, while information that serves little purpose is moved to the bottom.

However, don’t be worried that having a large amount of negative reviews will have a bad impact on your sales. People are more likely to convert when they trust the reviews, and trust comes from seeing a variety of positive and negative reviews.

So what happens when the majority of content is fake?

Separating the truth from the lies is easier said than done. Unfortunately, for both humans and search engines, spotting fakes isn’t always so simple. Our naivety makes it difficult for us to discern fake content.

We blindly believe statistics without stopping to believe if they are fabricated or taken out of context, we read ghostwritten articles and credit thought leaders for content they did not product, and we are persuaded and swayed by manipulative marketing and advertising on a constant basis.

What causes this? We operate on a trust bias that others are like us, and so we therefore assume like us, they are not maliciously spreading deceptive information.

However, from businesses writing false negative reviews to get an edge on their competitors to viral internet sensations that turn out to be the work of a company, not consumers, inauthentic information is rampant. Clearly, there is a reason to be wary.

Let’s take a moment to consider reviews – while spammy reviews are easy for readers and algorithms to spot, realistically written reviews present an issue.

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A study on the prevalence of deceptive reviews and our ability to spot them found that computer algorithms are more accurate than human beings at spotting fake reviews.

This means even the most discerning people won’t always be able to tell if a review is fake or not.

So what’s a brand to do to protect themselves from fake reviews?

  • Use a system that verifies reviews. At this point, there’s no excuse for not using a reviews system that verifies reviews. But to really prevent spam, you need to make sure reviews aren’t just written by real people, but people who really bought your product. As a brand, it’s important to do everything to protect yourself from fake reviews and instill trust in your shoppers that your reviews are real.
  • You can’t completely protect yourself against fake content, but you can reward honest content. For example, display verified authenticity badges that instantly filter out authentic content and questionable content for shoppers. By rewarding authentic content, you show shoppers you value the truth.
  • Don’t hurt yourself by only showing positive content. Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually good to display negative reviews. Consumers trust sites with some negative reviews more than sites with all positive reviews, so don’t be afraid to display them. You can even use them to your advantage by commenting back to users. This publicly displays that you care what your reviews have to say and can convert unsatisfied customers into huge brand fans.

A final word on fake reviews…

Fake reviews exist. But you can take the proper steps to protect yourself from them. Additionally, you can show customers your authenticity by displaying real reviews – whether negative or positive – to show that your reviews may not all be 5 star, but they’re all real.

This post first appeared on Yotpo.