They say you should fake it ‘til you make. And this is sage advice if you’re an intern with lofty aspirations or trying to get better at CrossFit (more power to you, bro).
Where it doesn’t fly, however, is in the world of online reviews. In fact, fake online reviews have become so prevalent that they’ve got their own buzzword: astroturfing.
Astroturfing refers to glowing reviews that (much like artificial grass) appear to be sincere but, upon closer inspection, most certainly aren’t. ‘Turfed reviews can be the result of a number of dodgy practices; from businesses penning their own reviews, to incentivised consumer feedback, to professional services who specialise in writing through sham accounts.
These reviews are bad news for two reasons. Firstly, they deceive innocent consumers into making poor purchase decisions. Secondly, they have a negative impact on the business’s credibility in the long run.
1. Timing is everything
Often, fake reviews will be uploaded en-masse within a short period of time. This generally indicates a poorly thought out, targeted campaign to promote a business.
Sometimes, you’ll encounter genuine spikes in reviews around key occasions like product or service launches, major sales or holidays. Use your discretion: if the mass reviews exhibit more of the traits listed below, or if they’re seemingly out of the blue, they’re likely straight outta Dodgeville.
2. Spelling and grammar is key
As you can imagine, being a professional fake-review-writer isn’t a particularly rewarding job. And it shows. Mass reviews are frequently farmed out to agencies, and this reveals itself in the reviewer’s spelling and grammar.
3. It’s in the detail
Authentic reviews tend to be specific, but realistic. They should, after all, be written by real people and not by product technicians or marketing teams. That means that excessive technical detail like formal product names, serial numbers or tech or marketing jargon is often a dead giveaway.
Conversely, reviews that are extremely broad and don’t appear to refer to anything that is specific to a product could suggest a writer who has never seen or interacted with said product. Beware of vague phrasing like “it looks good” and “it works well” without any qualifying information.
4. Repeat after me
Repetition of spelling mistakes, over-the-top adjectives, unique turns of phrase or cut-and-paste review structures also points to a single writer creating templated reviews.
Our advice to you when faced with these reviews? Make like your Monday morning diet ambitions, and ignore ‘em.
5. Say my name
Generic or generated names are also a red flag when it comes to online fakery. Seriously, who after the year 1997 has a username like *^FlyGuyMachine^*?
Who in their right mind would choose, let alone remember, Tiffany62544510000237 as a login? The answer, my friend, is nobody. Complicated, number-ridden usernames usually indicate automated reviews via phoney, generated user profiles. Just keep on scrolling, there’s nothing to see here.
6. A picture’s worth 1000 words
While some prefer to remain anonymous when leaving a review on dedicated review sites like Hellopeter, be wary of profiles with avatars that look like they could’ve been stolen from elsewhere on the web.
No, that’s not really Charlize Theron singing the praises of adult diapers, nor is Beyoncé really reviewing those diet pills. Those accounts, like the pills they’re punting, are 100% fake.
7. Professional chancers
Lastly, beware of the professional chancers. These are real people who have developed a nasty habit of leaving negative reviews in the hopes of scoring a freebie. You’ll see them hating on everything from the length of the queues to the manager’s attitude, and their reviews come thick and fast.
Now that you’re totally a maestro at spotting faux reviews, you can research products like a pro. Go and research to your heart’s content over at Hellopeter, which boasts thousands of in-depth, accurate reviews on just about any product or service.
Reviews on Hellopeter have helped over one million consumers make better choices. Had an experience you’d like to tell us about? Leave us a review here.