This guy Stephen Espinosa (whom I don’t know) helps local businesses promote themselves online. His advice is to get your “clients” to post reviews on popular sites — the quote marks are his, and he adds a smiley face in case we don’t get it:
I won’t spell it out fully, since he doesn’t, but this seems like an opportune moment to talk about fake reviews.
You need spend only a few minutes on most rate-and-review sites to understand that they contain fake reviews. There are fake positive reviews posted by the business owners, and fake negative reviews posted by their competitors. Many are amateurish and easy to identify if you’re looking for them, though I suspect that some casual users don’t realize they’re fake.
I’ve never put much store in reviews by strangers. Still, I always thought that out-and-out fakes were a fairly limited and unorganized phenomenon. Now that I see they might be promoted more systematically, I’ve lost confidence that I can even spot a fake.
Furthermore, I expect that such fakery will spread and become more sophisticated. As local search reaches critical mass, it’ll be hard to trust anything.
I used to believe, for instance, that a Yelp reviewer with 10+ reviews and some kudos from friends was almost certainly a real person. That’s probably still a safe assumption — but will it be next year?
If I’m a certain type of SEO consultant, right now I’m probably setting up a network of hundreds of fake Yelpers. They’ll all have real-looking pictures, real-sounding profiles, and lots of reviews (some even genuine). They’ll send each other kudos, enhancing each others’ credibility.
And they’ll exist solely so I can be paid to deploy them for the benefit of my clients.
If done properly, this sort of fakery will be very hard to detect. Probably the only way I’d get caught would be to advertise the service — or to include quote marks and smiley faces when I blogged about it.
And this is just the truly fake reviews. There’s still reviews from friends of the business owner, and “real” reviews that have been solicited directly by business owners, some of whom will give discounts in exchange for posting on … well, on a certain site.
In such a world, reviews by strangers become devalued and personal trust is at a premium.
Not so long ago I heard that we need to see, on average, 20 reviews from strangers before we’ll believe the prevalent opinion that’s being expressed.
What will that number be in the future? 50? 100?
Wouldn’t it be simpler and better to get your advice from people you know and trust?
Via, say, Loladex?