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Fake Reviews ,Freebies, and Fire: Are Review Sites To Be Trusted?

Over the last few years there has been a surge in review sites, such as Yelp, Google and Facebook. More people have been flocking to them before making a decision on where to eat, what to buy, or who to do business with.

Many customers are starting to distrust review sites because of how reviews are garnered. Some sites will advertise freebies in exchange for reviews. Some reviews are done by employees or even companies paid to leave reviews as part of their service package.

For example: reviewsthatstick.com

This site promises to give positive reviews for a price. When you click the order link you get a list of where they will leave reviews and the pricing structure. It is quite expensive. However, positive reviews are important, so some companies are paying.

Buyonline.reviews

This site promises to “fix your reputation.” They showcase the fact that they have already “fixed” 573 “reputations” and have a 99% positive feedback rate. Instead of listing their prices, you must email them for a quote.

Here is my take on some of the most popular review sites.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Better Business Bureau: Start With Trust®

The Better Business Bureau (BBB), founded in 1912, is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust, consisting of 112 independently incorporated local BBB organizations in the United States and Canada, coordinated under the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) in Arlington, Virginia.

This is an underrated but good site to view how a business is responding to their customers and what their overall rating is. Mind you, to be BBB accredited and get an A rating , you don’t always need to be giving the customer what they want but you do need to respond as a business. To quote their site :

BBB ratings represent the BBB’s opinion of how the business is likely to interact with its customers.

This is a great site to see full transparency in how a business communicates with their customers. You can easily view a business’ ratings, reviews, complaints and responses. This can give you a good idea of how businesses respond to their customers. It also helps that they are a third party that aides in mediation for customer complaints. The BBB holds the accredited businesses to strict standards that they must abide by. They also uphold standards for filing a complaint as well which includes proof of purchase/verification of being a customer.

This one tends to be a lot of customer’s last resort after attempting to get an issue escalated the normal route so I would review the company's response vs how many negative complaints you see. In my experience, this site tends to be compliant heavy. However, seeing an “A” rating will tell you that the company you are review does respond promptly to it’s customers.

Daily Traffic stats: 842,957 views per day

The Good: Verified registered businesses , those accredited will and MUST respond to customer inquiries to keep up their rating, transparency in the business and how they handle complaints,

The Bad: Not as much traffic on the BBB, more complaints, guaranteed response but not good results ,

Google Reviews

Google

It is very valuable to a business to have good Google reviews. If there is a Google review, it’s the first thing you see and probably the first thing you look for . According to a 2016 Local Consumer review survey:

63% of customers use a search engine to find online reviews. Guess which one they are probably using ?

My experience with this review site has been pretty good.

They have a review policy that they actually stick to and you are able to flag any review that’s inappropriate as either the owner of the business or a concerned consumer. Google audits reviews, not the company to make sure what was written is valid. If it is not, they will delete it.

Daily Traffic Stats: 3.5 billion searches per day

Facebook

Facebook – Log In or Sign Up

Any company can make a Facebook business page and can turn on reviews for it. When submitting a review, Facebook provides a simple How-to guide and set of community standards that need to be upheld by reviewers.

In my experience, Facebook does not take much of an active role. One of the clients whose business page I currently manage was recently maliciously attacked, by someone the business owner reviewed negatively. This person retaliated by leaving negative reviews and telling his Facebook followers to leave negative reviews.

It was a nightmare to deal with. Facebook still did not take the reviews down even though we had proof of malicious intent and proof that these people were not, in fact , customers. This experience, along with similar stories I have heard, is why I would take Facebook business reviews with a grain of salt and look to other more reputable sites to get informed about a business.

Daily Traffic Stats: 1.28 billion people log onto Facebook daily, however I am not able to find stats on how many people look at a Facebook business post daily

The Good : lots of traffic, good chance of a review from a real person,

The Bad: Not a thorough filtering process, unless you prove abusive language they will not take a review down even if it’s not a customer

Yelp

Yelp

This company publishes crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses. They have been around since 2004 and are very well established as far as rating sites go. However, this site FILTERS OUT reviews according to an algorithm they don’t fully disclose.

Yelp does engage in a review filtering process which is vaguely explained on their website but doesn’t go into much detail. To their credit, Yelp explains the reasoning behind this is to try to filter out “ fake” good and bad reviews for businesses. For example, they track the IP address the reviews are coming from so if a bunch of negative and positive reviews appear all from the same place, they will investigate. As their are some companies selling their positive/negative review services, this is a good tool to use to attempt to level the playing field.

Their lack of transparency in their algorithm is a bit suspicious in my opinion.

On their algorithm :

While I was not able details into their algorithm, I did find this article on Entrepreneur.com that gives some insight, provided by a Yelp employee. It states:

The review must have new, helpful and pertinent information.

Who decides what information is “helpful” and why does it have to be “new”? It seems these terms are a bit subjective.

As a consumer, I have had one positive experience with yelp’s support. I had a bad review that I gave legitimately on a cleaning business. After said cleaning business marked this review is “fraudulent”, Yelp reached out to me to inquire about the claim. I was able to provide proof of being emailed by said company, receipts and screenshots. After submitting this proof, I never heard back from Yelp Support and checking even now, my bad (but fair) review still remains.

Daily Traffic Stats: 4,689,675 per day

The Verdict

Review sites can be a valuable resource when we embark on a journey to the unknown. At the end of the day, it is important to always to do your research before purchasing a service or product. Just make sure you are looking at both the consumer and the company closely.