If you're buying something online between now and Cyber Monday, chances are you'll get to a point where you'll ask, "Should I trust online reviews?" (Answer: No, you should not trust online reviews. I'll tell you why in a moment.)
You know what I mean by "point," don't you? It's the moment before you buy, and you see those over-the-top, five-star ratings that declare an earbud headset is God's gift to electronics. Or that anonymous reviewer who swears the skin cream she bought online had age-regressed her to her teen years.
They can't be that good, you say.
And you'd be correct.
Bogus product reviews are an epidemic, according to Saoud Khalifah, founder and CEO of Fakespot, a site that ferrets out fake reviews. Khalifah says many product reviews are not real -- and he has the data to prove it.
"Companies constantly plant positive reviews of their own products and sully competitors’ products with negative reviews," he says. As a result, many of the ratings you read online aren't credible. For example, up to 70 percent of the reviews on Amazon are not real, he says.
My Forbes colleague Emma Woollacott recently reported that Amazon's fake review problem is worse than ever. She cited a study by ReviewMeta that calculates a weight for reviews based on statistical modeling and its own algorithm.
Can you trust an online review? Not always. Fakespot compiled an exclusive list of products with the most bogus ratings and shared it with me before Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States. It's a lineup of popular consumer products that will both surprise you and inform your next purchase. Bottom line: If something looks wrong, it probably is. And if you buy it, you'll get what you pay for.
Why you should not trust online reviews
In trying to answer the question, "Should I trust online reviews?" Fakespot analyzed hundreds of thousands of product reviews, hunting for the telltale signs of a rating generated by someone who isn't a customer. It examined purchasing patterns, grammar, and dates to assign each review a grade from A to F. You can read a full list of winners on its site or install a Chrome extension that alerts you to a bogus review.
I asked Khalifah and his team to tell me whenyou should not trust online reviews.
(A quick note about the examples. When Fakespot flags a review, Amazon sometimes quickly cracks down on the ratings and revises the page. Links in this story may -- and should -- eventually lead to a page with more realistic scores. In a perfect world, they'd point to a removed page.)
Product reviews that are not real are found on every kind of headset, from earbud to wireless headsets, according to Fakespot. Here's a pair of wireless earbuds that Fakespot spotted as a fake. The five-star reviews of this pair of knockoffs are really unbelievable. "Awesome earbuds," the top reviewer notes. "I received my earbuds about a week ago and I absolutely love them. It was so easy to pair up to my Bluetooth and the sound was crystal clear." Should I trust online reviews like that? No, says Fakespot. Instead, go for the name-brand headsets but be skeptical of generic headsets with five-star ratings.
Fakespot pointed to this generic charger on Amazon. "Great product and the price is right," crowed one reviewer. But a closer look at the reviews shows that it overheats for some users, while other product reviewers did not pay for theirs. When you buy a knockoff, you tend to get what you pay for.
This knockoff fitness tracker on Amazon caught the attention of Fakespot. With 93 percent positive reviews, Fakespot's algorithm had a hissy fit. "I am literally in love with this fitness tracker!!" raved one reviewer. "It is very similar to a Fitbit, my hubby has one and even he was surprised by the quality of this one. In fact, he said it's very similar to his and now he wants one." These types of ratings are designed to deceive customers. You should not trust online reviews like them, according to Fakespot.
These Air Jordan's on Amazon look like an unbelievable deal. They're just $64 a pair, and they're genuine, at least according to the reviews. "Great looking shoe and comfortable," says one reviewer. " "100% authentic." Except that they're not. Fakespot tagged them as knockoffs and dismissed the ratings as inauthentic.
This one's a popular category for fakes (remember the Sunday Riley affair, where employees had to write bogus reviews?). For example, this anti-aging cream with an incredible 96 percent positive reviews should be a red flag even if you don't have the Fakespot extension on your browser. "Wow!" exclaimed one reviewer. "What a great product! I have been using it for a few weeks now and have started to notice a difference in the texture of the skin under my eyes and the reduction of the dark circles/puffiness that have plagued me for the last six months. I would definitely recommend this product!" You should not trust online reviews like that, at least according to the Fakespot detection system.
Fakespot analyzes ratings from Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Walmart to determine which product reviews are not real. And while each platform is trying its best to combat fake reviews, it's almost impossible to manage them in real time.
"Sellers that use fake reviews to deceive consumers always seem to be one step ahead of these platforms," explains Khalifah.
Part of the problem is that fake reviews come in different forms, from sellers creating multiple accounts to seed a lot of fake reviews on one day, to incentivized reviews that are not coming from real buyers. Catching all of these bogus testimonials is difficult.
A long, lonely odyssey to answer the question, "Should I trust online reviews?"
I've been on the travel industry's case about its fake reviews since there have been online reviews. Here's a story I wrote for the New York Times in 2006 about the problem. I've also noticed, with some concern, that the problem is getting worse.
The problem extends far beyond travel, of course, as Fakespot's analysis shows. But it is ultimately our problem -- not theirs. That's because review sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon don't face any significant penalties for publishing fake reviews. Nor do the professional liars who seed these online sites with product reviews that are not real face any significant repercussions. Except for that guy in Italy. But to fix this problem, many more people would have to go to jail, and that's unlikely to happen.
What's frustrating to me as a consumer advocate is that companies dismiss the fake reviews or lie about them. And customers shrug them off, while at the same time being misled. The never bother to ask, "Should I trust online reviews?"
How are many billions of dollars being spent on shoddy products, thanks to these fake reviews? No one knows. I suspect we're talking about big bucks here.
How do you know if you can trust an online review?
So if you're still wondering -- "Should I trust online reviews?" the answer is no. You should not trust online reviews -- at least not all of them. If you don't have the time to verify a review through a service like Fakespot, there are other ways to tell if product review is legit.
"If you see a product with nothing but five-star reviews it's a major red flag that something is off," Khalifah told me. "Because no product or shopping experience is perfect all of the time."
Fakespot also recommends buying products from trusted brands and vendors that are known for their quality.
"Consumers should be cautious if something looks like the real thing, gets all five-star reviews, but is a fraction of the price."
If you see something that looks too good to be true, do a little homework. But use your judgment in the process, too.
"If it looks too good to be true," says Khalifah, "it probably is."
Have you ever wondered if you should not trust online reviews? I'd love to hear from you. Send me an email with your bogus review experience. You could help me answer the question, "Should I trust online reviews?" in an upcoming column.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.
Why should we not trust online reviews? ›
The reviews are subjective and people who write them aren't average. Online reviewers “are more likely to buy things in unusual sizes, make returns, be married, have more children, be younger and less wealthy, and have graduate degrees than the average consumer,” according to a 2014 study.How much should we trust online reviews? ›
According to the latest online review statistics, nearly half (49 percent) of all consumers say they trust the reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal, 2022).Why is it important that online reviews or testimonials be trustworthy? ›
Online reviews also build brand trust with your audience. If potential customers know that other people had positive experiences with your brand, they're more likely to trust your brand. Reviews build brand credibility and increase the likelihood that consumers will purchase from you.Why you should respond to negative reviews? ›
Not only does responding to negative reviews improve your reputation to consumers, but it also shows negative reviewers that you're willing to resolve their issues and earn back their business.What are the disadvantages of online review? ›
The Cons of Online Customer Reviews
Most third-party review sites will charge you to use their services. You must determine if the benefits outweigh the cost. On third-party review sites, disgruntled customers have the freedom to say whatever they like. This could lead to malicious or damaging information being posted.
Be careful who you trust online: remember that people you have met online are still strangers, no matter how long you have been talking to them or how friendly they are. Meeting up with these people can be dangerous, so only do so with your parents' or carers' permission, even then only when they can be present.Are online reviews bias? ›
Research shows many of today's most popular online review platforms — including Yelp business reviews*, and Amazon product reviews — have a distribution of opinion that is highly polarized, with many extreme positive and/or negative reviews, and few moderate opinions.Do 91% of people trust online consumer reviews? ›
Research shows that 91% of 18 to 34-year-olds trust reviews online just as much as personal recommendations. Let's think about this for a second: we're now trusting online comments just as much as we trust feedback from the people we know and love.Does online review matter? ›
For nearly 9 in 10 consumers, an online review is as important as a personal recommendation. Customers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with “excellent” reviews. 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.What makes a review trustworthy? ›
A trustworthy review can be defined as a review that is perceived by the reader as the honest, sincere, truthful, and non-commercial opinion of a customer who has experienced a product or a service. Deceptive or promotional reviews can be equated to reviews that are perceived as untrustworthy, sponsored or fake.
What are the impact of online reviews? ›
Generally, positive comments tend to prompt consumers to generate emotional trust, increase confidence and trust in the product and have a strong persuasive effect. On the contrary, negative comments can reduce the generation of emotional trust and hinder consumers' buying intentions (Archak et al., 2010).How do online reviews affect businesses? ›
86% of customers hesitate to purchase from companies with negative reviews. A single negative review can drive away 22% of customers and three negative reviews can drive away a whopping 59%. So, any negative e-commerce product reviews can adversely affect your business and cause a dip in your revenue.How do you respond to an unfair review? ›
- Don't lose your cool. I know that reading a negative online review can upset you, and it's normal. ...
- Personalize the response. ...
- Thank them for the feedback. ...
- Apologize and sympathize. ...
- Stick to the issue. ...
- Ask for a second chance.
- Keep responses appropriate and never place blame or argue. ...
- Invite the unsatisfied reviewer to continue the conversation offline. ...
- Politely bring attention to fraudulent reviews with facts. ...
- Ask the reviewer to delete the fraudulent review.
- Respond in a timely manner. ...
- Stay professional and courteous. ...
- Understand your customer's experience with your business before responding. ...
- Apologize when appropriate but don't take responsibility for things that weren't your fault. ...
- Offer to talk it over.
Negative reviews can seriously impact your business. Every time a negative review pops up on Google searches, you have the potential to lose customers. 86% of customers hesitate to purchase from companies with negative reviews. This will ultimately cost you web traffic and, of course, revenue.What are the disadvantages of using online information sources? ›
|Internet||No central directory; information and sites difficult to locate No censorship or editing procedures No quality guarantee/not validated Can be slow depending on network Needs computer and ICT skills Costs of getting addicted-time wasted?|
But can you rely on the information you find to be accurate? Unfortunately, the answer is: not always. For every expert providing high-quality and reliable health information online, there may be two or three unqualified people putting out misleading or false information.What does trust mean to you online? ›
1. A belief that an online user has confidence in a computer mediated experience.Why you should be careful what you post online? ›
Anyone who follows you or is otherwise connected to you online can take a screenshot of your social media post or image and “share” it. While you might believe that you are sharing your content only with friends, remember that anything you type and publish on an electronic device may be accessible to others.
Can online reviews be manipulated? ›
Manipulation of reviews occurs when online vendors, publishers, or authors write 'consumer' reviews by posing as real customers. Thus, manipulation here means that the posted review is not a truthful account of a real customer's experience.How do you avoid fake online reviews? ›
1. Don't rely on star ratings alone. It's hard to know exactly how many online reviews are phony, but roughly 31% of reviews found on ecommerce sites like Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy are suspected fakes, according to one 2021 analysis. That means that any star rating is likely to be skewed.Are Fake Online Reviews illegal? ›
Fake reviews are misleading to the consumer and the government is taking action to stop this by making fake reviews illegal, with potential fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.Do 88% of customers trust online reviews? ›
88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Consumers are likely to spend 31 percent more on a business with "excellent" reviews. 72 percent say that positive reviews make them trust a business more.Do 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations? ›
- 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more (Invesp)
- 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. ( ...
- Before visiting a business, 89% of consumers read online reviews. (
85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Nearly 3 out of 4 consumers trust a company more if it has positive reviews. 60% of consumers say that negative reviews made them not want to use a business. 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before using a business.Can you trust any online reviews? ›
Online reviews might help you decide what to buy or what company to hire. You should be able to trust that these reviews reflect the honest opinions of people who actually used a product or service. Unfortunately, some reviews are fake, deceptive, or manipulated — and that hurts both people and honest companies.What is considered a fake review? ›
Where did they hear about the business location, or how did they use the product? If the reviewer doesn't make use of specific examples, doesn't seem to be very knowledgeable about what it is they purchased, and doesn't say how they used it or what the actual customer experience was like — the review could be fake.Should you ignore bad reviews? ›
If you believe the reviews are false or unfair, then you need to respond. Ignoring bad reviews lets customers have the last word. Responding shows that your company takes reviews seriously and gives you a chance to defend your company or communicate your efforts to fix the problem.Are trustworthy reviews reliable? ›
You should not trust online reviews -- at least not all of them. If you don't have the time to verify a review through a service like Fakespot, there are other ways to tell if product review is legit.
How do you know a review is credible? ›
- Examine the source's and author's credentials and affiliations.
- Evaluate what sources are cited by the author.
- Make sure the source is up-to-date.
- Check the endorsements and reviews that the source received.
- Consumer Reports. What's one of the best ways to make sure a site is being honest? ...
- CBD Oil Users. Once a niche product, CBD has entered the mainstream. ...
- TestFreaks. ...
- Engadget. ...
- Honest Product Reviews. ...
- The Wirecutter. ...
Negative Reviews Build Brand Trust & Loyalty
Help future customers understand the context of a bad review. Show future customers that you understand their needs and will work to accommodate them. Show reviewers that you are there for them.
In fact, according to their data, 97% of participants said customer reviews factor into their buying decisions. And 92% of consumers hesitate to make a purchase when there are no customer reviews. Needless to say, reviews are very important.Which are three impacts of online reviews on business reputation? ›
Products with at least 50 reviews can mean a 4.6% increase in conversion rates. 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site with user reviews. Reviews produce an average of 18% increase in sales. 9% of consumers will call a business after reading positive reviews.How do businesses deal with fake online reviews? ›
If you spot a fake customer review on your company profile or social media, it is important to react calmly so as not to damage your reputation further. If you are sure you are dealing with a fake review, the first thing is to report it as such. Most review platforms offer the possibility to report posted reviews.What a bad review can do to a business? ›
Loss of revenue and profit
More customers driven away by bad reviews means less money coming in. Small businesses with a one to 1.5 star rating on Google earned 33% less than the average business, according to a study by Womply Research.
These factors include search engine results, news coverage, social media posts, reviews, and other public comments. Reputation work is essential whether you are currently in good standing or have suffered a blow.How do you respectfully disagree with a performance review? ›
- Take a moment to process. ...
- Fully understand the feedback. ...
- Choose your words carefully. ...
- Consider providing a written rebuttal. ...
- List errors or inconsistencies. ...
- Provide counterexamples. ...
- Be open-minded to compromise. ...
- Meet with human resources.
Apologize and focus on the solution
Just say you're sorry. Even if their reason for being disappointed is not entirely your fault, the experience didn't live up to what they anticipated. Try starting with a statement like 'We're so sorry to learn ________did not live up to your expectations. '
How do you politely disagree with a reviewer? ›
Do not let your answers reflect any bitterness in tone, even if you disagree with the reviewer. Express your disagreement honestly, but respectfully. Support your statements with a rational, scientific explanation; cite references from the published literature.How do I respond to a Google review that lies? ›
- Be Short. This is important for any public communications. ...
- Be professional - no matter what the review is like. The angrier the review, the more important it is for you to remain above the fray. ...
- Consider paying them back. ...
- Apologize. ...
- Leave your contact details.
- "I'm sorry to hear that. ...
- "Wow, that sucks. ...
- "Ooh. ...
- "If only [name] had the experience/wisdom/work ethic that you did!" ...
- "Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you're upset because..." ...
- "Oh gosh.
Fake reviews are a problem because they don't work in the long run. You may see short-term results if you buy fake reviews, but eventually consumers will notice if your products don't live up to your sterling reviews. Then you'll get an influx of negative reviews that you will then have to clean up.Do 91% of 18 34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations? ›
Research shows that 91% of 18 to 34-year-olds trust reviews online just as much as personal recommendations. Let's think about this for a second: we're now trusting online comments just as much as we trust feedback from the people we know and love.Why do people give bad reviews? ›
Overwhelmingly, more than half of both women and men admitted they leave negative comments about businesses simply as a warning to the online community. Other reasons included helping establish proper expectations and to steer buyers away from making a purchase they'll later regret.How much of online reviews are fake? ›
1. Don't rely on star ratings alone. It's hard to know exactly how many online reviews are phony, but roughly 31% of reviews found on ecommerce sites like Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy are suspected fakes, according to one 2021 analysis. That means that any star rating is likely to be skewed.What is the danger of fake reviews? ›
- 81% will avoid using that brand again.
- 48% leave a negative review.
- 25% wouldn't purchase from the website.
- 16% will post [negatively] about the brand on social media.
Yes. Under 15 US Code § 45, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the power to stop and penalize parties “using unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” This makes it a crime to break official rules imposed by the FTC. And the FTC forbids the use of fake testimonials.Are Fake online reviews illegal? ›
Fake reviews are misleading to the consumer and the government is taking action to stop this by making fake reviews illegal, with potential fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.
Do 88% of consumers trust online reviews? ›
88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Consumers are likely to spend 31 percent more on a business with "excellent" reviews. 72 percent say that positive reviews make them trust a business more.Do 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations? ›
Approximately 72% of consumers surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business.