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In an age when majority of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, it’s very tempting to give yourself 5 stars and post fake positive reviews of your own products and services.

Many business owners have done it – to boost their business reputation, attract potential new customers, and gain an edge over the competition. Some even go so far as to write fake negative reviews of their competitors. And it’s hard to blame these guys: astroturfing reviews is easy, and fast, and costs little to no money.

It’s also a practice that will destroy your business.

Here are 9 ways faking online reviews can hurt you in the long run. 

Faking reviews is unethical and probably illegal. Every review site that allows users to post online reviews has terms of service that you, as a business owner, have to follow. Violate these terms and you’ll likely get sued and penalized.

You might look too good to be true. People prefer to deal with businesses that are honest, authentic, and real. They seek accurate information. If your profiles only show five-star reviews – and no negative ones – you risk looking too perfect and inauthentic to be able to gain the trust of consumers.

Your true colors will be exposed. Let’s say that customers do visit your business location because they have been persuaded by a fake five-star review. And then what? They’ll find out eventually that the burrito or the sushi is not worth the (fake) praise that has been heaped upon it. Be genuine. Earn your five stars.

Review site technologies are in place to catch frauds. Yelp has its proprietary Review Filter and Consumer Alerts program, TripAdvisor has its own set of anti-fraud techniques, and other major review sites have developed their own technologies to weed out the fakes. You’ll get caught, sooner or later, and we believe that it’s not a risk that your business should be willing to take.

Researchers are also developing new ways to identify fakers. Cornell, for example, has created software that detects fake reviews and opinion spam. Even if you get past review site filters, you’ll have to beat other sophisticated systems.

Consumers are getting better at spotting fakes. If you’re faking reviews to gain credibility, forget it. Consumers are becoming savvier with spotting deceptive, fraudulent reviews, too – and you’ll drive them away if they’ve determined that you’re a faker.

Regulators are going to be after you, and the consequences are costly. Last year, New York cracked down on deceptive reviews and slapped a total of $350,000 in penalties on those who bought fake reviews. You can be sure that these efforts will be ramped up to combat the growing fake reviews problem.

Your local search performance will suffer. If your reviews have been determined as fake, they’ll probably be deleted. Your local search performance and online visibility will subsequently suffer, and you’ll lose valuable opportunities to connect with potential new customers.

The damage to your reputation is long-term. If you get caught, then the fakery may cause irreparable damage to your reputation. Which sort of defeats your purpose. Right?

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.

Discussion

  1. Mot

    Another major problem is the negative review spam from your competition. Is there even a way to prevent this from happening or maybe fight it in some way? Did anybody have experience with this and how did they deal with it?

    Reply
  2. Vince

    I really don’t get the people who thing that fake reviews are worth the risk of destroying their name…It looks so childish, the same as liking your own status on Facebook.

    Reply
  3. Alan Alan

    I usually ignore some super-positive reviews or the reviews where you can see that it’s written by snobby person who treat the hotel’s/restaurant’s staff like servants. I don’t like royal treatment, because I worked in more casual places and I had great experience with down-to-Earth people. I don’t like when I go to McD’s and see the girl who works at the counter grinning unnaturally, because her boss told her to smile.

    Reply
  4. Go Harry Go

    The to-good-to-be-true reviews are usually insincere or they are overselling something. I prefer to be surprised.

    Reply
  5. Tim Walters

    Overselling can do more damage then being honest. If people expect magnificent service or heavenly food, they would be pretty disappointed if they get only good burger which would be just fine if your customers didn’t expected “best meal in life” as they were promised in fake reviews.

    Reply
  6. Big Al

    It’s so easy to post a fake review that no software or a person could flag it as fake. There is so many loopholes in reviews system. However, it’s no problem when you post a few reviews, but if you want to destroy somebody’s reputation, then you need more than few reviews and the chances of being caught are pretty high.

    Reply

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