Giving Yourself 5 Stars? The Cons of Faking Your Online Reviews

February 11, 2014

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Have you ever thought about faking online reviews of your business in order to lure in customers?

Well, you better think twice before you actually do it. While you may be able to successfully game the system and fool people into thinking that your products and services are better and more highly rated than they really are, the cons of review fraud far outweigh the pros.

In short, it’s really not worth it.

(Check out: “Caught Red-Handed: Businesses Shamed After Posting Fake Online Reviews”)

Fake reviews are likely to be filtered out anyway. We understand the temptation of tooting your own horn and giving yourself five-star ratings, but be aware that if you do that, you’ll be going against pretty sophisticated review filters and algorithms anyway.

Yelp has its own Review Filter, which is designed to take out spammy and spurious reviews. TripAdvisor also has its own set of anti-fraud techniques. Other major review sites and ratings aggregators – like Google – also implement their own systems and detection algorithms for preventing businesses from creating deceptive reviews.

It’s just plain wrong. We understand that it’s challenging to try and change customer sentiment, but resorting to review fraud is not the solution. Not only is it unethical, it’s also probably illegal. And you’ll lose peace of mind when you go to bed at night. Seriously!

Consumers can probably tell anyway. There are several ways one can spot fake reviews. That’s why it’s important not to underestimate people’s ability to tell the difference between genuine and not genuine. If you do, you run the risk of alienating potential customers, who may in turn report you to review site moderators for false, deceptive advertising.

Exclusively positive reviews and five-star ratings might make you look too perfect. The more reviews you fake, the less authentic you look. And consumers don’t like – and don’t trust – inauthentic. Why not just embrace genuine reviews as they come? Even the negative ones can, in many ways, be good for your business.

You’ll probably get caught. Even if you make it past the filters, you’ll probably get caught at some point anyway. Even if you set aside the ethics question, the consequences could range from getting your review site profile slapped with a red-flag message, to being fined or sued by the site or by industry regulators. Whatever the penalty is, it will cost you real money – and that’s not excluding lost opportunities and sales.

The damage of getting caught red-handed is long-term. Instead of enhancing your online reputation, faking reviews can do irreparable harm to it. (Remember: the Internet is written not in pencil, but in ink.) And that sort of defeats the purpose, right? When customers find out that you’ve been faking, they would feel betrayed and be much more likely to choose a competitor over your business.

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