Four Things You Didn’t Know About Fake Yelp Reviews

FAKE

The other night I thought I’d try one of the newest and hippest restaurants in town that everyone’s been talking about over social media. I figured it was worth a try to see what all the hype was about. Unfortunately, there was nothing special about it at all and I had one of the worst dining and service experiences of my life. Not only was the place highly over priced, the service was terrible and it took me over two hours to get my food when people were coming in after me and leaving before me. The waiter also had a terrible attitude problem and had no respect for me as his customer. Like many angry Millennials who have a terrible service experience, I took to Yelp to express my dissatisfaction with the company. In fact, I was so angry that I made a few fake email accounts and wrote multiple reviews as my way of “getting back” at the restaurant. I was able to shave off half a star from the company’s overall Yelp rating. I later felt guilty and removed my false duplicated Yelp reviews, but then it got me to wonder just how many fake Yelp reviews are there? Below are four things you most likely didn’t know about the world of fake online reviews:

Fake Yelp Reviews are More Prevalent Than We Think
I turns out that not only do consumers make fake Yelp reviews about a company, but also, companies make fake reviews about themselves as an effort to increase positive ratings online which in turn will lead to more customers (Lubin, 2012).

Twenty Percent of all Yelp Reviews are Fake
According to an article by Business Insider, a whopping 20 percent of all Yelp reviews are fake. In 2006, it was reported that only 5 percent of yelp reviews were fake which tells us that this trend isn’t going anywhere soon (D’onfro, 2013).

Entire Businesses Specialize in Writing Fake Yelp Reviews
Believe it or not, fake Yelp reviews have become so popular, that there are entire businesses who capitalize on writing them. According to Business Insider, this process is called “astroturfing ” and companies hire freelancers from places like the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Eastern Europe to write fake reviews for $1 to $10 each (D’onfro, 2013). These fake reviews on a website such as Yelp that attracts over million monthly visitors could mean big business for companies who do it.

Fake Yelp Reviews Are the Equivalent of False Advertising
According to the Federal Trade Commission, a review is considered deceptive advertising if any material connection between the reviewer and the business being reviewed is not disclosed in the review (Fell, 2013). Therefore a fake Yelp review is considered a form of false advertising and has been used as a loophole for many reputation management companies to boost their client’s public perception (Suligson, 2013).

With all the fake Yelp reviews on the web, it’s important to know that not everything you read is true and always remind yourself just how easy it is to make a fake review. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was easily able to make a number of fake reviews that shaved off an entire half star of a company. Remember that the same thing could be done to gain a half star, and if done on a widespread level, the company could go from having one star to five stars literally over night. As a closing note, readers should think critically when reading online Yelp reviews and seek multiple sources before determining whether or not you will visit a restaurant or use a service that is mentioned online.

References

D’onfro, J. (2013). A Whopping 20% Of Yelp Reviews Are Fake. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/20-percent-of-yelp-reviews-fake-2013-9

Fell, J. (2013). Yelp: We Won’t Stand for Businesses That Pay for Fake Reviews. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227818

Lubin, G. (2012). The Illegal Way To Improve Your Rating On Yelp. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-illegal-way-to-improve-your-rating-on-yelp-2012-2

Suligson, S. (2013). Yelp Reviews: Can You Trust Them? Retrieved from http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/yelp-reviews-can-you-trust-them/

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Four Things You Didn’t Know About Fake Yelp Reviews

  1. Kelly says:

    Hi Eric,

    I really enjoyed this blog post and think you’ve highlighted a growing problem. As businesses fight to stay competitive in an evolving market, they are facing new challenges. Online review forums such as Yelp, Glassdoor and Indeed, are giving individuals the opportunity to participate with businesses much more than ever before. This increased consumer role has caused business owners to get creative in the way their company is presented online. Businesses that can keep up with today’s demanding social media platforms, will enjoy a competitive advantage in the market. It appears that there are many organizations that are not able to manage the online landscape, and have gone to questionable lengths to gain positive exposure.

    Organizations should focus on developing a loyal customer base first, and then they will not have to worry about creating fake reviews.

    Best,

    Kelly

  2. Jason Williams says:

    I have figured this to be an issue. Another one I have seen is hotels and the way they take photographs to make the views nicer or the rooms seems bigger by adjusting the angle of the photos. This works in a sense, because by the time you are there in the restaurant or hotel, you are locked in and almost no one gets up and leaves. Very disingenuous and misleading. I think it would be hard to prove, but these companies should get some kind of fine for this activity. However, in the end, we all have freedom of speech and are capable of saying what we want. But, I agree, this is fully misleading.

  3. Lisa says:

    Hi Eric,

    I thought you highlighted an interesting topic with your post. I used to work for a swim school and it was like regular practice to check Yelp everyday for reviews. You get one pissed off parent and then the next thing you know, there’s a not-so-nice review about your business where everyone can see it. I think consumers underestimate the power of Yelp and the impact that every single review (whether that be positive or negative) can have for a brand or business. As you mentioned, a business can go from one star to five stars overnight and even vice versa.

    Review sites like Yelp should be used for their intended purposes only and not as a means for cheating the system and boosting a business’ reputation in a malicious manner. Consumers would be wise to not initially believe everything they read and experience businesses or brands for themselves. From there they can form honest opinions and write a review based on the truth. Consumer reviews are a huge component of advertising and can ultimately be the difference between maintaining your customer base or losing it. Businesses and brands need to continue working on spending their time improving the customer experience so that there’s no room for anyone to write a bad review.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Lisa Garcia

  4. Jessica says:

    Wow! I did not realize that the percentage of fake reviews is at 20. Although its surprising the more I think about it, it really isn’t. The retail location I work for gets plenty of fake reviews or wrong reviews, wrong as in the wrong location. As this Yelp review process became more popular I was also really surprised at how many of the fake reviews were positive from real people.

    For instance, when I told a friend about this and questioned why someone would write a fake good review she responded “I do it all the time!” Turns out, for five star reviews companies will sometimes contact the writer and give them free things or coupons. After this I just started ignoring Yelp all together.

    Yelp was initially a great tool but unfortunately people have made it sour because they use it for all the wrong reasons. Great post!

  5. Steven says:

    Hi Eric,

    That was an interesting post and I enjoyed reading it. To be honest, I have often looked at Yelp and similar websites with a bit of suspicion. Frankly, however, I have always been in the mindset that the reviews were inaccurate because the companies were “stacking the deck” as far as the reviews go.

    While your article confirmed this belief of mine, it made me think about something I had not considered before; revenge posts. I typically read the negative comments as more credible, as I wouldn’t think that people would have the motive to spam a company for simply having a bad experience. My biggest suspicion was that rival companies might fake posts in order to undermine their competition.

    I guess that one of the solutions to a problem like this is something like “Angie’s List.” While I’ve never subscribed to this service, it’s my understanding that all of the reviews have been verified somehow? If this is not the solution, I guess it comes down to the old “buyer beware.”

  6. Jennifer says:

    Eric,

    Excellent post! Yelp reviews are influential in consumer choices– from what restaurants we want to eat at, to who we do business with. It explains why we see a Yelp sticker outside of most businesses these days.

    I agree in that the integrity of writing online reviews on Yelp have long been damaged. In my career as a freelance writer I have been asked on numerous occasions to write a review as a favor to boost ratings and offered jobs to try new places and get paid to write positive reviews. While there are people out there who are well-intentioned and use the service to document their positive experiences, or warn people of negative ones, sometimes it is better to just try out something the old-fashioned way without being influenced by others.

  7. Jessica says:

    Hi Eric,

    I loved reading this post. I think so many people use Yelp and have no idea what really goes on with those reviews. No only are their people posing as reviewers and companies that exist for these reviews but Yelp themselves allows companies to pay to be featured.

    On the other hand, you also have many companies that bribe customers into giving positive reviews. My dentist gives us Starbucks gift cards to those that write good yelp reviews and I know of many other companies that offer discounts for reviews.

    With so many consumers wanting to get real feedback on where to go and what to buy it is hard to get honest answers. I think it will not be long until other sites start to pop up to offer a similar service to Yelp without the corruption.

  8. Renna says:

    Hi Eric,

    I found your post to be very interesting and I can believe every word of it. Like anything on the internet, you can’t believe everything you read, and that goes for Yelp as well. I’ve personally come across several interesting situations on Yelp, one that leads me to believe the company is trying to combat these false reviews. My dad, for whatever reason, had the worst experience while we were out to dinner (I think it was the in-laws more than the restaurant honestly), and he wrote a terrible review. In fact, it was so terrible that Yelp removed it because they thought it was fake. This leads me to believe they are making some efforts to monitor these overly harsh comments, or possibly an influx of overly positive comments.

    I’ve also been harassed by an establishment (my former optometrist) about leaving a positive review. He mentioned it around 10 times in the appointment and called twice after the appointment asking why I hadn’t left a positive review yet – one of the many reasons this is my former optometrist. It’s clear that unethical companies may stack the comments to be overly positive and even comment on competitors with negative reviews, which is why I really like your recommendation to take multiple review sites into consideration before making a decision.

    Thanks!

  9. Jessica Jordan says:

    Hey Eric!

    Awesome post!! I am an avid yelp user and I often side eye some reviews. There have been times where a restaurant has bad reviews, but there will be one good review in the midst saying “I decided to give this restaurant a try despite the bad reviews and I had a great experience!”. I always wonder if reviews like those are real or if that’s just someone that was asked to add a positive review to increase the chances that someone like me would also give the restaurant a chance. I personally have been guilty of writing a false review for a friend that owned a gelato store. My friend didn’t necessarily ask me to lie about my experience in his shop, he just needed more Yelp reviews. The only reason I didn’t feel guilty is because I only echoed the comments that had been made by real Yelpers. Despite my personal reasoning, your post has made me think about the implications that my review may have. Someone might think the shop is popular due to the number of reviews, when in actuality my friend may have just asked a bunch of people to write reviews for him. Although I refuse to give up Yelp completely, I will have to tread the sea of reviews carefully.

    -Jess J.