When searching for a new product, a lot of us will turn to the reviews to help decide if we should make the purchase or not. However, we all know that many reviews on websites can be fake, either from the companies themselves or from bots. You might be searching for something as simple as where to find the best free online games and want to know which sites are safe for you to play on. But when you go to check the product review sites, you might end up in an endless loop of fake reviews that put you back at square one.
So how do we know that a product review is real, and not another ploy by a company trying to make us buy their products? While there is no sure-fire way, here are some things to look for in an authentic review.
- Punctuation variation
- Stories that stick to the product
- Vivid descriptions and fewer superlatives
- Variation in review scores from the reviewer
- Reviews that have both pros and cons (not just all the positives)
- High domain authority
These are all just general rules of thumbs, but past studies of reviews have shown that authentic reviews from actual customers tend to share these common factors.
- Punctuation Variation
Analysis of “fake” reviews from sites like Amazon reveal that excessive exclamation points and “positive emotion” were common amongst the false reviews. Real reviews written by actual customers tended to vary in punctuation usage and were not consistently “excited” or happy. Tons of exclamation points might be a clue that the review was not written by someone who actually experienced the product, as excessive positive emotion might be used by companies to sway people into purchasing their product.
Crispy Gamer’s online casino guides exemplify how punctuation variation is a strong indicator of a site’s authenticity. And the writers for this site are upfront about their review standards and procedures so that readers know exactly why they recommend certain online casinos over others.
- Stories That Stay on Topic
When we lie, we tend to stray from the topic at hand to avoid the subject. The same is true of fake reviews. Studies found that when the reviews strayed away from the actual product, they were more likely to have been planted by a company or written by a bot. Also, when reviews excessively used “I” or “me” statements, they were usually false reviews; researchers believe this is because these statements were meant to make the reviews seem more credible.
Similarly, reviews that frequently referenced other people (e.g., “my husband” or “my family”) also tended to end up being fake reviews. Again, this relates to the idea that stories that strayed away from the actual product itself tended to be false. Keep an eye out for product-centric reviews, as those are more likely to be from someone who actually experienced the product.
One site that really excels in reviews and that exhibits all the features of an authentic review site is review.org. Their well-researched mattress reviews are clearly written by someone who has thoroughly tested the product, done their homework in the field and writes from an unbiased perspective.
- Vivid Descriptions and Fewer Superlatives
Reviews containing phrases like “a must have”, “life-changing”, etc., should all serve as red flags. Fictitious reviews tend to exaggerate or overemphasize the positive aspects of a product, instead of fairly reviewing everything about it.
If a review seems overtly and excessively full of praise, it is likely that it was not written by a paying customer. Actual customers tend to be fairer in their reviews, or if they absolutely hated it, they will still be far more honest and descriptive. Check reviews that genuinely describe the product and their experience without being overly focused on themselves.
- Variation in Review Scores from the Reviewer
This one will take you a little more in-depth than just scrolling through reviews of a product. But if you doubt the validity of a review, then check the profile of the person who wrote it. It is incredibly unlikely that someone would always write five-star reviews.
That being said, check the profile of any review that seems suspicious. Look at the review history of that person – five-star reviews all the way down should raise some red flags.
If a profile contains only high ratings, then they are probably a fake profile or a bot. Keep an eye on them in future product reviews, as well. Real customers will have varying opinions.
Web host reviewer Mango Matter is a strong example of a review site that doesn’t just try to sell products with high ratings. The varied ratings of their hosting reviews show that their guides are clearly written by professionals in the web hosting industry rather than a bot.
- Reviews That Have Pros and Cons (Not All Positive)
As previously stated, real reviewers will have more layered opinions than simply all positive or all negative. Reviews that list the pros and cons of a product that they have tried are more likely to be real than any “one note” review. Keep an eye out for product focus reviews that talk about both the good and bad aspects of a product and their experiences with it.
Mambo Server’s web hosting reviews are a great example of unbiased reporting. Their reviews highlight the positives but also point readers to the potential pitfalls of a given product. The balance of pros and cons in their reviews show they are an authentic review site.
- High Domain Authority
Another feature to look for to make sure the reviews you’re reading is to check the website’s domain authority. Websites that “cheat” with keyword stuffing, for instance, can often be indicators of bad reviews. Trustworthy review sites will utilize the resources of SEO consultant agencies and professional insights from digital marketing firms to not only enhance their own web presence but also to create better domain authority. You can trust that if a review site is willing to invest in SEO and digital marketing services, then they are not just in it for a quick buck but are truly trying to make their voices heard to best help their readers.
These rules of thumb are not foolproof methods for detecting fake reviews, but they are some of the most common factors of planted reviews. The best thing to do is take a large portion of the reviews into account, rather than focusing on a single review for a product. Do thorough research, especially if you are considering purchasing a larger product. Vigilance is your greatest ally when making financial decisions.