During the last couple of years, the popularity and importance of online reviews have grown considerably, and this is quite understandable given the fact that most people use reviews as direct guides when choosing products and services to purchase.
Studies have figured out that positive online reviews can increase conversion rates, the popularity of a business and its products, but also a number of sales and overall profitability. On the other side of the spectrum, negative reviews can also have a large impact on the same factors mentioned above, but in the opposite direction. This represents the main reason why businesses listed on the Internet, are affected by an illness of the 21st century: the plague of fake reviews.
Fake reviews have been around for years, as they firstly appeared in the form of video testimonials on TV commercials, created by paid actors, rather than actual customers of businesses. Fake reviews later appeared in newspapers, where there was practically no way to verify the authenticity of the business reviews posted. With time, some businesses listed on the Internet started purchasing fake positive reviews for themselves, alongside with fake negative reviews to hurt their competition.
Recent analysis by WebsiteBuilder has determined that around 27% people will trust online reviews only if they are certain of their authenticity. The percentage is quite big, considering the fact that at this moment in time, around 30% of all online reviews for certain products and services may be fake, whereas 20% of the reviews present on Yelp are also fake.
The rising number of both positive and negative fake reviews was the catalyst for a war carried out by marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and other e-commerce websites such as Alibaba, but also by regulators against businesses which chose to increase their popularity via such practices.
An example in this direction consists of the event when New York regulators decided to crack down on online fake reviews, and settled in over $350,000 worth of fines for a total of 19 companies, caught buying fake reviews for themselves and their competitors.
The e-commerce giant known by the name of Alibaba was also involved in such an event, as they recently sued Shatui.com for a total of $310,000 for generating fake reviews on the products they posted on the marketplace. Amazon has also been known to sue companies generating fake reviews, but also to ban accounts associated with both writing and posting them. On the other side of the spectrum, Yelp is known for doing its best to protect the identity of its reviewers, which may be the main reason why over 20% of the reviews posted on the website are fake.
For more information on the presence and influence of fake reviews, but also on general stats on authentic reviews, you can always refer to the infographic posted by Website Builder.