Fake 4-Star Reviews: Really!
Why would someone write a fake 4-star review for your restaurant? And even if they did, wouldn’t that only help boost your ratings? No harm, no foul, right? How could fake 4-star reviews hurt?
Fake 4-Star Reviews: Really!
Fake 4-star reviews are part of a relatively new tactic in online review fraud, and they can definitely hurt business. In fact, they are designed to do so. Because they’re not extreme—extremely negative, like a 1-star review, or an excessively over-the-top 5-star review—they can slip under the radar of filters meant to suss out fakes. But as many of us know by now, even the best filters are far from perfect.
So what can you do?
Let’s map out a solution by exploring four key questions about fake 4-star reviews:
- What does a fake 4-star review look like?
- Why would someone post a fake 4-star review?
- How do they hurt business?
- What can I do?
What does a fake 4-star review look like?
A fake 4-star review is difficult to spot. This is part of what makes them so sneaky. They don’t sound any alarm bells for the casual observer, because they are polite, positive, even glowing, and from a review site’s perspective, they don’t violate any terms of service.
The key is to look at the author. If the author is not a real client or does not seem to be a real person, you very well may be looking at a fake review. They may also be posting from an odd location, such as overseas or a different state.
Unfortunately, these discrepancies can be even harder to spot in food service, in which you’re often not able to quickly identify who you have and have not done business with recently.
If, for example, you’re a caterer with a fairly limited number of clients, you might easily compare comments with your records. But if you run a café, who’s to say “Susanne G.” didn’t come in for a croissant last Tuesday and have a 4-star experience? If you wanted to find out, sleuthing would be tedious, to say the least—unless your restaurant is in Duluth, and Susanne is posting from Bangladesh.
Why would someone post a fake 4-star review?
Fake reviews are posted in order to undermine the business of others. It may be done by someone with a stake in a competing business, by lead generators, or simply by someone of ornery intent. In any case, the reason is the same: to infiltrate your reviews, influence your overall rating, hurt your business, and not get caught by observers or filters.
How do they hurt business?
You may have come across negative fake reviews, which are easier to spot. But you still know the dangers they can pose to a business. They throw false information in the scale against real hard work and real successes, damaging your reputation. Especially for new restaurants, online review ratings are as vital as an online reputation is fragile. Online ratings, the new word-of-mouth, are often the door through which customers decide to try your restaurant or not.
Now to the golden question. While it’s annoying and potentially dangerous to be hit with any fake review, how can positive ones possibly hurt?
Quite simply, they hurt because they are not 5-star reviews. Fake 4-star reviews are meant to tilt the balance, slowly and subtly, against perfect 5-star reviews, bringing down your average. They can pile on and pile in before you even notice. This is what makes them so dangerous if left unchecked.
In a way, they are the perfect fake review tactic. Because they do not violate any TOS (terms of service), online review sites are under no obligation to remove fake 4-star reviews, even if the business requests it.
In sum, a restaurant under siege from fake 4-star reviews:
- May never identify them, because it’s so hard to spot a fake client
- May not be able to remove them, because they do not violate any TOS
- Is dealing with a sneaky, subtle, yet very real attack on reputation
What can I do?
The first step is vigilance. A restaurant’s online presence is like the facade of its building. Just as you’d keep your building updated, clean, and reflective of your brand, your online “face” must be the same. Someone with Internet and social media know-how (and, ideally, interest in marketing and PR) should be keeping watch over your online reviews, working to manage and cultivate them.
The next step is, investigate suspected reviews to see if they have a legitimate origin. If they seem linked to a non-existent person or business, or things are otherwise not adding up somehow, flag them.
When you’ve found what you suspect to be fake reviews, remain credible. Don’t overdo it and try to insist, for example, that anything under 5 stars must be fake! Finally, when you communicate with the review site, stay persistent in requesting suspicious reviews be removed. Build your case to customer service, and don’t give up.
An ounce of prevention
You work hard for 5-star reviews. Don’t let fakes put you on your back foot.
At Original Review, we make it our business to improve the review experience. Ours is the only platform that’s going to capture:
- 100% real, and only real, customer reviews
- Gather reviews all day, every day (dozens to hundreds per day)
- Capture and share them in real time
With OR, you collect all your reviews at the table. If you get a 4-star review, you not only know it’s real, but you can even pinpoint the table it’s coming from. And if you dip below 4 stars? Set up customizable alerts so that you can resolve a negative experience face to face, building invaluable credibility, relationships, and reputation for stellar customer service.