ORM: Fake Reviews and Ratings

Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the influencing and control of public perception of an individual’s or an organization’s reputation on the Internet. The main focus is on search engines, news portals and social media. With the rise of the internet, buyers’ temperament have become quite volatile. It is, therefore, imperative for organizations to continuously guide their customers’ feelings as well as the feelings of the general public.

Customer reviews and ratings play a vital role in influencing the decisions of future buyers and ensure the loyalty of present ones. According to Bazaarvoice 71% of consumers now consider online reviews before making a purchase. But how valid and authentic are these reviews?

With buyer sentiments largely dependent on reviews and ratings, there’s the rising problem of manipulation of their emotions with fake reactions. Companies and their competitors alike indulge in this underhanded practice to gain an advantage, bitter employees and obnoxious people may want to mar the reputation of a brand. According to a Harvard study, as much as 15-30% reviews and ratings are inauthentic. Falsification is basically in the content itself but extends to the use of fake profiles.

In addition to content and profile is the distortion of reviews and ratings through reverse SEO techniques and an increasing number of bots used to automate the production of fake reviews. In this regard, a technological warfare is already in progress as the usage of bots becomes commonplace and the need for more effective ORM increases.

Review fraud can be found not only on Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor and Facebook, but also on many professional portals for craftsmen, car dealers and even doctors – politicians now churn out alternative facts without batting an eye.

Essentially, it is not easy to differentiate between real online reviews and fake ones; length, content, language, spelling errors, speed and writing frequency are not criteria for detecting what’s real and what’s not. As a matter of fact, real reviews can easily be substituted with fake ones and vice versa. In 2016 Twitter campaign #NoreceiptNoreview brought to light the issue of lack of review verification systems. This prompted TripAdvisor to create a system that flags phoney reviewing behavior.

But generally, there are still factors which do not encourage truth in reviews and ratings and the simple fact is that fabrication by companies, their competitors as well as by customers is not going away anytime soon.