This week, I have some good news for you. You may have heard it before, but stay with me on this.
Bitter chocolate may taste bad, but it’s good for your health.
Not only is it good for your health, it can help you lose weight. A team of German researchers found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day.
How do I know it’s true? I checked. It had scientific backing. It was not backed by the chocolate industry but by Louisiana State University. The names of some eminent scientists were linked to it, including Dr. Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. It contained compelling information such as:
“The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate,” Moore said in the news release. “When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.”
It was formally presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas, Texas, and published by the Institute of Diet and Health, not to mention the International Archives of Medicine.
The story, including its promotional videoclips, was then picked up by the mainstream media across 20 countries: CBS News, the Huffington Post, Bild, Europe’s largest circulation newspaper, Cosmopolitan magazine, the Daily Mail…
So that’s it. Job done. Eat as much chocolate as you like. It’s not just good for you, you’ll lose weight.
Except — it’s not, and you won’t.
The study was real, but the results and the ensuing media choc-fest were fake(1). The Institute of Diet and Health does not exist; the International Archives of Medicine charged $600 to publish the “study” without querying the provenance of the research; the media picked it up and ran the story without question.
The whole episode was a hoax, perpetrated by a scientist who wanted to make three points:
- Fake news is easy to spread.
- Fake reviews follow fake news as night follows day.
- Journalism is based on selling papers, not on tracking the truth.
This was an elaborate hoax, designed for the purpose of proving points about sloppy scientific research and sloppy journalism. How could anyone have known it was fake, until the perpetrator held his hands up?
There were several points at which it could — and should — have been discovered. It’s not rocket science. Had…
- anyone bothered to search for Dr. Johannes Bohannon (who does not exist — the author was John Bohannon)
- anyone searched for the Institute of Diet and Health (which was entirely fictitious)
- anyone thought to ask where the peer-reviewed results were (there weren’t any)
- reporters asked scientific or nutritional scientists for their views on the study (the results of which were deliberately flawed)
- scientists, journalists or readers given even a glance at the “promotional videos” or images (all of which were, at least, “tongue in cheek”)
… they would instantly have known that the story was, at best, flawed, and at worst had no basis in reality.
But they didn’t ask questions. They didn’t do any searches. They used vaguely pornographic images of women eating chocolate. They never saw the tongue in cheek ballad.
Millions of people were fooled. Why?
Partly because they wanted to be. Anyone who needs to lose weight and loves chocolate — and who of us doesn’t? — would be delighted at this story.
Dig deeper? Why would they? They were hearing news they wanted to hear.
In our previous article, we looked at why fake reviews matter. People — we — are desperate for reliable information. We rely on the media to check its sources. We rely on scientists to give us unbiased, properly reviewed information.
But often, we don’t get it.
How to tell the difference between truth and fake? And what to do when we do discover illegal practices?
This article will show you how to spot a fake review, how to ignore all the noise, and, most importantly, how to do your own simple digging to figure it out for yourself.
We can learn a lot from the chocolate story. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not rocket science — and there are ways of helping put an end to the fakery.
Let’s deal with the “smaller” products first.
Spot ’em — Fake Product Reviews
The bad news is that human beings are lousy at identifying deceptive reviews. In a test of 800 reviews of Chicago hotels… researchers discovered an intriguing correspondence between the linguistic structure of deceptive reviews and fiction writing.Cornell University(2)
In article 1 of this series we saw how companies like Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp depend on hundreds of thousands of consumer reviews that collectively point you to “the best of whatever.”
Reviews are core to the business model of the companies that aggregate the reviews. They work hard to minimize fake reviews because it is “good business” to prevent customer disappointment due to incorrect information.
Faith in the reviews is paramount. A threat to the credibility of its reviews is a threat to the business itself.
There are honest reviews as well as fake ones, of course. But there’s no central body of authority to rely on when it comes to affiliate marketing, no single agency to tell you who’s good and who’s bad.
In order for sites that rely on reviews to retain their credibility, many have started making efforts to crack down on paid for and fake reviews(3). But there needs to be “ample evidence.”
And often, that’s not easy to track.
So you have to do “due diligence” for yourself, whether you’re buying a book, a dishwasher, a hotel room or a Ferrari.
Here are some pointers to watch out for.
1. Fight technology with technology: You know the saying: “It takes one to know one”? A good way to assess whether a review is computer-generated is to use another computer.
Or in this case, a computer program.
Fakespot is an online tool that helps you work out which are the trustworthy reviews and which are not on both Amazon and Yelp. Simply paste a review’s URL into Fakespot’s search engine and wait. The results are fascinating.
This random example, which scored 4.5 stars on Amazon, was adjusted to 1 after analysis.
It may not always be totally accurate, but it’s a good place to start.
ReviewSkeptic is a similar piece of software dealing specifically with hotel reviews. It claims to be able to pick out fake hotel reviews with 90% accuracy.
2. Check the reviewer’s profile: Most sites ask users to register an account before leaving a review. Click on the username to see past reviews. Most “real” people buy a wide range of products from companies like Amazon, and so will have a wide range of reviews.
Look for patterns — is this person only reviewing one type of product, or one company? Is she leaving only very positive — or negative — feedback?
3. Compensation: Is this review paid? Did the reviewer receive the product in return for a review? If so, it’s not necessarily fake — but it may be biased.
Also, the reviewer has a legal obligation to report that “gift.” If you don’t see it, ASK whether they are affiliates for the product. Don’t be shy – ask it in the comments. No answer? Ignore it. Or, if your comment gets deleted, report that in RipOff Report. Don’t assume or state anything as “fact” but you can say that “I asked this reviewer of ABC Product whether they were an affiliate or otherwise receiving compensation for reviews. They deleted my question, twice. I wasn’t nasty or insulting – the review just didn’t feel kosher to me, so I asked. The deletion, in my opinion, speaks louder than the review.
4. Review Quality: Reviews that rely, as many do, on individuals being paid small amounts of money to write as many as possible, will be short and non-specific. The aim here is to bump the item into the 5 star category quickly by posting as many “excellent” reviews as possible. So the author needs to be able to copy and paste a large number in a short time.
Look for words like “great product,” “wonderful service” or “can’t be beaten.”
5. Lack of detail: Similarly, the researchers from Cornell University found that reviewers of hotel rooms, for example, did not talk about the specifics of the hotel at all. They couldn’t — they had never been there. So they’d talk instead of the reason they were there.
“Spent a wonderful weekend here with the family”; “will always use this hotel for future business trips” are the kinds of things you’re looking for.
Sites like Expedia have taken steps to ensure that reviews are left by bona fide travelers. It marks those reviews “Verified.” Check with whichever website you’re booking through whether their reviews are, too.
6. Lack of experience: Similarly for physical items, if the reviewer has never had it, the explanation of what’s good and bad about it — or even how to use it — will be limited. If a review sounds more like a product manual than a real-life experience — it probably is.
On Amazon, look for reviews marked “Verified Purchase” for reviews by people who have bought the product.
7. Use of language: Some unscrupulous companies will provide templates for their “reviewers” to make it easier for quick copy and pasting. If you see the same or similar words, phrases and even diagrams or comparison charts recycled in different reviews, beware.
Watch for over-the-top words, too: “best thing ever!” and equally “worst thing ever!” without any explanation or balance is likely to be fake.
8. Blinding with science: fake reviews for health products particularly will often use a long list of “scientific facts.” Think back to the chocolate article: “Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria.”
9. When haters start to love: One of the most common forms of fake review tactics is for the reviewer to be adamant that they hated a product but were given one, for example, as a gift and — hey presto! — they suddenly discovered it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
This kind of review is often over-the-top enthusiastic. Look for excessive use of exclamation points or question marks…
“I was given different cleansers over the years. I didn’t like the first few due to a combo of the scents and the struggle I had trying to use them. When I got this one I wasn’t in love with the scent but I dealt with it. I tried to get through the whole pot and lo and behold I love it!!!!! The scent really grew on me and it hasn’t broken me out!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
10. Is the review “all or nothing”?: Fake reviews tend to be either 1 star, or 5. There’s rarely an in-between. Make sure you check reviews at 2, 3 and 4 stars too — real reviews tend to be more moderate.
Spot ’em — Fake Trade Reviews
Moving into a different sector, if a product or service is not from a provider you already know and trust, you will need to conduct additional due diligence before even looking at the product itself.
“Making money,” along with pain, illness, weight loss, diet and some other categories are where you’ll find vulnerable consumers, and that’s where you’ll also find the most dishonest affiliates. The worst view these consumers as “suckers,” nothing more.
These types of people used to take advantage of people through direct mail, offline. They have all moved online, along with hundreds of thousands of others who either have no conscience or who re-draw the “good-bad line.”
They have turned to the dark side of affiliate marketing to make a buck at the “sucker’s” expense.
Here are some pointers to calling out the dodgy players in this part of the marketing world.
- Research the trader: Don’t rush into buying a product because it sounds good. No marketing department writes about their product to make it sound bad. Take time to investigate the company first.
- Check the domain name on whois.com. Make sure the owner’s full address and contact details are listed. If not — beware.
- Are the business a member of a trade body? For example, is that package tour with such great reviews protected by the Air Traffic Organizer’s Licence (ATOL)?
- Check approved provider status: Are companies selling financial products on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (USA) or Financial Conduct Authority (UK) register of approved providers?
- Security: If you’re buying online, is the website secure? Look for “https” in the URL and a green padlock in the address bar.
- Products: Once you start looking at products the company is selling, the same issues apply as to the “products” group above.
Spot ’em — Affiliate Programs
Before you sink a dime into a vague online business opportunity promising high income and which pressures you to act quickly, you need to do some research and ask some key questions. Find out how many people earn the $15,000 a month the company is promising and review its income disclosure form. How many retail sales does the company make outside of selling products to fellow distributors?… Those rags-to-riches stories that you’re hearing about – well the only way they’ve made real money is by feeding off of the likes of you.Truth in Advertising
In articles 1 (What Is a Fake Review, and Why Should You Care?) and 2 (Peeling Away the Dark Side of Internet Marketing) of this series, we looked at the potential for affiliate programs in particular to hurt, under the guise of helping.
The final article in our series on “The Definitive Guide to Alexa” looked specifically at how to spot schemes and fake reviews in this sector. I won’t review those indicators here, but let’s look at some basic clues.
1. Face reality: First of all, recognize that this is real. Most of us are honest. We know that liars and cons exist. But we don’t twig to the possibility that a great-looking, honest-sounding blogger could simply be lying for a buck.
There are so many fraudulent reviews out there, all trying to separate you from your money. The number of websites that are promoting a product is, therefore, no indication of quality. In fact, those with a ton of reviews are likely to be sites with 10 tons of affiliates.
2. Remember “Bait and Switch”: In Article 2 we looked at how a “review” of Product “A” that leads you instead to Product “B” is already misleading. Compare the quality of the two reviews. If you see a great deal more effort going into B, you’re likely about to become a victim of bait-and-switch.
3. Check the URL: Hover over the link and check your browser’s status bar. Is the URL “clean” or does it have affiliate-type encoding (not Google’s UTM tracking)? If it seems to have an affiliate URL, does the review identify itself as being written by an affiliate?
If not, it’s a fake review. No matter how good a review may seem, if it uses affiliate links and does not notify you that it earns affiliate income, it’s a fake review.
So, ignore it. If it has broken the rules of notification, what is it hiding? Why should you trust it?
4. Knowledge of the product: As with Amazon or hotel products, note whether affiliate reviews give you the sense of deep knowledge and use of the product. Forget if they say they use it — we already know that fake reviewers lie! Instead, does the content itself indicate deep use and knowledge?
Ignore the number of comments that support it. Many operations work in groups.
5. Show me the proof: Where proof is possible with a physical product, we might insist on seeing it, or hearing about the reviewer’s actual experience of it. If a review is about pain relief, we might expect to see studies from respected authorities. If it’s about a vacuum machine, we’d want to see information about comparative vacuum power and perhaps a demonstration of the various attachments.
It’s no different when it comes to Internet marketing success — except you should go one step further and insist upon verifiable success.
What does that mean?
Let’s take a real life example.
How to Spot a Fake Success Story
The most important criterion of a fake review is that it lacks proof.
Think about this for a moment. You read a wonderful recounting of rags to riches — a genuine solopreneur success story. Or is it?
Scam artists flat-out lie about this stuff to get your money. Often there may be a kernel of truth, but the truth of reality is far from the fiction of the story.
How can you tell what’s true?
1. Insist on proof.
Let’s suppose you’ve read some really strong reviews about an online business builder. Oddly, they all started by reviewing a different product and moved you to this one. But it sure sounds good.
Or maybe you just keep reading great reviews of, say, Wealthy Affiliate (we’ve already discussed the question, “Is Wealthy Affiliate legit?“) with no negatives at all.
There’s a sales technique called social proof. That can be done in a variety of ways, from brief “love it” testimonials to detailed stories. They can appear anywhere, in any form. And anyone can write them — including the business owner.
But reading no negatives would alert you in the “physical product” world to the possibility of a fake review. And it’s exactly the same in the online world.
Regardless of which company it is, if it suggests business-building success, insist on proof.
Proof of what kind?
- Domain Names.Only one thing matters when it comes to a product that claims it’s going to help you build a profitable online business: domain names.
No story is worth a penny if it’s not accompanied by the domain name. 10,000 positive reviews can be safely ignored if there’s no domain name attached to them. If there’s no domain name attached to the “I make $10K/month and rising” story, I don’t believe it. Neither should you.
A successful website is like a delicious hamburger. Don’t accept a big fluffy bun of highly convincing copywriting. Keep this really simple…
Insist on domain names — the “beef” of hamburger proof.
Because when they include domain names of loads of solopreneurs who actually are their customers, that’s really all that matters, right?
Great! But — once you have the domain name, what do you do with it?
a. Review the site itself, get a sense for the quality.
b. Contact the owner and ask him how he likes the product, really.
c. Use the domain name to verify traffic by entering the URL into 1, 2 or all 3 of these 3 traffic-measuring tools: Alexa, SimilarWeb and SEMrush.
Each works differently, so using all 3 to cross-check provides the highest level of certainty. Get full info about how this works, here and see here for definitions of high, medium and failure traffic.
When these tools tell you that traffic is undetectable, that is as low as it goes. If all 3 confirm, you can be pretty sure the site’s traffic is zero or near zero.
d. Assess the likelihood of real vs. fake: This type of success story, one that claims to be making huge amounts of money, yet has near-zero traffic, only has two possible realities. Either…
- The story is a lie. This is, by far, the most common situation
- The site gets a few visitors per year but has an extremely high-paying monetization model. For example, a site may only received 5 visitors per day — a disaster for most solopreneurs.
But if only 2 of those 1800 visitors per year buy a multi-million dollar piece of real estate resulting in $100,000+ commissions, that’s great income.
But while this is possible — and while there are many local businesses that should be doing exactly this — these are not the types of niches that most solopreneurs know.
2. Insist on real niches.
If you know and love a niche that’s not related to the topic of “make money,” beware the product that features testimonials and success stories that are largely related to some aspect of “making money online” (MMO).
The dynamic of visitors to these sites is different than what we call “real niches.” Instead of people spending money to make money, which is broadly what happens in “make money” niches, most people on this planet spend money to buy something (maybe a vacation to Anguilla, or an ebook about why your exotic turtles die).
Much of the “make money” advice does not work or works poorly. It needs to be adjusted, often substantially. In fact, the mindset of the “guru” is so stuck in that niche that much of the advice can be counter-productive.
SBI! strenuously suggests staying away from those congested, hard-to-win, shark-infested and demoralizing niches. Our Action Guide goes deep to help you find a winning niche, and our Study shows how wonderfully that works for SBIers.
3. Look for real people.
Real proof means real people who’ve built real online businesses with the recommended product.
Here at Solo Build It!, you won’t find “J. Smith from Tuscon” type testimonials, or photoshopped images of checks.
Each of our solopreneur success stories is well-documented and verifiable. The featured SBI! member can be reached in person.
Here are some examples of real proof. Choose between…
These “go deep,” examining the long-term progress of a representative sample of SBIers. Follow their periodic updates (both ups and downs) over the course of years — some have been using SBI! For a decade or more.
In addition to the long-term case studies, we also present recent success stories in our blog. Each comes with valuable, real-world “Takeaway Lessons.” And again, the SBIer can be contacted personally.
Here, we “go wide,” presenting 500 high-performing sites that cover the gamut of major niche categories. No matter what your niche may be, it’s winnable with SBI!.
Tip: Don’t just take our or the SBIer’s word for it.
When evaluating any of these stories, enter the domain name into Alexa.com and SEMrush.com. Check for yourself how well the domain name is doing in terms of traffic from search engines and other sources.
Fake Reviews: Stop ’em — It’s Up to Us All to Fix This
If your guard is up, you’ll be able to follow these self-protection plans before you pull out your wallet.
But now, I’d like you to adopt a frame of mind. Remember, we’re talking about fraud artists who are out to make money by tricking you out of yours! So I’d like you to…
Get Mad as Hell!
We know things are bad — worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy… Well I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad… I want you to get up and go to the window and open it and stick your head out and yell… I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.Peter Finch, in “Network,” 1976
Now that we have that off our chest, let’s look at what we can do, practically, to stop this despicable practice.
Stop ’em — Relying on the Law
Anyone can be targeted by a scammer… by reporting scams we can all play an important part in protecting ourselves and others from falling victim.Advertising Standards Authority, UK
Fake reviews are illegal. Across the world, they’re subject to misleading advertising law.
America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing rules against posting fake reviews. Dan Warner of Kelly-Warner Defamation Law Attorneys says this:
“The FTC’s mission is to rid the marketplace of “unfair and deceptive marketing” — and it has the authority to both fine and shut down operations.”(4)
And it’s not just the FTC:
- We’ve previously looked at the European Parliamentary definition
- Australia has laid down a clear line in the sand about fake reviews
- Canada was warning consumers as long ago as 2014
- The UK has even started “Scams Awareness Month.”
So when we spot them we can expect the law to protect us, right?
This is a complex issue. For individuals, solopreneurs and small businesses, solving it via legislation is not always easy. (For large businesses, it’s a bit easier. Amazon has recently begun to sue over one thousand people for writing fake reviews(5).)
But it’s certainly a place to start. If we don’t each play our part in alerting authorities to the problem, we are avoiding playing our part in a solution.
What You Can Do
If you come across a review you believe to be fake, let your national authorities know. Report illegal practices at…
- Australia (Consumer and Competition Commission)
- Canada (Competition Bureau)
- United Kingdom (Advertising Standards Authority)
- United States (FTC)
- Other countries and general information
We’d love to see a powerful message sent by a judge who throws in a good punitive amount of compensation for victims who lose money, time (opportunity cost), goals, dreams and self-esteem (those last 3 are “pain and suffering).
But there are other good opportunities for extinguishing fake reviews.
Stop ’em with Google
Google has recently launched an initiative called “Verified Customer Reviews” to protect the credibility of its various merchant services. So it has taken steps to manage fake reviews in its own merchant properties — but it has a much bigger problem with its search algorithm.
Google does not band-aid a solution. You may remember Googlebombs — high rankings organized by massive inbound linking programs. Some were publicly embarrassing for Google (and its victims!), but ultimately they solved it by getting better, not by specifically recognizing and detecting that one scenario.
We’ve seen it, too, with Panda and Penguin. Google released fixes for low-quality content and rank manipulating only when many businesses, big and small, had almost overwhelmed it with a flood of no-value, mostly regurgitated “content for content’s sake” and conniving link-based strategies.
In each case, Google only moved when the problem impacted the quality of a large enough number of search results to make a perceptible difference.
Fake reviews feel like specialized, long-tail pap that Panda should be spotting. Worse than no-value, fake reviews are negative value. They lead consumers to making wrong choices.
That raises the obvious question…
When is Google going to worry about the huge problem of fake reviews, written by affiliates, that rank highly in the SERPs?
Although widespread, it may not yet occupy a high enough percent of Google searches to make it a priority. It’s a serious fail that enables malicious players to use fake reviews profitably.
If Google close this door by penalizing fake reviews, the practice will stop — because it will stop being profitable.
Why Does Google Search Not Prioritize This?
There’s little blowback from searchers. Consider this…
Few victims of fake affiliate reviews think back far enough to realize that it was Google that ranked fake reviews to the top. By the time they realize that a product is nowhere near as good as the fake review suggests, it’s too late.
The more people who meticulously report fake reviews by those who either promote them or fail to discipline their affiliates for the widespread practice, the more likely that Google picks up on both volume and patterns of a problem.
What You Can Do
When you find a fake review, let Google know.
At the bottom of the search page, click on the “Send feedback” link…
This opens the “Send feedback” window.
Enter text that explains the fake review you have discovered (text in the example below starts with “The following results…”).
The example explains the search, and has…
- copy-and-pasted the 3 URLs of the fake reviews
- added an attachment of 2 of the 3 results, using a simple screenshot tool that appears when you leave “Included screenshot’ checked.
These companies should take note. Just as Panda cleaned out content abuse and Penguin greatly reduced black hat manipulative practices (largely link abuse), the time for fake reviews is coming. Google’s business depends on delivering the best content that meets the search intent of each query. Theirs is the worst of all content.
Stop ’em With Real Evidence of Success
As entrepreneurs and business professionals, we go to great sacrifice to reach the dream of success. The power of the internet can quickly become a nightmare, if you are not prepared… In the case of online reputation management, the best defense is truly a great offense.Blog e-Endorsements: Fake Malicious Reviews
If you have a product that’s being victimized by fake affiliates, now is the time to fight back. Here, our experience can certainly point a way forward.
We dealt with the fake reviews attack in three separate ways.
1. We replaced opinion with fact by creating a head-to-head study of our company vs. the affiliate company targeting us.
The Study is rigorous, objective and transparent. We present the entire methodology (the “how to,”) that enables anyone to reproduce the whole study if they have doubts about the results. That transparency is important — we could not fake it if we wanted to.
This, of course, results in fallout. Some attack us for attacking them (our scientific study becomes “the attack” despite their instigating “fake reviews”). Others offer weak arguments like “I don’t believe in statistics” or stick with “It’s just my opinion and I have a right to it.”
All are marked by the desperate nature of weak replies. That’s because there is no good answer against the truth. The fact is that it’s against the law to mislead a customer into reading a fake review that leads to a different product for profit.
For the complete, detailed results, please see Part 3 of The Study.
How Does This Relate to Your Business?
Action point #1: If you have the opportunity to perform a study, or otherwise have raw facts that prove that fake reviews are flat-out bad, use them as widely possible.
Don’t debate on the fake site’s pages. That simply creates more content for them, which helps their ranking.
2. We’ve already talked about providing verifiable proof of success on our site. That includes providing domain names.
Some companies will say they don’t, even in their own forums, because they don’t want competition between their “customers.”
That would be a sad answer if it weren’t so laughable. The domain names of SBIers who are logged into our forums are available for all other SBIers to see. Those folks are there to do business. They’re interested in each other’s sites as examples. They have their own sites, based on their own passions. They aren’t looking to start a business about a niche that they don’t know.
Make sure you provide real proof of success. Include domain names.
3. We asked SBI! members to consider writing reviews of SBI! on their own sites.
We thought long and hard before asking, because SBIers create real businesses that are wrapped around real niches (i.e, nothing to do with how to build an online business or MMO).
For example, if you have a business all about table tennis, your visitors are not interested in building an online business. They’re interested in table tennis.
Nevertheless, if enough people create real reviews about SBI! and what it has meant to them, some will rank, such as this review of Solo Build It! — by a table tennis site owner!.
Action point #2: Make sure you have reviews of your own business by those people who genuinely use it.
These reviews stand out as genuine. The voice and nature of the content help them stand out from “scammy,” fake reviews.
Consider, too, creating a simple page that explains your whole fake review situation.
We created this one and buy ads for a variety of keywords related to searches for our own product until we rank more and more for real reviews.
4. Finally, contact other companies that have been victimized. Pooling information and even legal strategies grows when you have allies.
The Future’s Looking Sweet
Are you still feeling “mad as hell”?
Or has arming yourself with information about how to spot and stop fake reviews made life that much sweeter?
It’s time to take action, always remembering that other great adage…
Don’t get mad — get even.”Legitimate companies large and small build trust in their brand by providing consumers with quality merchandise and services. It’s honest, hard work that often takes years to pay off.
Online attraction marketers poach others’ brand equity to promote their own business model. It’s a manipulative scheme that only takes seconds to set up. (Idaho Business: “Fake Review Scams”)
We live in a unique window in time where the typical person (with BAM) can, at almost zero expense compared to offline business, start something that generates both profit and business equity.
Solopreneurs (at least, SBIers) should do better and better in the coming years. Here’s why…
- There has been a leveling off of the total number of sites (Netcraft’s web survey). The number has been approximately 170,000,000 active sites since late-2011.
- Google’s RankBrain is increasing in importance. Better content will be increasingly rewarded due to the AI part of Google’s algorithm. Mediocre content by BigCo employees will be recognized as such.
- The benefit of unfair weighting from “automatic links” (i.e., simply due to being “BigCo”) to that mediocre content will diminish.
- The solopreneur’s natural social media advantage, including previously unheard-off networking opportunities, stands you in good stead.
- The increasing ease and emphasis of higher-paying models of monetization will further help the solopreneur to increase the $-per-visitor ratio.
The window of opportunity for solopreneurs has never been so open. Fake reviews that lead folks from real to bogus shut that window on your fingers – just to line their own pockets. And they are so widespread in Internet Marketing/MMO that only the most sophisticated can sniff them out.
But hopefully, whether you’re a consumer or marketer (you’re likely each at different times), this article will help you sift real from fake.
Let’s summarize the actions every one of us can take when we come across a review — of any kind — that’s fake.
- Keep it real.
- Overdeliver for your audience. You may make less now, but you’ll do best in the long run.
- Insist on proof of success — loads of it — and walk if there is none.
- Report fake reviews to Google and regulatory authorities.
Producers of products
- If you use affiliate marketing, keep it clean. Monitor and discipline.
- If you’re a victim of fake reviews, fight back with your own marketing. Investigate legal alternatives.
- If affiliates of a competitive product claim it’s better, prove otherwise if possible. Your study may be shockingly superior because those with winning products don’t need to stoop to sell.
And finally, if you remember nothing else, remember one of the best pieces of advice about investing money in any product:
If it sounds too good to be true — it probably is.
It’s your future. Protect and maximize it.
Read the final article of this series, where we take an in-depth look at best practices for writing your own powerful, ethical affiliate review. Don’t miss it!