The growth of online reviews



We live in age where providing a review is an automatic process. Rather than keeping our opinions to ourselves, we share our thoughts as to how good or weak a product is, what we thought of a book, a restaurant, a hotel or customer service in another environment.

The reviews take different forms which I’ll discuss here.

Verified reviews

These are considered the most trustworthy to such an extent that in May 2017 Amazon started adding the words ‘verified purchase’ to reviews from customers who had purchased the item and subsequently given feedback.


This followed a spate of fake reviews, most notably when Hilary Clinton’s book – all 512 pages – were reviewed within minutes. I read a lot and I read quickly, but even a super faster reader who might read 500 pages in 4 to  hours, could not add a review of  500+ page book in 5 minutes.


There are online systems to gather verified reviews and these include:

These are automated systems that are integrated into an online store’s shopping system, so an invitation email to share a review is submitted as soon as the item has been shipped. There are downsides, if there are delays, a request for a review can be issued before the goods are delivered!


Some sites like only accept reviews form those who have booked through their site.


Unverified reviews

TripAdvisor® founded in 2000, encourages reviews from visitors to tourist attractions, restaurants and hotels. The challenge is that these reviews are unverified. That means I can add a review for any hotel in the world, even if I haven’t visited it.

Unverified reviews are subject to abuse as they are open to anyone who has or has not purchased the product.


Fake reviews

We are starting to detect fake reviews as they tend to include less detail, they’re generic and are less contextualised to the location. They talk about everything being ‘great’ without giving specific examples.

This book review looks fake to me as it contains little information and is negative, with no name attached to it and is not a verified purchase which is odd as it was bought via Kindle.


How to spot a fake review

Genuine reviews contain real detail, they may be provided by a reviewer who has added content about many products or services. A fake review is also easy to spot:

  • There is a lack of detail.
  • The reviewer may had added just one review.
  • The reviewer may be anonymous.
  • If the reviewer has more than one review, they are a random selection without a real connection.
  • There may be spelling errors or poor sentence construction.
  • Whilst they can be negative (like the Hilary Clinton book) many can be too positive and these are spotted because they sound like an advert or sales copy rather than a real person
  • If there are several reviews using the same phrases or titles, they’re likely to be fake.


Best practice

  • Use a verifiable system
  • Accept and don’t edit all reviews, whether good and bad.
  • If a reviewer says ‘I didn’t buy this product because it’s too expansive’ or ‘I didn’t stay here, I know someone who did’, report a problem to the site. These reviews break the terms and conditions as they are not genuine. They will most likely be removed.
  • Prepare stock phrases to respond ‘thank you so much for taking the time to share your feedback’.
  • If you have a negative review for good reason, acknowledge this and explain the context around why it happened and share what steps are being taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • Respond to all reviews. Make it company policy to always respond to feedback, for example, typically on TripAdvisor® many organisations only respond to the negative reviews, ignoring the opportunity to add keywords, promote specific events and thank happy customers.