Are these business reviews legitimate?

Do you remember a time where you were sorting through online business profiles trying to hire the right company for your next project?  If not, you are doing it all wrong. Businesses live and die by their online profiles and reviews.  The web world is composed of hundreds of review based sites like Kudzu, Google Places, Thumbtack, Manta, Red Beacon, Angie’s List, and that is not even scratching the surface.  An entire industry has been introduced to allow consumers to leave positive or negative reviews.  In a perfect world this would allow consumers to make informed decisions on hiring the right company.  Unfortunately this is not reality, and this is why:

    1. There is not a site that aggregates all reviews into one  place.  Review sites differ per industry.  A fence company may be extremely popular on Red Beacon, Angie’s List, & Kudzu, but might not have any reviews on Yelp or Google Plus.
    2. Negative reputation campaigns are quite common among competitors.  Just like politics, competitors will do anything to smear the competition’s name and get a leg up.  Competitors will often leave damaging “fake” reviews to make your average consumer doubt the quality work of a certain business.  Planting that seed of doubt goes along way.
    3. Fabricated reviews – It is the opposite of negative reputation, but occurs when a company hires people to leave fake positive reviews.  This is one of the most frustrating tactics because it is so obvious.
I am going to do an in depth review of some anonymous business profiles and show you examples of each of these issues:

We all understand that number 1 is an obvious issue, so we are going to drive into #2 & #3. I am going to sample a fence company to show you legitimate reviews and fabricated reviews.  Hopefully by the end of this post you will be able to spot fake reviews and hire the right company.

googleplusreviewsPlease click the image to see a larger view.  I have blurred out the company name and the names of each reviewer and any name references in the review for privacy reasons.

The first red flag is that every review on this is 5 stars.  Not to say that it is impossible to have all 5 star reviews, but in my experience, with some customers, the only way you are going to get 5 stars is if you do it for free with perfect quality.  Being in the reputation management industry, I have seen clients giving a glowing text review and market 4 stars or even say “Company A did everything we agreed to and didn’t miss a beat and also provided an affordable price, but nobody’s perfect so we are going to leave a 4 star review…” The next obvious red flag is the dates on each of the reviews.  I did a screenshot of 5 of the 8 reviews are they were all were placed in the same exact month.  70% of consumers will leave a review if they had a negative experience and less then 10% will leave a review without the business asking for a review.  What are the chances that all of these satisfied customers left reviews in the same month?  It appears that a company realized the weight of a local profile, saw a competitor with more reviews, and decided they needed to get to that point. Moving on, you will start to notice a pattern in the text review.  It may use a certain employees name (owner) over and over again. The review will also typically use language that you would never use unless you were a marketing company.  Lets face it, you bought a fence, the company was on time, installed the fence properly, and had a great price.  A consumer may mention that they were attentive with phone calls and answering questions, but they most likely will not go into a tremendous of detail about how the quality the suppliers pressure treated lumber and how the nailed each board with precision. The final point is be weary of  anonymous reviews.  If there is no face to the review – ignore it.  I have trust issues…and you should too.  If you want to do some more digging you can click on the person’s name and it should link you to all the reviews they have listed.  If that is the only review that comes up, you can bank that it will probably be fake. Other common signals of fake reviews are that they have under 10 people in their groups.  They probably do not have any social interaction and/or their image looks like it was pulled from Google images (business head shots, a picture of a car, building or dog). To conclude, businesses are looking to increase their profit margin any way they can (good for them, they should).  It is up to us as consumers to navigate through the malarky and make an informed decision.  There are exceptions to every situation, except online reviews…take my word for it.