HOUSTON – Before you buy just about anything, you probably check reviews to see what other people have to say about it. You’ve heard stories about fake reviews but what you may not know is they are not only designed to trick you into buying junk, they are damaging small businesses that depend on reviews to survive.
“Reviews just help build trust, right?” said business owner Raymond Kennedy.
Safe Dry Carpet Cleaners has built trust over the years with customer reviews. But they say now dozens of fake negative reviews are sucking the life out of their business.
“We service maybe nine customers a day and we’re waking up every morning to you know, 10 to 15 false reviews. And so it became apparent really quick that something fishy was going on,” said Kennedy.
The reviews have specific details and look real.
“It’s a full-time job fighting Google reviews. And in the meantime, the phone’s not ringing as much as it is.”
Jason Brown, founder of Review Fraud, helps companies fight fake reviews. First, he explains why reviews are so important to companies.
“When you’re doing a search for any type of local business, say like a dentist or plumber, you just go to Google you type in plumber and Google will show you ads and then they’ll show you what we call the map pack, which is usually anywhere from two to four results,” said Jason Brown, Review Fraud.
The top results are based on reviews. Brown says the lower the reviews, the lower you are on the list.
“Google is the new billboard, you know. Everybody’s going to Google, right?” said Kennedy.
Kennedy can’t prove who is leaving the negative reviews, but he can only assume it’s a competitor.
“You have to play a detective as a consumer,” explains Brown.
How to spot fake reviews
1. Look for patterns. Profile may be set to private so you can’t see other reviews the person is leaving.
2. Profile names look fake or just seem off.
3. Spelling mistakes or sentences that just don’t make sense.
4. One person leaving reviews for services companies all over the country.
Brown sees how these negative reviews can quickly impact a business.
“If your phone stops ringing for a couple days, well now you don’t have that income to pay your employees to pay your bills to you know to just survive,” Brown.
“We’re really proud of the work we do,” said Kennedy. “It’s kind of sad that it’s impacting our business and our customers.”
Google will take down negative reviews, but the process takes time. Business owners have to report them one by one and submit proof they are fake. Many companies can’t keep up with all that work. Of course, you can search trusted review sites like the Better Business Bureau to double check reviews.
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