It’s human nature to seek word-of-mouth support for a business in order for us to gain trust in the service and faith that our hard-earned cash is going to be well spent on a top call service or product or experience.
Off-line word-of mouth still has a huge influence on which business we might choose to use, restaurants we chose to visit or garage we chose to have the car MOT’d at, but online reviews (the internet’s word-of-mouth) are having increasing influence over our life choices.
Businesses are increasingly aware of reviews and the influence they have over their customers. They are also aware and rightly anxious of paid for, false and spammy reviews. Some businesses have fallen victim to customer blackmailing to win discounts. More worryingly, there is a global market for fake review websites that use stolen identities to post fake reviews.
The response to this has been that the top review companies have worked hard, some as long as 15 years to improve their reviews. A big part of this is to program algorithms to detect these fake reviews and constantly investing in this to stay 2 steps ahead.
Heres a taste of what review sites are doing to validate online reviews.
A new start-up, Twizoo claim to provide reviews that have been weeded out of fake, paid-for and out-of-date reviews. They are concentrating on restaurants initially, scrapes comments from Twitter, then collects and analyses them to provide more reliable reviews.
They have developed a twitter credibility score, that has to be earned over time so that tweets that come from a brand new twitter account are automatically discarded. Also if there are a flurry of tweets coming at the same time about one restaurant, this is viewed as suspicion and not shown.
Also the value of the Tweet loses potency after 3 months. Twizoo claim that tweets are often more likely to be genuine because they are often sent between friends as recommendations.
There is a secret code that Yelp use in their algorithm which weeds out potentially false, or over enthusiastically reviews. Yelp says they believe in ‘quality rather than Quantity’ adding that only 71% of their reviews end up getting through the software and showing for businesses.
Like many other reviews sites (including Google), the scrutinise multiple reviews coming from the same IP to the same business. They also detect any bias, maybe from an employee or a competitor.
Yelp also deploy people on the ground in many locations who look out for restaurants giving incentives to customers leaving five-star reviews.
Amazon have included reviews of reviews. A user can indicate via a star system how useful the review was based on their purchase having been influenced by that review. They favour reviews that are written for products bought at standard prices, as opposed to deeply discounted prices that may have only lasted days or even hours.
They also use the law having brought over 1000 lawsuits against defendants for reviews abuse which include dishonest sellers and manufacturers who attempt to buy fraudulent reviews and those who attempt to sell them.
Amongst the online work-of-mouth world, there is much being done to ensure both businesses and users are protected from false information.
Moving forward, tech companies, review sites and search engines will want to know more about the person leaving a review in order to protect its validity. This does not rub up well against those who want to see less intrusive data gathering amongst these websites.
We continue to monitor the effect of garnering positive online reviews from real-life and legitimate patients for our dental practices.
Call Dental Design on 01202 677277 to chat through how your practice and your practice websites SEO can benefit from online reviews and what recommendations we can make to ensure they are not spammed.
With thanks to BBC News