Should I trust online reviews?

Over the last few years, online reviews have soared in popularity. Whether they are rating holiday destinations, restaurants, products or companies, sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Amazon and TrustPilot offer potential customers a way to find out how others found the experience.

However, recognizing the power that a positive or negative review can have, some companies have written false reviews either praising themselves or denigrating their competitors. It has been claimed that thousands of people are consistently being tricked by fake reviews – so how do you know if you can trust them?

Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof way to know for sure if an online review is real, and the best advice is to use your judgement, and cross reference with reviews from other sources. Here are some other tips which might help you spot a fake review:

  • Has the reviewer ever reviewed anything else? If not, that could be the sign of a fake profile used by a company to praise their own product.
  • Has the reviewer left very similar reviews on other products? For example, if you saw several very similarly worded reviews from the same person on a range of different hotels, they might not be genuine.
  • Unusual use of product names. Some products, particularly electricals, have long, complicated product names that most people would never use in full. If you see reviews where complex product names are repeated several times, it could be a sign of a company trying to influence search engine rankings.
  • Excess enthusiasm. If a review looks or sounds too good to be true, it might be!
  • Consistency of reviews. It’s a fairly obvious point, but the more reviews something has, over a long period of time, the more likely they are to be authentic.
  • Reviews of the reviews: Many sites now include the option for people reading the reviews to state if they’ve found it useful or not. If there is an active community on the site you’re using, these can be another useful indicator of a review’s authenticity.

So when buying products or booking holidays, be careful with online reviews and use your judgement to decide what’s real and what’s not.