According to this MarketWatch article, 20% of all Yelp reviews are written by paid shills located overseas. These ‘paid shills’ are paid between one and ten dollars per review because a one star bump in review status can mean between five and nine percent more customers for a particular business. While Yelp does its own policing, the sheer volume of these fraudulent reviews means that it’s become nearly impossible to catch them all and only 16% of these reviews were marked as the work of shills.
From the article:
Fraudulent reviews are growing as more businesses become aware of the importance of social media and compete with rivals for public affection. “The problem is definitely more widespread than the Attorney General’s investigation,” Luca says. “That’s just one small piece of the puzzle.” (A Yelp spokeswoman says its software helps filter many fakes before most users get to read them.)
Consumers can also be influenced to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. Of the top reviews on Amazon analyzed in a 2011 study by technology entrepreneur Filip Keeler and Trevor Pinch, a professor at Cornell University’s department of science and technology studies, over 80% were positive. The study, “Free Lunch,” concluded that 85% of the most prolific reviewers are part of “Amazon Vine”— the site’s “most trusted” reviewers — and received free products from publishers, agents and manufacturers. This, Kessler says, can make them unpaid agents rather than consumer advocates. “Consumers should not rely solely on Amazon reviews,” he says.
How can consumers tell if a review is not what it appears to be? Consumers should look closely at the source and language of one-star reviews to see if a company could be dissing a rival and pay equally close attention to five-star reviews in case the business itself has decided to award itself the highest praise possible, Luca says. “There is little incentive for a business to leave a mediocre review,” according to “Fake It Till You Make It.” “Hence, the distribution of fake reviews should tend to be more extreme than that of legitimate reviews.” That’s why some sports — like gymnastics — use a “trimmed mean” where the highest and lowest scores are discarded. Ratings for legitimate reviews show a “sharp peak” at four-out-of-five stars, the study found.
While the majority of people still place a lot more weight behind the recommendations of those they know personally, these sorts of games are happening across all sorts of online review sites including Yelp and Amazon and more should be done to raise the general public’s awareness of the existence of such scams.
We here at Lazy Lightning do a much better job at policing the comments that come under reviews written here than what you’ll see elsewhere and you can guarantee that any comment approved from previously unknown authors is placed under careful scrutiny by myself and the rest of the community. While this methodology is by no means perfect, it is far better than what you’re likely to see elsewhere and we take great pride in ensuring accurate and unbiased original written reviews and commenter submissions.
What do you think about this one? How much faith do you put into the reviews of others when you make your own purchase decisions? Do you consult Yelp, Urbanspoon, Amazon, etc reviews prior to purchasing a product? How much salt do you take them with? Do you regularly concur with the opinions of others you know personally more than those you read online? How often do you agree with the reviews penned on this site and how likely are they to influence where you spend your money?
Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.