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Sarah UKFast | Account Manager

When Reviews go Wrong

6 July 2011 by Jenn Granger

The public has long relied on peer recommendations when choosing a product or service. Pre internet, these recommendations would have been through friends, neighbours, family etc. Now, they are often from complete strangers.

Amazon was one of the early adopters of consumer product reviews and they have helped the company become a dominant force. When I shop on Amazon a large factor in my buying decision will be the star rating and what other people say about the product. Numerous studies back this behaviour up and prove that consumer recommendations are a key buying indicator.

Google has embraced this desire for recommendations and shows reviews and ratings in shopping results, videos, places, AdWords and so on.

All of this is great for internet retailers as it gives consumers the confidence to buy products they cannot physically touch and see.

However, everything is not as rosy as it may at first seem.

Take the story of the online glasses shop owner who harassed, overcharged and threatened customers because he had found out that negative reviews pushed his site higher up on Google.

Then there is the issue of fake reviews. Over exaggerated positive reviews have long been in existence, but it is the negative ones that can really cause damage. TripAdvisor was in the news last week because of a negative review written on its site about an award winning restaurant. The restaurant plans to sue TripAdvisor for refusing to take down a review that is defamatory and “slanderous in the extreme”.  This is not an isolated incident on TripAdvisor either.

With the increase in consumer reliance on reviews when choosing which products to buy, the underhanded use of negative reviews is set to increase.

So what can you do if negative reviews feature prominently in searches?

This very question was asked on Quora yesterday and the most popular answers given were:

  • Create compelling content – both on your own site and on external ones.
  • Set up social media profiles which should rank well for your brand name.
  • If the review is on a 3rd party site, ask them to remove it.
  • Ask loyal clients to write positive reviews.
  • AdWords if the problem is really bad – BP did this to get their message across about the oil spill.
For me, the increase in product reviews on websites is great. However, sites need to get more sophisticated at detecting false reviews and consumers need to be aware that not every review can be taken at face value.

What do you think? Do you use reviews on your own website? Have you been the victim of slanderous reviews? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.