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If you've seen ratings on online sites like Yelp, you may be wondering if any of those 5-star reviews are actually fake reviews. You may also start to wonder if some of your business competitors are actually using money to buy good reviews.
Your instinct may be correct.
So-called "review factories" are starting to crop up. These companies pay reviewers money to write five-star reviews on websites for anything from products to hotels and services.
And, fake reviews don't cost much. Some freelance writers are offering their review-writing services for only $5 per review. Others get paid $10 for each review, according to The New York Times.
The influx of false reviews is catching the attention of researchers. Some have even developed algorithms that can help sort out fake reviews from real reviews, The New York Times reports.
But, is buying good reviews something that businesses should consider?
Probably not. For one, if consumers find out that the reviews for your business' product or services are false, you may have undermined their confidence. Some customers might even feel cheated, as many rely on positive reviews before booking services.
And, you don't want to accidentally violate the Federal Trade Commission guidelines on endorsements. In many instances, bloggers or reviewers who receive compensation for reviewing items may be required to disclose their relationship with the company. Whether or not disclosure is required is dependent on each case, and consulting with the FTC website may be necessary to reduce the risk of violating these rules.
Whether or not you decide to buy good reviews is up to you. But, small business owners should avoid running afoul of FTC endorsement guidelines. They should also be aware of the public relations nightmare that may erupt if "good" reviews are found out to be "fake" reviews.