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Dealing With Dodgy Reviews


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#1 tam

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 04:51 PM

I'm just wondering is anyone has any experience dealing with 'dodgy' reviews. I'm dealing with small business owners that are generally not particularly tech savvy so sometimes they are copying and pasting a review from facebook or a email they've received rather than making things up. Although I'm sure there are a few that ask friends to leave comments too. And statistically there must be a few just making it up. It doesn't help I know some will create a listing, then email all their clients to ask them to leave a review so they get a flood in a very short period.

 

If anyone has any tips on ID-ing fake ones I'd be interested.

 

The issue at the moment is when I am detecting an issue with some basic checks e.g. two people using the same computer - I'm not sure whether to just filter the reviews out, sending them a warning (does that just teach them to try harder next time) or what? I don't want to go in too heavy footed as like I say it's often not a deliberate attempt to mislead.

 

 



#2 earlpearl

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 05:56 PM

Tam: I've been focused on web reviews for 10 years, (just reread one of our smb blog posts referencing web reviews from 2007) and am familiar with many of the issues. Where do they show and exactly what is the issue? (Btw: to this day best thing we did after a slew of slanderous attack reviews in 2009 was to call the person whom I'm 99% sure planted them and threaten far more serious retaliation. Haven't had one since. Meanwhile 2 of the review sites to this day have never removed them.)

Reviews are a problem issue with many permutations.

#3 tam

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 05:22 AM

The reviews are on my pet board boarding directory (which boarders pay to list on). The problem is positive reviews rather than negative ones...

 

There is two issues really, what to do when I detect a 'fake' review and how to detect more of them.

 

I'm doing basic checks (duplicate IP/being signed into your own account) to try and detect any boarders adding a review to their own listing. When I do, that's a nice clear cut breach of the t&c and the review doesn't go up - I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and just sending a friendly 'reviews must be submitted by the actual guest' - generally the issue is where people want to copy facebook reviews or text from emails they've been sent rather than making fake ones up. I hope that even if they did make it up, it's enough to let them know they are monitored and not do it again? Do you always notify the business owner of fake reviews e.g. if there is a fake negative one do you let them know or just filter it?

 

There are also reviews which look suspicious to me but pass those (very basic) checks - generally it's multiple reviews in a short period that have some similar phrasing that just feels a bit off. Sometimes businesses genuinely have multiple reviews in a short period as they'll sign up and then invite their clients to leave comments so they get a flood of them. I'm sure a portion must be fake but I don't know how to filter them out. I can't find too much going into specific detail online - presumably to avoid giving fake reviews a how-to for getting around the system. I don't want to falsely accuse people of making things up without any evidence.


Edited by tam, 06 June 2017 - 05:25 AM.


#4 earlpearl

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:32 AM

TAM:  I looked at your site and saw how reviews show.  I don't do similar site(s) but I'll go through what I know about "filtering reviews" by review providers.

 

Large review sites certainly "filter reviews".  I am not aware of any site trying to filter by assessing reviews by language to ascertain if it is faked.  In the positive side, by owners/operators/employees.  There could be an effort to try and filter reviews by the reviewers themselves.

 

Yelp filters reviews by people who aren't active reviewers/yelpers.  Write only one or 2 yelp reviews and don't become active in the community with photos and other "yelp" activity "stuff" and the reviews are likely to be filtered.  (they also filter for other reasons).  They ostensibly filter for other reasons such as political reviews.   Google certainly filters for seemingly too many reviews submitted in a short time period, as you have expressed concerns.

 

Google certainly has a filter on first time reviewers.  I experienced it.  They don't apply it like Yelp.  Google has other technical filters; sending in reviews from a review station (ie similar to you identifying reviews by IP) using urls in reviews, supposedly no political reviews (they are not currently enforcing that) and other methods.

 

I am unaware of any large review site currently filtering for "repetitive language" or any language test to filter reviews.  That doesn't mean its not in use anywhere, but simply that I am unaware of it.  Years ago I had inside interaction with the google spam team.  I asked about that issue and got a response that it was too difficult to do.  At that time.  The technology has undoubtedly improved, yet I am unaware of any site currently applying it.

 

I'd be careful in your personal assessment.  We've accumulated well in excess of 1000 aggregate reviews on various sites.  Years ago we ran into a problem with a competitor for one site.  I'm sure they planted reviews. I was also sure at the time their "corpus" of reviews were all or virtually all internally created.  The aggregate sum of their reviews at that time addressed EVERY single "hurdle" that consumers considered in purchasing the service.  And no others.  I submitted them with a list of industry hurdles to my inside contacts.  (ha all the effort was turned down)

 

Later I reviewed the corpus of reviews.  For whatever reasons they had lots more and they were seemingly more diverse.  While considering the competitor's reviews I was simultaneously reviewing our existing corpus.  I was convinced ours were clean and theirs were dirty.   I submitted the two different review packages to some people that I considered independent.   Their assessments were different than mine.  I suppose I was looking at these with too critical of an eye.

 

Beware of that in your assessments.

 

Only a small percentage of users of a service will submit reviews even if being asked by the service provider....possibly in the ranges of 4-20%, and probably skewing on the lower side.  That being the case, review writers are not authors or generally overwhelmingly literate.  In fact some are downright illiterate.   But they may really appreciate the service provider.

 

It is not unusual for a review writer to submit the exact same word for word review to more than one site  (copy and paste).  This of course might present problems with regard to duplicate content and other issues.  Some folks try and work around it by taking screen shots of reviews and applying them to their sites.  That is a way to appease the review writer and get the review on the site while simultaneously providing acknowledgement that the review can be found elsewhere.  

 

The sites that carry reviews make and enforce policies that support their economics.  Specifically that means that even while review spam is significant and possibly growing and not shrinking the review providers don't want to put too many staff hours to reading and review filtering by human staff.  I would suggest that is a good business policy.

 

I didn't read the terms and conditions on your site about submitting reviews.  In light of how difficult it is to obtain reviews for these types of businesses I wouldn't necessarily refrain from duplicate reviews on other sites (such as facebook).  I would state that they need to make you aware that they are copies.  Hey that is okay if its a real reviewer and not a submission from the owner; at least in my eyes, if not all others.   Then I would present the review as a screen shot or with attribution to the original source or both.

 

BTW:  I searched in google for pet boarders Cornwall UK.  I think I saw 27 listed.  One had 25 google reviews, 1 had 18, 1 with 12, 1 with 7 and the rest had 3 or less with a large percentage having none.  I think this reinforces how difficult it is for these businesses to get reviews at all.  It also suggests the boarders with with 18 and 25 might have an aggressive review "management" or review collection policy in place (if they aren't faking reviews).   I'm not aware of other review aggregators...except your site.

 

Readers LIKE and LOVE reviews.  You might want to highlight the aggregate volume of reviews on your site.  It attracts readers/visitors.

 

Hey if you find automated review filter mechanisms let me know. I'm interested in knowing what is out there.



#5 tam

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 11:15 AM

Thanks for the detailed reply!

 

I think yelp and google have the benefit that users may submit multiple reviews for different businesses so they can look at the user account history as part of the assessment. With the site just covering one business type and people often sticking loyally to one board, I only expect a person to submit one review.

 

I don't mind really if the reviewer posts the same text on multiple review sites - it doesn't happen often enough that I think it would be a duplicate content issue. It's the business owner taking a review posted one place and then copying it on to their listing, as it's hard to tell a copy and pasted review from a made up one. The current t&c don't allow this. Now I'm wondering whether maybe giving them permission to do this, if only for a limited number of reviews and with a link credit to the original location, might mean they do less copy and pasting. Like you say, it is tough to get reviews so I can see why they want to transfer them.

 

You are right about the language - I've just done some key phrase searches on the reviews previously submitted (over time and for different companies) and it's amazing how many people use the same or very similar phrasing. I wonder if them might read previous reviews before submitting theirs and unconsciously copy wording that way? I imagine some very smart people with huge computers might be able to analysis it and come up with an algorithm for detecting copies but that's outside my skills.

 

I'm wondering about maybe using a verification email on ones I'm not sure about, the click this link to verify kind, but I'm not sure if that would then take out a high percentage of people that were genuine and didn't bother to click?

 

Some of the difference in review numbers maybe down to the size of business, they are licensed for fixed numbers depending on the facilities so you can have a big kennel licensed for 70 dogs or a small one for 5, so when you get down to 4-20% the larger one has much more opportunity. That said they do often form quite close relationships with the customers so if they actually ask for reviews a lot of customers are willing to sing the praises of their boarder.



#6 earlpearl

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 11:33 AM

I was working to find your site and came upon a reference to the book.  I'm intrigued to read it.  Meanwhile the sig links aren't all working.



#7 tam

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 01:55 PM

I was working to find your site and came upon a reference to the book.  I'm intrigued to read it.  Meanwhile the sig links aren't all working.

 

Fixed it. Which book? :) I've one on childminding (now out of print), rabbit behaviour and the latest is starting your own dog boarding business.



#8 earlpearl

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 02:00 PM

I'm interested in what you published for the dog boarding business.



#9 EGOL

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 02:55 PM

I like that dog boarding biz.   

 

Dogbnb   Arfbnb   Pupbnb    Killer





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