We all know that companies only want to see good reviews, and it’s easy to write reviews, so you can fill in the blanks. However, many people don’t realize just how many fake reviews really exist on company websites, Google reviews, and social media. According to a recent study by Gartner, “brands are increasingly turning to paying for positive reviews, likes, and followers on popular social networking sites and by 2014, the research firm estimates that over one in ten of these will be fake.”

Reviews and testimonials are supposed to help someone make a decision about a company, but it can be tough to really support these reviews knowing how easy it is for a company to add fake reviews. This leads many to wonder: How can I make sure I’m reading a real review?

For the Users: Ways to Make Sure You’re Not Falling for Fake

Fortunately, there are a few different things that a user can do to make sure that he/she isn’t falling for reviews that a company paid for or wrote themselves. A few of these tips include:

  • Compare Reviews. Always be sure to look at more than one source. Look at Google reviews, Amazon reviews, Yelp reviews, testimonials, and even take to Quora. See where there is consistency.
  • Read the Reviews More Than the Ratings. You should always read the reviews as opposed to just looking at the number of stars given and moving on. In some cases, people give something a bad review for personal reasons that are irrelevant to you.
  • Follow Trends. If you have seen a trend of good or bad reviews over a few weeks, you can usually believe what they have to say more so than individual ratings.
  • Assess the Reviewers. If you can check-up on someone who gave a rating that really changed your thoughts, do it. This will help you see if that person has given other reviews. In some cases, people are just overly negative. In other words, it’s the person not the product.

It’s certainly annoying that consumers have to take these measures to really trust what a company says, but it’s good to know that there are at least options out there that work.

For Businesses: Are Fake Reviews a Bad Idea for Companies?

Believe it or not, some companies have seen value in creating their own reviews because it gets the ball rolling. Sometimes startup businesses need that extra push to get started, and reviews are great ways to make that happen. This then begs the question: As long as the fake reviews stop after one or two, is it okay to give yourself this head start?

Most would say it is unethical, and I would have to agree. However, one great way to give yourself this head start is by asking friends and family to utilize your companies products and services and then write a review. In most cases, your friends and family will tell you what you need to improve upon before they write a raving review. This will ensure that your company is only getting good reviews at first, except in this case they will be real.