Investigation Shows Many Amazon Products Have Fake Reviews

Published on April 17, 2019

It’s no secret that Amazon changed the way businesses operate forever. With millions of products constantly emerging on the website, sellers depend on customer reviews in order to rank high on search result pages within Amazon’s website. A report that was published by a consumer education company called Which? on Tuesday revealed that thousands of fake reviews have been plaguing Amazon’s tech products.

As a consumer you may search for something knowing what you want. But with dozens of what seem like the same product for sale from different sellers at different prices, how do you determine which product is the best? You read the reviews.

Sellers know this. Amazon knows this. Amazon’s search engine algorithm, A9, really knows this. While the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for Google is highly competitive, Amazon’s A9 algorithm is hard in its own ways. Reviews are one of the biggest factors in ranking high in a search query on the e-commerce platform. Not only does this make it competitive, but sellers are desperate for positive reviews.

Unverified Reviews

A study, also released from Which? last fall determined that most online shoppers read the reviews on a product before making a purchase decision. This means that the presence of fake reviews is particularly harmful to the e-commerce environment. The study conducted by Which? revealed that most products from fairly unknown sellers that contained a massive amount of four and five star reviews were more likely to have fake reviews.

Of these products impacted by the presence of fake reviews, tech products were the most common. The company employed tech experts to analyze the companies that had garnered high reviews on Amazon and found that many were so unheard of, the experts didn’t even know about them. Many reviews on products from these unheard of tech companies were unverified, meaning that Amazon couldn’t verify that the account had actually purchased the product.

There are many red flags to finding fake reviews on a product or service on the web. Which? identified that one of the biggest red flags is when a company has dozens, even hundreds of reviews for one product but virtually none for the other. Similarly, if all of the reviews seem to have been published within days of one another, or within days of the product listing going live in the first place, odds are high that the reviews are fake.

Fake Reviews are the New Black

In the same way that selling packages of fake Instagram followers was a popular (but shady) business model just a few years ago, fake reviews are now. Which? estimates that around $30 billion dollars worth of consumer spending in the UK alone is impacted by the presence of fake reviews. This isn’t just a small problem. Amazon will have to figure out a way to combat the presence of fake reviews soon before consumers lose trust in the company altogether.

In the meantime, there’s a few things consumers can do to determine the validity of a review on their own. If a seller seems fairly unheard of but has a lot of reviews, it could be a red flag. Similarly, consumers should look for large quantities of reviews on just a couple of products, and reviews that were all posted within a short period of time. Just like fake Instagram followers, fake reviews show up in bulk.

On that note, just reading the review can often give it away. If the review seems a little too generic, lacking in detail, or altogether strange, it may be fake. Better yet, only trust the verified reviews.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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