Fake reviews are not only easy to detect – by everyone, but can be costly. Since most companies (or operators) that do fake reviews develop a bunch of reviews at once, mainly using a template approach, they are fairly easy to spot. They tend to have the same tone of voice and a number of “individuals” misspell the same words in sequential positive reviews on the same property. It’s just easy to detect that what is online is probably not reality.
Hotels are rewarded for not only the quality of the review, but also the recency of the review. Fake reviews tend to come in bursts and do not represent organic traffic. This makes it easy to detect by consumers as well as the review sites. This not only dissuades travelers, but can also trigger suspension by the review sites.
Now here’s the big one. Reviews that are either paid or done by employees must have the relationship disclosed in the post. This is as a result of the Federal Trade Commission’s ruling that went into effect on December 1, 2009. The Commission’s position on this is clear – if there is a material relationship (paid post or if there is an employee that is paid to create the post) in such a way that the reader would believe it is an independent review, that post must be disclosed. Failure to do so could result in an $11,000 fine per occurrence. Before hiring someone to write reviews to help boost your ranks, think of the reputational and financial consequences.