I’m 10 weeks in here in Houston, and I’ve found myself referring to CitySearch again and again. I check there first for everything: from delicious Thai restaurants, to reputable Thai massage parlors (Side note: who knew come to this place for “a good time”!!! was a common euphemism?). The point is, I’m not checking any local business’ official Web site, but instead, I’m checking other platforms for third party information. Any business that’s been around for a while will have several reviews.
As users embrace local search in droves, having this “distributed presence” is becoming increasingly important for any local business. The distributed presence is important for national and global businesses, too, but even more so for a firm that gets half its online customer referrals from Google Maps.
Which brings me to the fake reviews. I first began to notice these on hotel reviews at Travelocity:
“I don’t know what the other reviewers are talking about!!! My room was spotless and the decor was beautiful. The management was extremely helpful and gave me everything I could have possibly needed. The nice owner, Lisa, even gave me tips on sightseeing. I can’t believe how cheap their rates are!! Stay here and you won’t regret it!!!!”
The fake self-reviews are here, whether you like it or not, and they’re surprisingly pervasive. It’s gotten to the point where half the businesses I check have at least one obviously fake self-review. Generally the only ones I can trust are:
- Negative reviews (these are extremely helpful)
- Mixed reviews (here’s something positive, here’s something negative)
- Tons of reviews (generally the managers only do two or three fake self-reviews, so if I see 47 reviews for a business, I allow myself to trust the “aggregate opinion”)
So, local business owners, if you’re going to do fake reviews (and, let’s be honest, if you own a local business, you probably will), please keep the following tips in mind:
- Don’t end sentences with multiple exclamation points.
- Don’t begin with “I don’t know what those other reviewers were talking about!”
- Don’t refer to the owner or manager by name. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen this happen when it wasn’t a fake review.
- Include a negative or two. They can even be “gentle negatives”. The following does NOT count as a negative: “The only negative I found was the price: it was too cheap!”
- Don’t rate yourself 5 out of 5, or 9-or-10 out of 10. Instead, stick with 4 out of 5 or 8 out of 10.
Mai Thai is my favorite Thai restaurant in Houston! Everything from the chicken pad thai, to the hot and sour soup, to the chef’s specialty “Chicken Curry No Hurry” is absolutely delicious! The decor is wonderful, there are authentic Thai paintings on the wall. I go there at least twice a week, and the owner, Lewis, always says Hi to me and we chat pleasantly for a while. It is a great place to go for a business lunch or even a Friday night date!! Oh, and don’t forget to try the green tea ice cream!!!!! 10/10
Mai Thai is a pretty decent Thai resaurant for the price. I’ve tried the Pad Thai (good) and the hot and sour soup (average). The lunch crowd is busy but they get you seated fairly quickly. 8/10
The second review will get me in there. The first, not so much. Oh, and for the record, I’m not actually trying to coin FRO as an acronym. I think we have enough silly acronyms, don’t you?
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