The Irish Hotels federation would like Tripadvisor to put in place measures that will help to weed out fake reviews on the travel site. I bet it would !!
It was no surprise for me to hear on the news today that a hotel group either intended to, or actually did suggest their staff post fake positive reviews about their own places of work.
I have been involved regularly with Tripadvisor since 2005 and it didn't take me long to realise that fake reviews were part and parcel of the site.
After using the site for a while it is not difficult to recognise suspicious reviews and posts.
Short of doing a DNA test, conducting a personal interview not to mention a lie detector test with each and every accommodation reviewer, Tripadvisor will never be able to verify that reviews (and posts) are genuine or fake. It would be an absolutely impossible task. No software in the world could handle such a verification process.
Instead of being ironic, the Irish Hotels Federation would better spend their time encouraging their members to do what they are supposed to do, that is to provide a good quality hotel experience at a reasonable cost to their customers. Asking TripAdvisor to do the impossible is hardly useful.
I hope the following will help any new visitors to TripAdvisor get the most from the site and hopefully detect suspicious and fake reviews.
First, to explain the types of reviewers I have encountered on TripAdvisor over the past 6 years.
1. The genuine reviewer.
This is someone who is interested enough to share with others details of an accommodation experience in their own words. The reviews vary from one or two lines to numerous paragraphs and in all cases are given in good faith and are genuine.
2. The Rant Merchant
This is someone who feels like a rant, and posts a negative review, generally in outburst fashion, just to get back at an accommodation for whatever reason.
3. The Owner/Manager/Employee/Relation
This is someone who posts a fake positive review about an accommodation that they work at or are connected to in some way, but have not used as a customer. Worse still, it could be someone who posts a fake negative review about a competitor.
4. The Troll. Is not unique to TripAdvisor. Trolls exist on all web forums. They can be summed up as 'troublemakers' with a "primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response"
Second, how to get the best info from the review sections.
Reviewers with a good history of mixed reviews and posts can generally be depended on and in the main can be considered genuine reviewers.
If a reviewer has less than 50 contributions, I generally move on to the next.
I absolutely avoid reviews with just 1 contribution. It could be genuine, but I'm not willing to take a chance on that. Most of the suspicious reviews I have come across come from reviewers with very few contributions. (Note the word suspicious, not fake)
A genuine reviewer will generally have quite a few posts and reviews, most of which will be amiable or at the very least, legitimate.
The Rant Merchant will be an obvious one. Usually very few posts, the majority of which will be grouchy.
The owner/manager/Employee/Relation is a more difficult reviewer to identify. Any obvious ones will post a fairly short post (few lines), writing in glowing terms about the accommodation, with not many details. Sometimes the post reads like advertising blurb.
The Troll. If the Trolls existence is not obvious by his first post, it won't take many more to establish this. I ignore Trolls, they are harmless, but aggravating.
Finally, it says a lot about an accommodation provider that has to stoop so low as to arrange fake positive reviews. It's probably not illegal but it is underhanded.Edited: 31 January 2012, 23:16