How to Spot Fake Yelp Reviews

A Scripted Freelance Writer Writing Sample

We are faced with unlimited choices when it comes to products and services. Yelp is an efficient way to distinguish between the options, but can you be sure that Yelp reviews are reliable? Looking for a great restaurant on Yelp? Buyer beware, a study conducted at Boston University found that at least 16 percent of reviews submitted to Yelp are faked. Although Yelp "filters" between 20-25 percent of the reviews they receive as "suspicious," according to MarketWatch, savvy Yelp users should be on the look out for the practice of "astroturfing." Here are some tips for spotting and avoiding untrustworthy Yelp reviews:

Be Wary of Extremes

If you spot a reviewer who consistently leaves very high 5-star or very low 1-star reviews, it is more likely that he or she has a dubious agenda. According to tech website Boy Genius Report (BGR), some restaurants have resorted to hiring paid freelance writers overseas to post reviews that either praise their own restaurants or defame their competitors' establishments. If a review looks too good, or too bad, to be true, check out the reviewer to see if they tend to write only extreme reviews. Disregard their opinion if they do.

Go With What You Know

Much like traditional reviews by professional restaurant critics, it is important to determine who thinks like you do about dining and food when reading online reviews. You may find one restaurant reviewer stuffy and pretentious or another to be unrefined and tasteless. The co-author of the BU study on fraudulent reviews suggests trying to find other online consumers who are similar to you. Cultivate a list of your own trusted reviewers with similar tastes to yours, relying on your extended social network when you can and trust their reviews.

Trust the Numbers

If you're curious about a restaurant, but don't have any friends or trusted reviewers to turn to for an honest opinion, look at the number of people overall who have reviewed a restaurant. As Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman points out at CNN Money, online review websites like Yelp are based on the idea of an "aggregate" review over time. If a restaurant has over 100 reviews and still manages to have a fairly high star rating (at least 3 stars), then chances are the restaurant is decent enough for you to give it a shot even if a few of the reviews do happen to be faked. Photo Credit: David Hepworth via Flickr.

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