Fake User Reviews – Do They Really Hurt Your B&B Hotel Business?

When we began BedBreakfastTraveler’s Intelligence for B&B’s Blog, we committed to bringing you indispensable advice and guidance for marketing your bed and breakfast or small hotel online. We also will bring you advice on some quite controversial topics. Yes, these are the topics that most marketing experts hesitate to mention to their clients. But, there are some very controversial topics out there that everyone wonders about, and a few worry about.

So, we’re kicking off this blog with a very controversial topic these days — Fake User Reviews. Yes, these are traveler reviews that hotels may write about themselves, or that competing hotels may write about their neighboring properties. Sometimes they’re even written by guests who have never stayed at the B&B they’re reviewing. Some are written for personal gain, or for the detriment of others.

One thing in common for all fake user reviews is that they’re WRONG. Not only are they ethically wrong, but writing a false review breaks international rules of commerce and violates the terms and conditions of every online service that features online reviews.

The real questions likely to be on your mind are (1) why are fake reviews written, (2) do they really hurt my business, and (3) can I do anything about them?

There are any number of reasons why people write false reviews. The whole premise of online user reviews is that people like to have a voice, and communicate with an otherwise anonymous audience. When websites feature a product or service, and then ask the public for their opinions, the result is often an instant flurry of comments. Let’s face it, people have strong opinions about things, and like to be heard. Entertain these inborn human characteristics with a simple online interface allowing anyone to reach thousands or even millions of readers, and you have instant success.

Going hand in hand with the instant success, you have the negative side of human nature. People begin to figure how to game the system, to enhance ratings for their own product or service, and drag down that of their competitors. Enter the fake review. As an online marketing expert, I’ve seen virtually every form of falsified review being published on the internet. These fall into basically two categories, basically others (guests and competitors) who want to see you fail, and reviews you may solicit (or write yourself) for personal gain. Bed and breakfast and small hotel managers should never participate or encourage this activity. Marketing time and efforts are best spent elsewhere.

The biggest reason for not participating in fake reviews is that, 9 out of 10 times, false reviews are usually recognized as being false. In fact, most fake review attempts are so blatant, it’s almost ridiculous. When a B&B has only 1 or 2 reviews written, and these have 100% ratings, readers discount them as false. When excellent reviews sound like marketing proposals, they’re discounted as false. When reviews for international hotels are written by guests from English speaking countries, and are written in broken English, the review is discounted as false. Participate in any false reviewing activity, and risk being banned by the host services.

But do fake reviews always hurt your business? Not really. If it’s true that falsified positive reviews never help business, it is equally true that fake negative reviews usually don’t hurt either. In fact, there is a theory that negative reviews can have an equally and offsetting positive impact on the popularity of the subject B&B or hotel. Consider the person with a grudge that signs into several websites to write negative reviews. While the impact of the actual review comments will be watered down over time, the mere mention of you property in these new online locations will tend to boost your search engine popularity. This is especially true if your website’s URL is included in the review text. Combine this with the fact that online review readers have learned how to decipher false and true comments about bed and breakfasts, and there’s not much to really worry about.

So, can you really do anything about fake reviews and the minimally negative impact they may have on your B&B business? Yes. Our primary advice is to simply not participate in any false reviewing activities, whether negative or positive. This is a waste of time, and will only reduce the credibility of your business. You’re also more likely to get banned from some of the valuable online marketing services you subscribe to. Secondly, if you suspect any false reviewing campaigns being carried out against your B&B or small hotel, don’t worry. These are not likely to have any large or lasting impact. Simply contact the host services that are publishing these reviews to report the suspected violations. A positive step you can take to promote positive and accurate reviews is to simply ask your guests to write reviews on their experience. Ask them to write their reviews on reputable host services like BedBreakfastTraveler or Trip Advisor.

Finally, how can you find out if there any reviews being written about you on the internet? That’s simple. Use a popular search engine like Google or Yahoo, and enter your property name followed by the word “reviews” (or “traveler reviews”) in the search bar. You are likely to come up with any recent comments being published about you.

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2 Replies to “Fake User Reviews – Do They Really Hurt Your B&B Hotel Business?”

  1. I have heard this subject raised from time to time. However, I have always doubted the extent of the problem that some with vested interests in fuelling an otherwise non-story might imply. I also agree wholeheartedly with the original article that bad reviews, whether malicious or from genuinely disgruntled guests, have very little, if any, impact on bookings. Furthermore, for those proprietors who are tempted to write their own glowing reviews forget it, it’s futile.

    I have owned a small hotel for 7 years and currently around 70% of our business is generated through on-line booking agents with whom guests are invited by email to write a review. I don’t know the industry average response but our own analysis show that less than 2% (yes you did read that right 2%) write a review. Despite that low figure we currently have over 100 reviews across 3 major websites.

    Allowing for each agents’ slightly different scoring mechanisms you may also be surprised that our average score on each is between 8/10 and 9/10 and has been for years. Within that individual scores range from 10/10 to 2/10 and comments range from the good, to the bad, to the downright ugly

    The purpose of me boring you with these statistics (be grateful I could give you a lot more) is to make the point that if someone wanted to harm me that they would have to post an awful lot of bad reviews to impact the overall score. This is because all the time they are posting low scores genuine guests would be posting ‘normal’ scores. And it works the other way around too if you were to post your own high scores. As for comments, those that appear outside the norm stick out like a sore thumb and guests will dismiss them as either the ranting of an idiot or fakes.

    Last point –honestly! You don’t have to be a marketing expert to know that first impressions count. Before a potential guest reads your reviews they have pretty much made up their mind from the main pictures. It is then reinforced by the first few sentences of your description. By the time they get to the reviews they should be on your side. So the point I make here is forget wasting time on reviews (unless, of course, you’ve got loads of spare time!) and spend more time making sure your website is crisp and up to date, the pictures look fantastic, and the text is punchy enough to sell in a couple of sentences.

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