How Do Review Sites Detect Fake Reviews?

Online reputation management for Google and Yelp fake reviews

How Do Review Sites Detect Fake Reviews?

Creating fake reviews and fake listings is a serious offense. Why? Because fake reviews and fake listings can mislead customers, inflate prices, and cost businesses revenue or even their reputations. In addition to this, fake reviews waste the time of business owners who try to combat this by hiring an online reputation company.

To address fake reviews and fake listings, Google and Yelp have implemented automated systems as their first line of defense against fake reviews. And they both use human moderators for tasks that the technology isn’t suitable for.

How Does Google Detect Fake Reviews?

Google’s Automated Detection System

Google’s automated systems “use hundreds of cues to detect abusive behavior, such as a shift of review patterns on a business and implausible behavior patterns by reviewers. Typical user pattern data (for example, users tend to leave reviews, ratings, and photos at places they’ve already been) is one of Google’s most important resources when it comes to identifying fake review content and finding solutions to combat them.

Machine learning models analyze the text of reviews for fake language patterns. In addition to fake review text patterns, fake reviews also tend to have fake reviewer profile information, fake check-in data at the location reviewed, and fake intent for writing the review before the content gets in front of users.

Google’s Human Content Moderators

Google employs human content moderators who help its algorithms flag spam and fake reviews. The role of human analysts in the content screening and the moderating process has remained relatively secret to outside observers, but Google opened its doors just enough for a rare glimpse into Google’s fake reviews detection systems.

How Does Yelp Detect Fake Reviews?

Yelp’s Automated Detection System

Yelp claims that they have “developed an automated algorithm” to detect when businesses are trying to manipulate their online review score by getting their employees (or even customers) to write fake glowing reviews. Yelp’s automated recommendation software analyzes data points from all reviews, reviewers, and businesses in order to recommend reviews to users, but it also looks for solicited reviews and unfairly biased reviews (like reviews that may be written about a competitor or someone’s own business). Yelp’s software also factors in the reliability of the reviewer (if they are new or active) or the relevance of the review into account as well.

Yelp’s Human Content Moderators

The human element of tackling online content has long been a topic of debate. While Yelp’s human moderators might be able to detect the subtle differences between an advertisement and actual reviews, some people argue that it is impossible for human monitors to keep up with the scale of moderating content posted on these platforms. Others believe that Yelp’s human moderators may be too slow or biased in making such determinations as compared to machines.

However, Yelp’s human moderators are necessary because many fake reviews are disguised as legitimate reviews – because they’re not so easy to distinguish from real customer feedback. It turns out that although Yelp isn’t using machine learning algorithms to do this task, they have used other kinds of technology processes throughout their 14 years of existence.

Yelp Consumer Alerts

Yelp has introduced a way to notify consumers when it detects abnormalities in the activity on a business profile, which may be an attempt to manipulate a business’s reviews or ratings.

These alerts are called Yelp Consumer Alerts and will be shown under the following circumstances:

  • if there have been more than 10 reviews submitted in one week for businesses that generally receive fewer than 20 reviews per week
  • if there is a sudden spike in star rating (4 or 5 stars) without prior history of Yelp user reviewing this business

When Yelp applies Consumer Alerts to your business’s listing(s), the alert will be displayed above your regular listing information on

Which Review Site Should I Focus My Efforts On?

Did you know that every time a potential customer browses to your Yelp page, they are being matched with your competitor? Depending on how many times per day the consumer checks out each business’s listing, it is likely that this will happen. It is the same with Google Reviews. Both Google and Yelp have audiences depending on location and individual user behavior.

This is one of the many reasons why it’s just as important to have your business listed in Google as it is on Yelp. You need to control what the public sees when searching for local businesses just as much as you want them to find your information on Yelp.

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