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Identifying those fake TripAdvisor accommodation reviews

True or False
True or false? Spotting those real or fake TripAdvisor reviews.

The world’s largest and most popular holiday review site, TripAdvisor, publishes millions of reviews by those who have stayed at hotels and other types of accommodation around the world. The primary reason for its popularity is that one of the best ways to find out what to expect when staying somewhere is to actually read feedback by those that have been there before. After all, a slick website and the right photos can mask things like poor quality rooms and less than desirable service.

TripAdvisor is not without controversy, as there is no mechanism in place to verify that the writer of a review actually stayed there.  So there may be fake reviews creeping in, either by disgruntled staff or guests, hotels trying to sabotage their opposition, or paid reviews by accommodation providers trying to boost their standing.

One of the ways to possibly spot a fake review is by pasting the text of it into Cornell University’s Review Skeptic. They claim to use sophisticated language models that can identify whether a review is real or fake with an impressive 90% accuracy. They do state that it works best with hotel reviews worded in English.

Give it a go!  Our boss here at Travel Victoria is an avid traveller, so we put his recent TripAdvisor reviews (which we know are absolutely 100% genuine) to the test. We took the 12 reviews he posted for accommodation he stayed at over the last 3 years and plugged them into Review Skeptic. The results were that out of those 12 reviews,  only one was reported as being “deceptive” and the remaining 11 were reported as “truthful”.

With 92% accuracy in our real-world test of Review Skeptic, it’s quite impressive.

While Review Skeptic was able to declare that 92% of our real reviews were genuine, we obviously don’t have any fake reviews to give it to check. So we can conclude that if a review is really true, then Review Skeptic is pretty good at picking that up. We leave it up to the reader to test how well it performs with fake reviews.

Advertising Professionalism Scams Search engine optimisation Web promotion

Be cautious of those offers to get your website to the top of Google

Marketing your website

If you have a website, you will no doubt be a regular recipient of offers via email from website marketers who promise that their large company of professionals will make your website feature highly in Google.  However, before you take up an offer like that, carefully analyse the contents of their email and think about who they are and what they are offering.

Consider this recent email we received:

A typical mass email offer by a marketing company to get your website to the top of Google

There are some issues with this email which indicate that we’re probably not dealing with the large, well-known and internationally-respected organisation they portray themselves to be.

  1. The business development manager of this large company is using a free Gmail address to contact people rather than using something more official and directly linked to the company.
  2. Would you trust this company with the sensitive task of marketing your website when the business development manager writes emails which consist of grammatically incorrect sentences and have words incorrectly capitalised?
  3. Unless this company is Google itself, it cannot claim to get your website to the top of Google.  That’s because Google controls how websites are ranked using hundreds of factors that it alone determines. While a website marketer can exert some influence on Google rankings by boosting your website’s standing in some of those areas that Google looks at when analysing your site, they cannot guarantee to have the power to give you the exact ranking you request. Also, Google regularly changes its ranking algorithms, so even if this marketing company did manage to achieve the position you wanted with your website, it could all change tomorrow. The only way to guarantee a spot in Google’s search results is to take out a paid (sponsored) listing with them, and then throw lots of money at the search keywords of your choice.

So be careful with trusting your website’s marketing to an organisation that can’t organise its own email addresses, can’t write proper English and to those that promise to deliver the impossible.  You might be disappointed.

Advertising Professionalism Search engine optimisation Web promotion Websites

Monitor the results of outsourcing of your website promotion

Be careful with outsourcing your web promotion.

Outsourcing the job of promoting your website is becoming an attractive option for business owners who either don’t have the time or know-how to do this promotion themselves. However, you really need to keep a careful eye on what your promoter is doing, as if they are not professional about it, their work could end up damaging your business’s reputation rather than enhancing it.

The people at Jensen Windows & Doors ( appear to have employed someone from overseas to promote their website in what appears to be a less than professional way. How do we know? Someone based in the Philippines (as determined by looking up the submitter’s IP address) filled in our free listing form for tours and activities in Victoria in order to get their business and website displayed on the Travel Victoria website.  They specified that Jensen Windows & Doors, who are manufacturers of doors and windows in Queensland, conduct tours and activities around the Great Ocean Road coastal town of Aireys Inlet in order to trick us into approving the listing and displaying the website link. With their link published, they would have gained exposure by people clicking on the link and viewing their website.  Also, web search engines like Google would notice the link and treat it as a vote of popularity for Jensen Windows & Doors, thus possibly boosting their website’s ranking when people conduct searches for window and door manufacturers.

While we obviously didn’t publish the free listing as requested by the person from the Philippines that Jensen have hired, it has however left us with a negative view of this Queensland-based manufacturing company that resorts to hiring people from Asia to get their business listed in inappropriate places.

Promoting your business and website is serious stuff.  If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, ensure the person or organisation you outsource this task to is of a reputable nature.  Also ensure that the methods they use to promote your website are appropriate.  They should not spam and they should definitely not try to trick others into listing your website by misrepresenting your business.