Another title could be “Don’t Get Duped On Your Vacation As We Did On Ours.” Nothing is worse than trusting reviews and finding out they were wrong or some bad actors were at play. Yes, we can even get caught thinking a review has merit. And if we can be duped, so can you. Here’s what happened and some ways you can protect yourself.
For starters, we were the very 1st publication to write about fake TripAdvisor reviews nearly 15 years ago. That was when we found things seriously amiss in Hawaii hotel recommendations. But even after that, we still got messed with by trusting fake reviews again. In this instance, as you may know, two editors traveled from Hawaii to London, writing about the Coronation of King Charles. Editor Rob needed clothes washed and looked at Google and Trip Advisor reviews for two different laundry services.
Based mainly on vastly excellent TripAdvisor reviews, he selected one with the odd name, I Hate Ironing (which we think they do in retrospect), even though they were somewhat more costly than other options, again based on the TripAdvisor reviews that also include reputable sources from Esquire and Evening Standard. The same company also operates in New York City (while this review is about their London operation).
The clothes (everything that wasn’t on his back) were picked up on time and were promised back later the same day, washed and folded. Then a text came saying they were running behind and it would be the following day in the late afternoon. Ugg. What happened next didn’t even seem possible. A representative from I Hate Ironing arrived at the hotel the following day and returned the clothes — dirty! They called from the front desk to say washing them would take another three days. Rob declined, so they left them for him in their expensive delivery bag at the front desk (now a souvenir). At least he got the clothes back, and the credit card charge was never processed, but he did leave a review to let others know about the dismal experience.
I Hate Ironing still gets top ratings for whatever reason. And we’ve learned much recently about TripAdvisor reviews that continues to concern us, which is why we’re sharing this with you today.
TripAdvisor says that just 4% of its 30M reviews were either fake or, in other ways, fraudulent in 2022.
BOH: Tilt! We’d suggest the number of fake reviews is somewhere in the 30-50% range written either to improve the ranking of a business or to hurt it.
In what it called its “Review Transparency Report,” TripAdvisor said that in addition to the 4% fake reviews on-site, it had also removed some additional number, what it says is 72% of all fake submissions before publication (TA says that number is 1.3M). The bi-annual report said that TA personally investigated 2.3M reviews.
TripAdvisor also said it removed over 24K reviews from paid review companies.
Buying fake TripAdvisor reviews is an industry unto itself.
You need only search for yourself to see that this is a big business, an industry unto itself. Something is seriously wrong if 24k reviews were all that TA could find from these companies. Yet TA said that just 24,500 fake reviews were associated with such companies last year. How could that possibly be?
Just ten of the many companies that offer fake TripAdvisor reviews for sale:
1. Useviral.com. The company says, “Buy TripAdvisor Reviews with Fast Delivery. UseViral offers only the highest quality services.”
2. Sidesmedia.com. “Buy TripAdvisor Reviews with Fast Delivery. With SidesMedia you can easily buy TripAdvisor Reviews safely and securely.”
3. Mediamister.com. “Buy TripAdvisor reviews. Maximize your business’s reputation with authentic TripAdvisor reviews from real customers. Upgrade your credibility now.”
4. Getafollower.com. “Buy TripAdvisor Reviews.”
5. Buyrealmedia.com. “Buy TripAdvisor reviews. Buying TripAdvisor reviews will grow your customer base, boost your incoming leads and bookings, and take your business to the next level!”
6. Appsally.com. “TripAdvisor reviews from $20.”
7. Smmboosterscom. “Buy TripAdvisor reviews.”
8. Baddhishop.com. “Buy TripAdvisor Reviews in Cheap Price.”
9. Reviewsthatstick.com. “Buy TripAdvisor Reviews From Us.”
10. Buyusaservices.com. “Buy TripAdvisor Reviews. If you are looking to buy TripAdvisor reviews, then you are to the right seller. We provide qualified TripAdvisor review selling services worldwide. All of our reviews are written by professional review writers and our profiles look like real customers profile. Our reviews help you get more sales and leads even will help your SEO.”
TripAdvisor says it penalized rankings of 33k businesses for employing fake reviews.
In addition to the fake review company-related problems, TripAdvisor also says it dished out ranking penalties to more than 33,000 businesses for using fake reviews. Clearly, with an industry like this, however, what TA is catching in both regards is merely a drop in the bucket.
“Platforms like ours are built on trust, so we never stop learning and improving our systems to ensure our community has access to honest, accurate content. The findings from this report show that our approach is working; we’re catching a higher proportion of fraudulent content before it is published, with nearly three-quarters of fake reviews never even making it to the platform.” — TripAdvisor
Can you spot fake reviews?
It isn’t easy as we are reporting personally. You can use tried and true tips, but we are being outdone in this.
It’s not always easy to spot a fake review, but there are some tips travelers can use to determine whether or not what they are reading is genuine.
According to TA, fake reviews are those “submitted by someone who is either biased in some way and/or who did not have a personal experience with the business they reviewed.”
It is believed that more fake posts are positive rather than negative. The number of negative reviews written by competitors or on their behalf cannot be underestimated.
Try out the reliability of TripAdvisor reviews for yourself.
One source that’s been somewhat helpful in our experience evaluates TripAdvisor reviews and reports on their reliability. That is Fakespot. We checked just a few Hawaii hotels to see what Fakespot says about whether the reviews are reliable. You can use your judgment as far as what unreliable views imply.
For example, Fakespot said that Grand Wailea Maui had 30% unreliable reviews. Hotel Wailea Maui had 40% unreliable reviews. And Waikiki Monarch had 60% unreliable reviews.
Does TripAdvisor’s business model conflict with review integrity?
TripAdvisor makes money primarily from hotels. That comes either through hotel bookings on the TA site or through advertising. TripAdvisor has been known to remove reviews at the request of hotels.
TripAdvisor’s business model has failed.
What began as an excellent way for travelers to write and check reviews has continued to morph. They are attempting to be another search engine for hotels and vacations. They try to do that through an optimized, visually attractive website that incorporates their original review model, integrated with price comparison, online reservations, and additional discounts (TripAdvisor Plus).
TA still gets 150+ million monthly visitors and has a billion total reviews. They operate across the world.
TripAdvisor also serves another market that isn’t as obvious to travelers. That is the travel suppliers they target through expensive monthly subscriptions to improve their visibility on the TA platform. They strive to serve both sides of that equation by providing value propositions that include better trips through quality reviews.
Trust has always been at the heart of the TripAdvisor business model. Without that, the very essence of their value is eroded. To do that, they offer review moderation to verify the authenticity of reviews.
TripAdvisor is an online travel agency that provides comparison shopping, Android and Apple apps, and user-generated content. The company operates in 40 countries, using 20 languages. Reviews cover 8 million businesses globally.
Other familiar TripAdvisor brands include Cruise Critic, FlipKey, TheFork, Holiday Lettings, Housetrip, Jetsetter, SeatGuru, and Viator.
As for its income, TA reportedly earned a third of its revenue from Expedia and Booking for pay advertising they placed on the TripAdvisor websites and apps. Yet at the same time, they also compete heavily with those same companies for travel booking. They also compete with Google in metasearch and others. They have also unsuccessfully entered a paid subscription model for additional discounts, known as TripAdvisor Plus, which they ended up giving away for free.