On reflection, TripAdvisor may at first appear to be a benevolent site where regular people share their honest travel opinions. Dig beneath the surface, however, and you will find something quite the opposite is happening at TripAdvisor. This is big business and the going is rough in today’s economic climate.
There are over twenty million reviews on TripAdvisor. I believe that a fast-growing percentage of them (perhaps now as many as one-third) are fake.
What’s a fake review? A review written by someone connected with a hotel (or other business) to boost its appeal, or a negative review written by a competitor (or a disgruntled party) to lower a hotels’ standing.
To prove this point, The London Times wrote and submitted six glowing reviews, all fake, on hotels considered among the worst in London. TripAdvisor posted all six reviews without ever commenting on the discrepancy.
It just goes to show you have to be careful who you trust and not take anything at face value. The fast-growth of fraudulent reviews makes it imperative that we come to a site like TripAdvisor with a fairly high level of skepticism in order to come away with the honest information we desire.
Trust and TripAdvisor may no longer go together. Here’s why:
- Surveys have shown that the vast majority of us have come to trust user reviews. Lack of review credibility, however, has started to seriously erode trust at TripAdvisor and at other review sites.
- TripAdvisor, a unit of Expedia, obviously serves first and foremost to further their global travel marketing business. TripAdvisor makes money through their affiliate (link click) program and through advertisements. The value of that marketing business is in no small part based on the number of reviews as well as the number of visitors to the site. Reducing the number of visitors and reviews in order to limit the amount of fraud will likely also have significant negative financial impact on their marketing.
- The travel industry is in most serious financial trouble. Competition in order to stay in business is cut-throat. The need to achieve top ranking in user-generated reviews such as on TripAdvisor is intense.
In part two tomorrow, I’ll cover:
- Exactly how important TripAdvisor reviews are in the travel industry.
- The role of public relations firms in fake reviews.
- TripAdvisor’s point of view.
- Suggestions for how to make TripAdvisor and other review sites continue to work for you.