Reviews play a significant role in establishing your business as a trusted service provider and strengthening the social proof value of your marketing strategy. That’s a fancy way of saying credibility. How your company is perceived online has never been more important, and reviews across the web are the tip of the spear as it relates to establishing that perception.

Online reviews help potential customers in their buying decision. In fact, there’s a tremendous amount of research that indicates reviews play a major role in tipping the scales from window shopper to buyer—we’re talking about a 270% increase in conversions.

Likewise, more people are willing to contribute a review than ever before. Whether that’s to show support and loyalty or to explain dissatisfaction, reviews have weaved their way into the very fabric of how consumers make a purchase.

However, with any yin, there is a yang, and as reviews carry more and more influence, there are always going to be bad actors out there trying to game the system. It’s actually okay to have a few less-than-perfect reviews of your products and services, as, it can be a good thing in building credibility. As much as 85% of consumers seek out negative reviews to get a complete understanding of past experiences with a particular company.

Maybe previous negative reviews are extremely circumstantial and don’t reflect the overall quality of a business. Then again, maybe they show a greater issue. Regardless, consumers making buying decisions want to have that information to feel like they’ve done their due diligence. It may seem counterintuitive, but a perfect 5-star rating is not always a good thing for a company. There’s actually a sweet spot in the mid-4-star range that compels a greater number of conversions.

That said, trouble comes when there’s an influx of fake reviews or those generated by bots in order to either boost a company’s reputation or tear it down. Many third-party review sites—including UpCity—have quality control protocols in place to weed out fake reviews, but it’s a constant battle, and sometimes they slip through the cracks, even if for only a short amount of time.

What do fake reviews look like?

So what can you look for in the hunt for fake reviews? Here are four examples of things that should raise some red flags:

1. Oddly constructed or poorly written reviews

Not everyone is a New York Times best-selling author. But, if you’re finding reviews that seem to be poorly worded, are full of grammatical errors, or are just strangely constructed, there’s a solid chance they are fake—especially if you find them one right after the other.

2. Over-the-top praise or negativity

Reviews in favor of or against a particular product or service tend to have a similar tone. It’s the outliers that you have to be skeptical of. Whether it’s a review saying that something is the greatest thing to ever happen to humankind or an extremely hostile review that seemingly has little to do with the business, you’re probably looking at fake reviews.

3. The flash flood

While it’s normal to see an increase in reviews over a short amount of time following the release of a new service offering or product, there are times when you’ll find an invasion of reviews all just dumped in within a couple of weeks of one another. And while that’s odd in its own right, layer on the tone of these reviews is relatively similar, and there’s a good chance it is a bot or review farm.

4. Phony profiles

Speaking of bots… While many sites require reviewers to register in order to leave a review, it’s truly just a matter of having a unique email address. It can be tricky to confirm, but fake profiles likely have very little personal information (A/S/L) and probably show no other reviews on a specific site or anywhere else across the web.

Keep fighting the good fight

As mentioned earlier, combating fake reviews is a constant battle. Businesses have to play an active role in ensuring legitimate reviews appear not only on their own site, but also anywhere else reviews of their products or services live.

Stay vigilant in monitoring any mention of your business on third-party review sites (there are even some software solutions that can help) and work with those sites to ensure only authentic, original review content is posted. It’s also a good idea to partner with a top digital marketing or branding firm to strengthen your company’s credibility. And remember, it’s okay to have a negative review here and there.

Running a business is hard work, and the last thing you need is to add bots and fake reviews to your day-to-day. However, you can’t afford to just roll over and let it happen. With the value your potential customers place on reviews, it’s paramount that you prioritize managing your online reputation and make legitimate review generation a part of your company culture.

Heidi Sullivan is SVP of Product & Marketing for UpCity. Prior to that she spent 13 years in various executive roles at Cision, including as SVP, Product and Managing Director, Canada. She was named as The Hub’s Individual Influencer of the Year in 2014, one of PRWeek’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in 2012, and was host of the podcast Influence Pros on Convince & Convert. Heidi is a born and bred Chicagoan, mom, animal lover, and ukulele player.

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