NB: This is a guest article by Karine Paparo (hotel quality review manager) and Andre Muller (community manager) at Eezeer.
Professionals that deal with travel reviews agree that moderation which follows strict guidelines to verify these reviews is essential for both industry and travellers.
Fake reviews may ruin the reputation of small hotels or deceive consumers. It becomes our responsibility to publish fair information, keeping in mind that we are dealing with the reputation and the economy of a professional that can be strengthened or damaged by reviews.
Once usual guidelines are followed, we are then able to spot a fake review but also use this information for our industry and travel professionals.
Below we have outlined steps that may be implemented to deal with a fake review once it has been spotted:
1. A fake review has a user behind it
A fake reviewer may be using a personal or professional computer unless it is an offshore marketing company paid to do so.
In all cases IP addresses may reveal important information on the geographic origin of the user or the company.Â It is true that most IP addresses are not permanent but are usually on a range of numbers for the same user.
Network names in specific regions are also a key to the mystery for mobile reviews.Â IP addresses related to the origin of a fake review (as well as Network name) are stocked and used to tag reviews in the future.
The email address is also kept for the future investigations and is also used to inform the sender that the review has been flagged and that a Quality Manager is waiting to receive more details on the stay (booking information or e-tickets and vouchers).
By keeping track of strange activity IP addresses and emails, future reviews are then automatically flagged for further investigations. Text and username are also used for semantic scanning to help the flagging of reviews.
2. Fake reviews are targeted against competitors or created for the benefit of a competitor.
The reason that reviews are posted on websites is that they will be published and made available to the public.
As a member of the public, it is in everyonesâ€™ best interest to notify the professional mentioned in the supposed fake review, in order to query whether or not the review, is indeed fake.
We also recommend travel industry professionals to engage in conversation with review websites on a non commercial basis, so that they can be notified the moment reviews are posted on their brand. In this way they will also gain valuable information and feedback concerning their reputation.
3. With the latest technology and growing community awareness, preventing fake reviews is not a challenge anymore.
We have all seen how certain review sites can influence hotelsâ€™ reputations for better or worse.
As such, would it not be more beneficial to offer a more secure reviewing platform? Where the utmost is done to ensure valid and valuable reviews?
The first step is to tie each and every review with a GPS assigned location that can be tracked to the location of the travel brand in question.Â If the location of the review does not correspond with the location of the hotel or airport the review is flagged automatically and is put under investigation.
Adding to the community aspect, when users have profiles when posting reviews, it is more likely that they are not posting a fake review.Â These are not 100% foolproof as no plan can be foolproof to a talented fool.
Timing is of the essence with travel reviews but when you are able to identify the reviewer and the exact location from where the review was sent, you are armed with tools to combat fake reviews.
By offering high tech channels for reviews to be submitted for example, with smart phones, you are creating opportunities for travellers to review in an easy, simple, instant fashion.
Below we outline the steps we take to moderate reviews:
- For every review received the site runs a query on the reviews geo-tag even though the app only allows reviews to be submitted if they are within range.
- Our team of moderators double check the reviewerâ€™s location and if the range is too far, the review gets auto flagged so we are prompted to investigate it. The GPS location is then manually checked and the reviews are screened for profanity in language and media attached.
- When Reviews are flagged, part of our investigation process is to contact the reviewer via email and on the eezeer site to give them the opportunity to prove their review as valid. Until such proof is received, the review is put on â€śholdâ€ť and will have a flag icon attached to it so that users are aware that this review is under investigation.
- If a review is found to be invalid due to location or lack of proof from the reviewer, it will be blocked and removed from all relevant pages. (Proof we require is booking confirmation from hotel via email) If there are still doubts we will contact the hotel. This is just one of the benefits a property gets from claiming their brand on eezeer.
Once we have identified a fake review we keep track of the IPâ€™s address and if another review is sent by this same IP address, it will be flagged right away and investigated.
If the reviewer is unable to provide proof of booking, this time, the user will be banned from Eezeer.Â Users can appeal their banned status but will always be flagged as suspicious.
NB: This is a guest article by Karine Paparo (hotel quality review manager) and Andre Muller (community manager) atÂ Eezeer.