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Fake reviews: Why would anyone take the risk when you can get authentic reviews?

Online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, the Shopify Store, and others represent a major distribution channel for e-commerce sales, and sellers work hard to increase their search ranking within these sites. In other words, they want to be the first product that pops up when you do a search for “French lace curtains,” or ” “stuffed unicorns.” (I admit, I love both.)

Put simply, one of the best ways to get to the top is through positive reviews. Getting positive reviews on e-commerce marketplaces is akin to getting backlinks on Google, so some companies will do almost anything to get them. This includes paying internet randos to order their products and write positive — and positively fake — reviews.

But, how do fake reviews work, anyway? (Asking for a friend.)

Even if you would never dream of paying for fake reviews, you’re probably a little curious to know how it’s done—the same reason so many of us Googled “how to launder money” after watching the first episode of on Netflix.

Harvard Business Review set out to answer that question, using a team of UCLA undergrads to infiltrate online Facebook groups that connect e-commerce companies with fake reviewers. These groups pop up for a stint, get banned, and return again in an endless game of whack-a-mole. Harvard estimates that Facebook groups alone are responsible for 4.5 million fake reviews every year.ntic reviews?

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Are fake reviews effective? Not long term.

You may be wondering whether fake reviews are effective and whether they’re ultimately profitable if you don’t get caught.

Here’s the good news for e-commerce store owners that don’t pay for fake reviews. While they found that e-commerce products with fake reviews receive an initial boost of 0.16 stars when those reviews start rolling in (leading to a 12.5% boost in sales), the benefits tend to be short-lived.

In fact, once the real reviews start arriving—those from customers—the backlash tends to be swift. Perhaps it’s because real customers feel swindled by all the B.S. reviews, but in the weeks following the initial boost, product ratings fell 6.3% on average, and sales dropped by 21.5%.

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