The property industry has been placed under serious scrutiny in recent weeks due to the growing concern over fake reviews.
Only last month TrustPilot reviews were taken down by an online agent because their authenticity was brought into question.
Not only has this brought about a big discussion over the validity of online reviews, but it has also left many estate agents wonder how they can ensure the reviews they obtain are genuine.
Introducing the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA)
Last year the government commissioned the CMA to look into the issue surrounding fake reviews. Within their report they discovered misleading practices such as the publishing of fake reviews, negative reviews not being published and businesses paying for positive endorsements.
As a result, not only was the issue around fake reviews brought into focus, but the CMA are following this up with action. For example, in March the Competition and Markets Authority ordered a company to stop writing fake reviews and updated its advice to all online review sites – including those for estate agencies and other property players.
Non-Invite Vs Invite-Only Platforms
So what steps can estate agents take to ensure their reviews are genuine? To understand this, it’s important to understand the fundamental difference between review platforms – non-invite and invite-only platforms.
Non-invite platforms will allow anyone to review an estate agent’s service, irrespective of whether the reviewer actually used or purchased through that estate agent. Invite-only platforms, like Feefo, will only allow those who have actually purchased through an estate agent to leave feedback, by inviting them to leave a review via email.
Whilst invite-only feedback platforms can ensure that all reviews left are 100% genuine, you may come across reviews left on non-invite platforms. In this instance there are still ways you can check to ensure the review you’re reading is genuine.
Verified or not? Check to see if the review platform has some form of verification mark next to the review. Only reviews that are verified and genuine can be trusted, and sent to Google (more on that later).
Language. Genuine reviews may be more moderate in their tone. Be wary of overly specific language such as industry-specific jargon or overuse of key words, for example a specific name of product, model, hotel and restaurant.
Emotion. The value of the product/service to the reviewer is usually conveyed in genuine reviews, rather than just talking about the features. Has the reviewer talked about how they used the product or service and what the experience / impact was? The review may be bogus if it is just about features without any emotion.
Frequency. How many reviews have been left, and how frequently they are being sent? Multiple reviews published over a short period of time (half an hour to a few hours) can be seen as a red flag.
The Benefits of Genuine Reviews
In addition to knowing that your reviews can be trusted, there are multiple benefits to collecting real reviews, including traffic, sales and insights.
When collecting reviews make sure you’re doing so from an approved third party review site. Google source reviews from a range of independent third-party review websites which are pre-approved aggregators.
With pre-approved aggregators you qualify to show stars in Google search results which can increase your Click Through Rate by up to 17%.
In addition, Google’s recent AdWords update removing right side ads has made search engine real estate even more competitive. Most savvy estate agents are aware of this update and are turning to reviews to stand out in Google search results.
Trusted Reviews from Genuine Customers
As mentioned, utilising invite-only feedback platforms ensures that only genuine customers are invited to leave their feedback which means agents are not open to abuse from fraudulent or fictitious reviews.
Andrew Mabbut, CEO of Feefo, explains why so many estate agents have flocked towards their genuine review solution.
“In the property industry reputation is extremely important. Estate agents have turned to Feefo because we can ensure their reviews are 100% genuine.”