wikiHow to Spot a Fake Review Website

Five Parts:Looking at linksIs there a conflict of interest?Assessing the websiteAnalyzing the comments and reviewsChecking beyond the site

One of the more popular techniques in black-hat internet marketing is creating "fake review sites."[1] A fake review site superficially looks like a real review site and claims to offer impartial comparison of one or more products. The difference is that the reviewer has never actually investigated any of the products. Fake reviews can be for any product, but are ubiquitous in industries such as weight loss, software, lending, online dating, and web hosting. They are so common that it is almost impossible to find a real review for any of these products. With practice, you can learn about the deceptive marketing methods these sites use and how to detect them.

Part 1
Looking at links

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    Check if the outgoing links on the reviewed products include an affiliate tracking code. The most transparent way to link to Tom and Elaine's Cleaners "We clean out your colon, your registry, and your bank account" is to link directly to This is the way an independent reviewer whose compensation is not based on how many readers buy the product being discussed will most likely link.
    • Affiliate marketers need to be able to get credit for everyone who buys through their link, so they must include a tracking code in the URL.
    • Since tracking codes look bad, many affiliate marketers cloak their links through redirects. In that case, the link will look like an internal link to another page on their site which redirects to the tracking link. You may need to disable automatic redirection on your browser to see the full affiliate link.
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    While an affiliate relationship can be found behind almost all fake review sites, the converse is not necessarily true. It is possible to earn an affiliate income without resorting to any form of deceptive marketing. Use the information in the later steps and your cautious judgment as a consumer to evaluate the trustworthiness of any affiliate reviewer.

Part 2
Is there a conflict of interest?

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    Look for an FTC disclosure statement. The Federal Trade Commission requires reviewers to declare any conflicts of interest they have concerning the products they review.[2] If their reviews contain affiliate links and they don't disclose that fact, then their site violates the law if they do business in the United States.
    • This may also be a violation of laws in other jurisdictions; ask a lawyer for advice.

Part 3
Assessing the website

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    Look at what else is on the site. If the entire site is nothing but advertising disguised as impartial reviews, then the author has no expectation of having visitors return, and consequently, no risk of losing regular visitors should they question his honesty.
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    Look at any dates on the webpage, especially those within a few weeks of the current date. Often fake reviewers will change the dates to make their page look more recent than it is.[3] If the page includes blog-like comments from readers, those comments may have made up timestamps as well. Claims of "Offer expires [insert today's date]" are almost certainly false, however you do need to act quickly––before Oprah and Dr. Oz sue their parent company into bankruptcy over misleading endorsements.[4] If you suspect fake time stamps and want to catch them at it, try changing the date on your computer, reloading the page, and seeing what changes.
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    Look for any locations, especially ones near you. They may be running a GeoIP script to determine your location and trying to win your trust by appearing more local than they actually are.[5]

Part 4
Analyzing the comments and reviews

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    Read the user comments section. Many respected websites, including blogs and newspapers, allow readers to post feedback on their content. Other respected sites like wikis and news aggregation sites consist almost entirely of reader submitted content. Fake review sites try to mimic the appearance of respected sites without actually doing anything to earn that respect. Visitor comments create the impression that the site has an active following, and that his readers appreciated his valuable reviews and had great experiences with the products. Of course, he can't actually open up his site to visitor comments without the risk of getting ones like, "Didn't work.", "I tried to cancel. How do I get them to stop billing me?", or, if he's using GeoIP tricks, even the seemingly innocuous "Hey, I live in Nashville too."
    • Try leaving a comment; chances are the submit button is just an image and isn't attached to anything except maybe a popup ad.
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    Read the reviews. There are several things to look for here:
    • Look for numbers. Numbers look scientific and serious. Sometimes they are, but only if those numbers actually stand for something that it makes sense to put a number on. What does it mean if one product got a 96% rating in value while another got a 92%. Does the reviewer explain what 96% value means? How much of a discount would be needed to make it a 97% rating? You won't get an answer because there isn't one. It's just made up to impress you by looking important.
    • See if the review contains any actual evidence of having used the product. Ignore ingredient lists, refund policies, etc.––you can study those yourself without having to buy anything. Ignore star ratings––those were probably just based on the commission payouts. Ignore testimonials––assume those were completely fabricated. Is there anything left that might have come from actual experience with the product?
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    If a review site has an affiliate relationship with the products being reviewed, combined with any of the other deceptive methods described here, you can safely assume it is a fake review site. As such, anything appearing on the site is based not in truth, but in what's most likely to generate sales.

Part 5
Checking beyond the site

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    Run the images of anyone giving a testimonial through Tineye reverse image search. Writing fake testimonials is easy and extremely common. Images are scarcer and might be used with different names, locations, and experiences on other websites.[6] If so, you've caught the fake reviewer in another lie.
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    Check for duplicate reviews. Many people who give fake reviews place them on multiple sites and use the same text. It is therefore a good idea to check for duplicates.
    • Copy a sentence or two from the review you are worried about.
    • Paste the text into Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go or another search engine and click Search.
    • If you find the exact text listed on another website, it is likely the review is faked and has been pasted into multiple sites.


  • Be aware that parts of the review may be based on the marketing literature received from the supplier; other parts, such as testimonials and numerical ratings, are often completely made up.
  • The reviewer gets a commission regardless of which product you choose, provided you buy through one of the fake reviewer's links. Naturally, the products that pay the highest commissions get the most favorable ratings.

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