The internet is an incredible place, full of knowledge and information to which previous generations never dreamed of having instant access. I myself am a contributor to the wealth of content available online.
So why am I bashing this beautiful resource?
For those in search of knowledge, who can easily identify a credible source and differentiate between fact and opinion or speculation, the world wide web is an oyster. That same diligent researcher, however, can be caught off guard when they’ve replaced their scholar hat with their consumer hat.
Most of us, as consumers, look for a few key bits of information once we’ve located a product we want. Are the reviews good? Can I afford it? Do I trust the seller?
You may not consciously ask yourself the last question, but theories in consumer psychology teach us that trust is one of five crucial factors in a purchase. If a brand can make you feel comfortable, they can make you buy.
The problem arises when we think we have the correct answers to the questions we’re asking, but we actually don’t have nearly enough information.
This might be old news to many, but I only learned about fake reviews when I started my career as a copywriter. I used to receive inquiries every day, mostly from Amazon sellers, asking me to write blatantly false reviews for their products, usually to counteract bad reviews left by real customers.
Amazon requires purchase for review, so those sellers wanted to pay me to buy the product first. Other retailers didn’t seem to care if I had ever actually seen their product. They just wanted those five stars.
Some even had the review written and just wanted it posted from an unrelated account. Fake reviews can get the seller banned from Amazon, but it’s worth the risk to those who are peddling garbage products.
To be clear, I myself like to provide incentives for my clients to leave feedback. This might be a discount or whathaveyou, but under no circumstances would I ever pay someone to leave a positive or dishonest review or copy/paste a review I had written for myself.
It takes hard work and repeated failure to launch from nothing, but if you’re honest and persistent with a good product or service, you don’t need to cheat.
When I read reviews now, I recognize the language and form of these fake reviews and let me tell you, they are everywhere. When you’re reading reviews about something you might spend your hard-earned money on, remember to consider the details of poor reviews (what exactly was the problem?) and the number of reviews.
It might also be helpful to look for other information that can help make your decision. If you want to know how durable something is, for example, find the product specifications and look for materials, etc.
Most of us have jumped online at some point to search “best walking harness for dogs that pull” or whatever it is you’re looking for. That search will lead you to a bunch of blog posts about the type of product you want. It’s important to note that many of these are written by bloggers who have never used the products.
From buyer’s guides to listicles, blog posts that push products can be some of the most deceptive forms of advertising. Affiliate marketers have an agreement, giving them a cut when they send traffic to the retailer via links in the post.
A lot of affiliate marketing is honest. Many bloggers only recommend products that they have thoroughly researched and truly believe in, but you have to know where to go for that kind of honest review. Look for a blog or brand that is known for making reliable product recommendations.
With the recent rise in the popularity of affiliate marketing, the majority of “buyer’s guides” and product listicles are written by bloggers who are just trying to get traffic to the retailer with whom they have an arrangement.
This one is difficult for me to write about. Many of my clients are drop shippers and they offer easy access to otherwise hidden products from all over the world with information about those products that might be hard for an English-speaking person to find.
Unfortunately, the growing popularity in dropshipping has attracted money-hungry retailers with no quality standards, and these are the people I have to write about, because I am so disgusted with this scheme.
Common drop shippers will find cheap products manufactured in Asia and dress them up on a pretty website with American price tags. Then they hire someone like me to write compelling product descriptions that make you think this cheap thing is worth that price.
The crazy part is that they don’t ever actually touch the product. You’re paying a markup that’s two to ten times the original retail price just to use a middleman. The drop shipper will send you the product straight from Asia and guess who pays the outrageous shipping and customs fees. You do.
The fastest way I’ve found to avoid this insanity is to reverse search the product image. Drop shippers usually use manufacturer images, so you can locate the original retailer with a quick skim through the other prices related to that image (Hint: it will be the lowest price).
This part is a little complicated, because it’s not something most of us consciously consider while shopping, but it is arguably the biggest determining factor of whether or not you make a purchase. Do you trust your retailer? And if you do, is that trust based on a lie?
Personally, I don’t write for clients I don’t trust. When you read my content on a client’s site, you’re getting the real story. The purchasing confidence you feel is born of the retailer’s own commitment to quality, written using my skills in sales copy and web content.
But then there are those who come to me and say, “I need an About page,” and when I start with my usual questions about their brand, story, tone, etc., I am met with, “It doesn’t matter. Write what you want. Make it up.”
Nope. Not me.
But they will find a writer. That means any trust you develop with that brand is false, and that deception will most likely be reflected in the quality of the product or service.
Unfortunately, if the client is able to find a good writer, it can be nearly impossible to tell if the content you’re reading is genuine. You might look for a portrait of the founder on the About page or check that the contact number area code makes sense with the story.
Most of the time…
…you’ll get the product or service you ordered, it will be adequate and everything will be fine. But if you want to lower the risk of wasting your money, buying garbage products or just being duped, take charge of your consumerism and watch out for this new age of internet salesmen.