The world of online reviews is a slippery one across the web. It’s no different in the affiliate marketing industry. As a publisher you may come across reviews of affiliate networks and programs when doing your research. Many directories publish reviews. Always take the reviews with a big pinch of salt, let’s look at why.
On this page:
Online reviews are easy to fake
Lots of platforms have problems with fake reviews. In eCommerce, Amazon is a beast, yet this report by the NYTimes reported how many product reviews on Amazon are potentially fake. The problem is big on so many platforms that the CMA is investigating how well big tech handles them. If the giants are struggling with policing their platforms then what chance have the small businesses got!
Reasons why positive reviews of networks are sometimes faked
It can be beneficial to publish fake reviews of affiliate networks and programs for the following reasons:
- For website owners directly it’s obviously appealing to have positive reviews of their business online and if they’re struggling for organic reviews they may go to the dark side. It may happen for a new business or a well-established one that’s received negative reviews.
- Some merchants allow existing publishers to refer new members, this can lead to reviews of networks that aren’t balanced. Their hope is by bigging it up enough, it might increase how many people join using their referral link. Sometimes it can even happen subsciously, they’re not meaning to be a baddie.
It’s not just positive reviews, you can’t always trust negative reviews either!
Also remember that unscrupulous owners of a network could (in theory) leave negative reviews of a rival to try and damage their brand reputation. We don’t have clear evidence of this happening, but with it being so easy to post fake reviews online it’s certainly possible.
How does Affpinions know some reviews are fake?
For many years Affpinions had public reviews on listings! But we had significant problems with suspected fake reviews. To try and combat the issue we set a few rules including:
- no VPNs
- a real email
- a low minimum word count
Not the toughest rules as you can see! If you’re a genuine person they’re not an issue. Unsurprisingly it resulted in reviews drying up on Affpinions. What was most disappointing was what we saw on other directories of affiliate networks and programs.
One particular new network had been hitting us hard with fake reviews. It was blatantly obvious. Every review was from a VPN (we used this tool to analyze IPs, very handy!). Every review was almost exactly the same length. Every name used had clear similarities. The style of grammar was exactly the same in every review. Identical reviews would also appear on other industry directories but using a different name. It was clear it was the same person, probably with a spreadsheet of names, using a VPN to blast out the fake reviews across the web.
This is why we gave up on user reviews altogether. If people are desperate to post them there are plenty of other directories where they can do that anyway, so it’s no loss to the overall industry.
Essentially, as a user of a network why would you go around leaving reviews for merchants. It isn’t going to make you a penny. All things considered, once everything was fully weighed up we came to an easy conclusion. This website is better for visitors over the long term without user-generated reviews. Individual real user reviews that go in-depth will remain. But we’d rather focus on other content that is much more useful to people! It’s a growing industry and there are better things to focus on.
Our own experience showed just how prolific fake reviews can be at times. You can’t blindly trust the reviews of affiliate networks that are posted online. Of course there are plenty of real reviews out there too! So search out the brilliant bloggers who post in-depth reviews that contain real screenshots and give an overall balanced opinion of what their experience is like with the affiliate network. There are also some friendly communities out there you can ask for help. Keep yourself safe out there!