Source: TripAdvisor via Facebook 

TripAdvisor recently faced accusations that claim every one in three reviews on the site is fake, and the travel and restaurant website has had to defend itself. The issue brings to light the effort that businesses have to go to in order to build up a strong reputation, and a lot of this is done through reviews and word of mouth. But just how important are reviews to a company, and what kind of effect can it have if these are proved to be false?

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According to a report from The Times, hotels and restaurants worldwide are trying to cheat their way to the top of the rankings on TripAdvisor. The detailed analysis found that the supposedly top-rated locations in tourist hotspots had almost twice as many fake reviews as those that were lower-ranked on the website's lists. These findings were the result of an undercover operation conducted by the broadsheet, which found that five-star reviews - along with negative reviews for rivals - were being purchased. There are a number of different sites that provide reviews for a fee, with some places offering bulk-buy bundles. TripAdvisor claims to have made an effort to stamp out fake reviews using fraud detection systems, but critics claim that the company has an incentive to allow fake reviews because they lead to more revenue from bookings.

Reviews are crucial to the success of a business. Research has found that 88 per cent of customers hold online reviews in the same regard as they would recommendations from friends. In addition to this, 86 per cent of people are wary about doing business with a company if it has negative online reviews. These figures highlight just how much companies rely on reviews, and how damaging they can be if false claims are made by rivals.

Businesses need to watch out for this trend of fake reviews and make sure they don't get tempted to join in. If they were to be found out it would be severely damaging to a business's reputation. Customers should also be careful, and with the recent developments, they may be encouraged to look elsewhere for information about places. For people looking for a service, it is best for them to seek out independent review sites so they know the information is genuine. A lot of review sites nowadays work towards mitigating fake reviews to ensure they don't sacrifice their credibility. For instance, Casino Shark gives its own in-depth rating. With its ComeOn Casino review, for example, Casino Shark delivers a score of 4.6/5 at the bottom of the detailed article. Specialist sites like this could be the future of reviews because they provide an honest and objective opinion.

It will be interesting to see whether TripAdvisor can recover from these shocking revelations, as it has made the whole subject of fake reviews common knowledge. It could bring about a rise in review sites that offer more impartial opinions as more customers seek the correct information about a place or business.