Many online product review sites are paid by the company whose products they review

[I wrote this item in October but never published it. In light of the news about TripAdvisor.com deleting and censoring negative reviews, this item is now relevant. While this post is about mattress reviews, the same principle is at work with TripAdvisor – that is, the review site receives a sales commission for sending a sale to the vendor.]

The following link goes to a very long story about online mattress reviews. The short summary is that many mattress companies pay a sponsorship fee to the online reviewers and have taken extraordinary steps to control online reviews. These reviews have turned into “affiliate marketing” with links to the manufacturer or retailer’s web site with a spiff paid to the reviewer. Reviewers might receive $50 to $250 per mattress sold as affiliate marketing commissions.

Source: The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare | Fast Company

As mattress companies put more pressure on reviewers, some reviewers responded by writing negative comments on those that paid them lower spiffs. This eventually translated into lawsuits, followed by settlements and the disappearance of negative product reviews.

Everyone has their hand in someone else’s pockets to the extent that online reviews are today meaningless measure of the actual products. A positive review may be more of an indicator of who is paying whom.

None of this is new. Decades ago, the editor of a well known personal computer industry magazine said they only write positive reviews, and assured us  if they can’t find something positive about a product, then they do not publish a review. (Wink wink).

The only difference is that in the online world, fake reviews are easily accessible and widely distributed and it is easier to create fake review web site. Fake reviews can then be shared on social media.

Note – I probably write twice as many posts as I publish! For what ever reason, I probably have between 100 and 200 unpublished draft posts on this blog!

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Google working to counter “fake news” and other fake stuff

Google wants to give higher priority, in search results, to authoritative sources. However, no one outside of Google knows what “authoritative” means nor how Google determines that information is “authoritative”.

How’s Google learning from the data to figure out what’s authoritative? How’s that actually being put into practice?

Google wouldn’t comment about these specifics. It wouldn’t say what goes into determining how a page is deemed to be authoritative now or how that is changing with the new algorithm. It did say that there isn’t any one particular signal. Instead, authority is determined by a combination of many factors.

Source: Google’s ‘Project Owl’ — a three-pronged attack on fake news & problematic content

Fake news, fake search results, fake online product reviews – everywhere we look, people are gaming the systems.