With over 7 million listings worldwide, TripAdvisor real-estate is difficult to pursue but lucrative when conquered.
Have you thought about it? You know, buying Tripadvisor reviews? A few to boost your rankings?
Apart from being unethical, buying reviews can lead to your Tripadvisor listing being taken down, the wrath of social media, and generally leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
But what would actually happen if you got away with it?
We thought we’d find out.
An ‘unreal’ business idea 😉
Ok, so we didn’t use our real business name. We wanted to see what would happen to a restaurant listing. So instead of Beambox, our trading name for WiFi Marketing, we launched our new listing under the name Bream Box (yep, bream, the tasty fish).
When registering with Tripadvisor, we needed to add a location for our fake restaurant. We settled on the shores of Catfish Paradise Lake in Topock Arizona.
Catfish: To lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
Set Listing to Live?
Next up, we needed to populate our Tripadvisor listing. We created a simple menu (complete with ‘find us on TripAdvisor logo’ of course) and populated it with some suitably fishy dishes.
This actually took a while.
When you aren’t burdened with spiralling food costs and staffing issues, there sure is a lot of creative freedom! We even used our elite-level Photoshop skills (that’s sarcasm, there) to add our restaurant logo to a picture of some fish and chips.
Finding our review writer 🧑🏻💻
Dodgy name aside, we wanted to find out what these reviews would be like, how easy (or hard it would be to find someone to create them) and whether they’d even last on the Tripadvisor platform.
Googling ‘buy TripAdvisor reviews’ just presented a heap of forums discussing why you shouldn’t buy reviews, so we had to delve a little deeper. We weren’t about to launch a full campaign to trawl the dark web as we wanted to take the easiest route possible.
After a search on Twitter for a few review related keywords, we found a link to one of those freelance gig sites with some interesting listings.
One registered user on the site replied to our request asking us not to message them directly through the built-in chat function, but to message them on Whatsapp to facilitate our deal. Before we could consider following them down the rabbit hole, the profile they were using was blocked and we were back to square one.
It is against the terms and conditions of nearly all gig website to sell reviews, so none of the listings we found explicitly offered the ability to buy reviews, but some of them mentioned review site management.
Finding some listings offering to ‘manage Yelp and Tripadvisor’ reviews, we messaged the user to see if there were any off-menu services available and asked about reviews on the private messenger.
Success! With no questions asked, and a quick negotiation, we were offered 5 reviews for the price of $60. We provided a link to our TripAdvisor page and were even encouraged to provide a few helpful hints about what kind of feedback we were after.
In the interests of our reviews appearing legit, we even requested a less than perfect write-up.
Five days passed and we thought that maybe we’d been had. Nothing was live on the page apart from an initial review that one of the Beambox team had created.
Had we thrown our money down the drain for some fishy puns?
A few days later and we received the email we’d all been waiting for. Loading up the Bream Box profile and we had 6 new reviews.
Our review fixer had used a variety of different profiles to leave reviews, all originating from different locations. That would be fine, but red flag number one to anyone reading through the page would be that all the reviews were from international visitors and not locals.
2 of the 5 reviews left mostly talked about how great the parking was, which probably isn’t such a massive perk as it sounds.
I’d briefed our fixer to mention that we gave complimentary pirate hats to our customers, which they pointed out was a nice touch
The Takeaway? 🍔
Well, we did receive 5 reviews on our TripAdvisor page. But I don’t think anyone will be going out of their way to visit Bream Box anytime soon from reading our listing (even with our excellent parking facilities).
If our restaurant was real, would we ever see a return on investment for our $60. Unlikely. Moreso, it was probably more effort to get someone to provide fake reviews than it would be to get real customers to leave them.
Even if you have an established profile, buying TripAdvisor reviews is more effort than it’s worth. In fact, just one real review would have been preferred to even a handful of fakes.
What happened to Bream Box? In fairness to other businesses listed, we permanently closed the Tripadvisor listing.