From WIRED Magazine, August 2012:
Q: I’ve heard that lots of TripAdvisor reviews are fake, placed there by the hotels themselves. Is there any easy way to weed out the real critiques from the fluff?
A: Assuming you’ve already tried the obvious tactics, like checking to see whether a suscpiciously enthusiastic reviewer has only one post to their name, you should focus on the specifics of the language. A 2011 study by Cornell University computer scientists found that deceptive reviewers often betray themselves by overusing the words luxury, experience, vacation, and spa; they also tend to refrain from discussing bathrooms, a big topic of conversation in legit appraisals. You should also be skeptical of reviewers whose supposed travel schedules defy belief — what are the odds that someone stays at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora would also use an Econo Lodge in Dubuque?
But instead of spending your time trying to identify TripAdvisor sock puppets, how about looking for hotels that have made amends to peeved customers? “The happiest consumers are those who had a problem that was satisfactorily resolved,” says Bradford Hudson, a professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration. You should seek out hotels that recognize this essential truism and whose efforts to engage and appease the disgruntled are lauded in reviews.
Yes, a hotel could gin up a fake negative review followed by an update in which the fictional customer claims to have been mollified. And NASA could have hired Stanley Kubrick to fake the moon landing. At some point, you just have to trust that not everyone is a Scooby-Doo villain.