After the success of my in-depth analysis on Amazon reviews which exposed several easy ways brands could manipulate their product ratings, multiple readers asked me to take a look at reviews on Bodybuilding.com. So I did. And it was even worse than Amazon.
Didn’t we already write something about fake Bodybuilding.com reviews?
Yes, we did earlier this year, but never actually did an in-depth analysis on existing reviews. The previous article looked at an email that was allegedly sent from an RSP rep to the RSP Team which instructed everyone to write 10/10 reviews on their products on Bodybuilding.com. We didn’t have any idea if those reviews actually made it through - until now.
The first thing I noticed is that all RSP products have a rating that ranges from 8.8 (“Excellent”) to 9.9 (“Excellent”).
If you click on the actual rating number, you go to the reviews page, and you get a bit more information on the rating. This is from RSP’s CLA product:
Interesting. So Bodybuilding.com gives each product an overall score, and then breaks out the average for just “Verified Buyers”. But they don’t break out the average for “Unverified Buyers”. This actually is not a problem because it can easily be calculated with some basic algebra.
First, we know how many unverified ratings there are:
139 (# of All Ratings) - 91 (# of Verified Ratings) = 48 (# of Unverified Ratings).
Next, let’s look at the formulas to calculate the different “Average Ratings”.
Average Rating (all) = sum(All Ratings)/(# of All Ratings)
Average Rating (Verified) = sum(Verified)/(# of Verified Ratings)
We can solve for the first two equations because there’s only one unknown variable (the rating sums). Then we can get the sum of unverified ratings because we know:
sum(All Ratings) = sum(Verified) + sum(Unverified)
Lastly, we can plug in our numbers and solve to get our Average Unverified Rating:
Average Rating (Unverified) = sum(Unverified)/(# of Unverified Ratings)
For RSP’s CLA, we get an Average Unverified Rating of 10.0. At this point, I assumed there was something wrong with my math, so I wrote down the score of all 48 unverified reviews for this product and here’s what I found out:
47 of 48 Unverified ratings were 10/10’s, with the just one a 9/10.
Looks like my math was right. So let’s check the “Average Unverified Buyer Rating” of the top 8 RSP products:
Holy cow! The unverified rating is a full .7 to 1.9 points higher than the verified ratings, for every single product. QuadraLean, for example, has 244 unverified ratings that are almost all 10/10, even though the average verified rating is around an 8. Seems extremely fishy to me.
I also double-checked my math by manually going through each rating for RSP’s AgmaGen. As you can see in the histogram below, 86% of Unverified reviewers rate this product as a 10/10, compared to only 46% of Verified reviewers.
This statistically significant discrepancy between verified and unverified ratings paints a pretty clear picture - and it’s happening for every single one of RSP’s products too.
This alone is sufficient evidence to prove that Bodybuilding.com’s ratings are easily manipulated by the brands, but it gets worse.
I went through the review history of all 48 unverified reviewers for RSP’s CLA, and found the following:
43 (90%) have reviewed other RSP products.
4 of the 5 reviewers who didn’t review other RSP products hadn’t reviewed any other products at all. (CLA was their only review, and it was 10/10)
These 48 reviewers have posted a total of 156 reviews on RSP products:
151 of them were 10/10 (97%)
5 of them were 9/10.
This unverified reviewer has 11 reviews, all are 10/10 reviews for RSP products with no text: http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/cullendaane
Here’s another unverified reviewer who has written 12 reviews which are all 10/10 for RSP products: http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/Vonduutch.
This unverified reviewer: http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/Finch1356 who has posted 2 reviews (both 10/10 for RSP’s Quadralean and CLA) stole her profile image from a popular blogger, Sarah Fit: http://sarahfit.tumblr.com/post/33894716386/i-can-see-my-abs-its-that-time-of-year-again
Another unverified reviewer: http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/lovethesweat who also posted 2 reviews (again, both 10/10 for RSP’s QuadraLean and CLA) stole her image from here: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Beginner-Mountain-Biking-Tips-1772826. Her bodyspace claims her real name is “Tasha Kareem” from Fort Worth, TX - but the picture is of Michele Foley from San Francisco, CA.
Ok, so the Unverified reviews are obviously fake. But what about Verified Buyer reviews?
Let’s re-visit that leaked email from RSP reps to “Team RSP” - their instructions clearly stated to purchase “trial sizes” from the store, wait a day and then post a 10/10 review. This was how you’d achieve the “Verified Buyer” status. So, were they able to game Bodybuilding.com’s system? We sure think so.
RSP’s CLA has 91 “Verified Buyer” reviews. We took a closer look at many of those, and here’s what we found out:
42 (46%) Verified reviewers have reviewed nothing but RSP products.
These 42 reviewers have posted a total of 93 RSP reviews
86 of them are 10/10
7 of them are 9/10
21 (23%) of Verified reviewers have the exact same review history: 10/10 for CLA and a 10/10 for QuadraLean with no other reviews.
No, these aren’t recommended anywhere on Bodybuilding.com as a “stack”. In fact, Quadralean already has CLA in it.
None of these reviewers have any activity in the forum.
8 of these reviewers (38%) didn’t even bother to write text in their reviews.
Here’s the list of reviewers so you can see for yourself: paidinfull747, MaxxGainsss, fitmack, LLfitness, kickhisassSebas, Ritchboy48, speshelk, jimmyfuego, BruceWayne35, MariDale, nightcrawler63, DH59, becky79loveliftlaugh27, scottiegetdown, gladiator89, tweety96, mrLewis04, Daisydukes178, DougieFresh5, GuerraLex
Of all 139 reviewers for CLA, 53 of them (38%) had given CLA 10/10 AND Quadralean 10/10.
This “Verified Buyer” reviewer has 5 reviews. All are 10/10 reviews for RSP with no written text: http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/getshorty. The only activity this member has besides posting 5 blank reviews is uploading a picture of an Oakland Raiders shirt.
Another “Verified Buyer” reviewer (http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/JustinVargas) has 3 reviews, all 10/10 for RSP products. His profile picture is stolen from actor Chris Pratt: http://www.tvguide.com/news/parks-recreation-chris-pratt-abs-1067747/
So we see strong evidence that both Verified and Unverified reviews can be easily manufactured by the brands on Bodybuilding.com, but there’s more...
Bodybuilding.com allows reps to post reviews on their own products.
It really doesn’t get any more biased than this. I found three RSP associates that are posting reviews on their own products:
RSP Nutrition Athlete, Abel Albonetti (http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/fitness-360-abel-albonetti-model-behavior.html) gave 10/10 to every RSP product he reviews. Here’s his review history: http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/Achilles4
Two of the three RSP reps that I could find on the Bodybuilding.com forums have also rated RSP products. http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/klhowell2 gave only 10/10’s to RSP products, and http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/supplement-reviews/DrJekyIIMrHyde gave RSP products only 9’s and 10’s.
Reps are not allowed to post reviews on SupplementReviews.com ever, and if we catch them, we make a public announcement in the Hall of Shame.
Bodybuilding.com allows reviews on sample sizes.
This review (http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/rsp-nutrition/dyno/jacobbmiller44/560cd7e00cf2d997900a424e/) actually earns the “Verified Buyer” checkmark, but still admits to using only a sample size. In his review, he actually states that he prefers a different product, mentions that the product had terrible mixability and flavor, yet still gives the product a perfect 10/10 rating.
Reviews on sample packs and trial sizes are never permitted on SupplementReviews.com. Here’s our strict guidelines on what constitutes a full container.
What does this say about the reviews on Bodybuilding.com?
Consumers rely on reviews to make purchase decisions. Bodybuilding.com has a massive responsibilitiy to their consumers to make sure that their reviews accurately reflect the opinions of those who have used the product. Unfortunately, Bodybuilding.com’s free-for-all review system is highly susceptible to considerable manipulation by brands who want to generate more sales on their products.
Bodybuilding.com has a major conflict of interest with the fake reviews on their site, and are siding with the brands at the expense of their customers. Our in-depth analysis clearly demonstrated that the ratings on Bodybuilding.com may not be genuine, and should not be a consideration when making purchase decisions.