What Should You Know About Online Reviews

You are an educated consumer. You do your homework. You avoid impulse purchases. You are a good steward with your money. And you read reviews before making any big purchases.

Before you make a decision based on a review, there are a few things you need to know. You may not want to know all these things, as some of them show a rather disappointing view of your fellow man, but you do need to know them.

Many reviews are fake. Yes, you know that. You believe you can spot a fake review in the first sentence. Well, did you know that almost one third of all reviews are not real. There are people who are willing to write reviews to make a buck and companies willing to pay them. Now, rest assured, there are systems in place to help pick out and eliminate the frauds, but do know that they will slip through any system set up.

Not only will folks pay for reviews, friends and family, employees and owners will write reviews using an alias. So beware of the super positive review as well as the downright awful review. Slamming your competition with a bad review is too tempting for some to pass up. Some folks are willing to check their conscience at the door, especially since good reviews can result in an significant bump in sales.

There is another reason companies will encourage fake reviews. Some consumers would rather purchase an item that has only a few good reviews, even if it has negative reviews, than a product that has not yet been reviewed. So it seems that a fake review is better than the lack of a review.

Reading reviews will affect your opinion. Of course you know that. That’s why you are reading the review. But often your experience is directly proportionate to your mood. If you have read a great review of a restaurant and their service, you go in expecting great things. You interact positively with the staff, who interact back in kind. Did your expectations color the reality of the experience or was it as great as the review you read? And the inverse works. Do you go in expecting the service to be slow, the food to be bland and, therefore, seek out imperfections? The same goes with reviews of products to be purchased. Do you select the product based primarily on the review foregoing your initial wants or needs, compromising on standards or looking at another product your wouldn’t have considered at first? Reviews can be helpful, but don’t set aside your own knowledge, expertise and instinct to be swayed by a stranger’s writing.

Also, you need to be aware that some reviews may not show up on the review site you are using. Users can rate a posted review as unhelpful and the site filter may not show that review in the future. Filters aren’t all bad as they do help to sift through bogus reviews, but you do need to know that you may not be seeing all the reviews that have been written about that product.

Some review sites have been accused of manipulating reviews for businesses that purchase advertising with them. Of course, those review sites deny these allegations.

You are ready to make a big purchase. You have researched and shopped. You are ready to pay the money. Remember reviews can be helpful, but they are not always as accurate and reliable as we would hope them to be. Not much in this world is. Be wise and enjoy your purchase.