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5 ways to recognize trustworthy online reviews

Not all online reviews are created equal. This guide helps you weed out the bad ones.

Online Reviews

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It’s Monday night. The workday was grueling and the past weekend was its own version of exhausting. You don’t want to cook but you’re certainly not prepared to eat a lukewarm, tasteless entrée for an exorbitant fee just to have it delivered to your home. So you’re relying on online reviews to guide you towards a good restaurant option.

You may still end up disappointed after finishing your meal. Maybe the food was just not to your liking. There’s a great possibility that the way you evaluated the reviews you came across played a part. Not every three-star rating is to be trusted. Even the three-paragraphed summary weighing the pros and cons may not be trustworthy.

When you order food online, search for an attorney, or choose an apartment, knowing how to read online reviews is an essential part of your search. Without a keen eye, you’re no better off than when you are staring at an establishment’s glossy brochure. If you are like most customers today, I bet your first thought was to check out the online reviews to find the cheap, budget option

The primary reason we consult online reviews is to learn as quickly as possible what others think about the product, service, or place that we ourselves have not yet experienced. An online review from a stranger is a powerful endorsement. We expect it to be unbiased, fair, relevant, and informative. But not all online reviews will offer these things. Some sites are devoted completely to compiling these reviews for customers so that they can do a company comparison all in one place. There sites that compile reviews of people or services that would otherwise be difficult to find on their own.

Here are five ways to recognize trustworthy online reviews:

1. Take the glowing five-star and the severe one-star reviews with a grain of salt.

Some people only write a review when they are ecstatic about a product or extremely annoyed at the results.

Others will be motivated by commercial interests that taint their objectivity in making the review: they will be hired by competitors to slight the product or service with no regard for the truth of their claims or the provider will pay individuals to make unfounded reviews that are effusive to encourage others to actually use the product or service and boost sales. That said, other reviews that are written by hired employees may be very helpful in identifying a deal and adding another layer of endorsements to a product that is already sporting a couple thousand reviews.

2. Check for repetitive language in a poster’s reviews of different products and services.

If you see quite a bit of overlap, that’s an indicator that they are reusing language and are most likely compelled in some way to publish reviews (for money or for free products they receive, or as a trade for reviews of their own products and services).

3. Make note of any statement in the review that indicates the review is not completely the idea of the poster.

Some companies have posters include a disclaimer that they received a free product in exchange for their review. You can then view their comments through that lens. Some may even go on to say that the free product did not influence their review and you may believe that this is evident in their evaluation. Other sites feature reviews written by their staff. The credibility of their employer, as well as their professional reputation, rests on how objective the review.

4. More than a handful of reviews is needed for a clear assessment.

Now, there is no hard-fast rule for the number of reviews a restaurant or a book requires to create a legitimate averaged rating but t is clear that one, two, or a couple more will not do the trick. At least ten is best, two dozen or more is ideal. This is important for taking into account that not everyone likes the same thing. The bad reviews probably should not dissuade you if it is 2 out of 10 reviews that are bad. But if the majority of the ten reviews are negative or if the two negative reviews echo a sentiment that is especially important to you, this may dissuade you from the product or service.

5. Grade reviews on sites that have gained your trust

Sites such as Yelp, Amazon, TripAdvisor, and others are incentivized to filter out reviews that are untrustworthy. Their users may be disappointed in the site overall if they are misled by inaccurate or biased reviews. These sites use algorithms to flag as many fake reviews as possible—by looking for repetitive language used across a number of posts, for example.

In your haste to make a decision, don’t neglect the first step of identifying the most trustworthy reviews for your search. It will serve you much better than just going for the first five-star review that you come across.

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Diana Beyer is an experienced and self-driven creative director who is passionate about writing. Her purpose is to share some value among interested people. She is always seeking to discover a new way in personal and professional development.

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