Geek Girl Report: 5 Stars Or One Big Fraud? How To Get The Most Out Of Online Reviews
One of the more convenient aspects of online shopping is consumer reviews. After all, no one can tell you about the product you're looking to buy better than someone who's used it themselves, right? Well, not always...
Generally speaking, you should always take online reviews with a grain of salt. It is incredibly easy for businesses to write glowing reviews of their own products and services, or bash their competitors with negative reviews, under the guise of fake users. If you can, I strongly recommend getting more information than just the online reviews on the site. If you're looking at buying a product, try to find reviews from reliable source and news outlets. If it's a business like a hotel or apartment, try checking with the BBB or a similar organization to find out what they're not telling you.
But, all that being said, you can find some valuable information amidst all those fake reviews if you know what to look for. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for the next time you check out online reviews:
1.) Too much love (or too much hate)
There is no such thing as a perfect product, no matter how much you may like it. And on the same token, there is also no such thing as a universally despised product. Even the worst product has at least a few fans. So you should be wary of products and services that have nothing but 5-star reviews, or nothing but 1-star reviews. It's best to find reviews that address both the good and the bad of the product, regardless of whether the review itself is a good review or a bad one.
2.) What's in a name?
Quite a lot, if you know where to look. First and foremost, I wouldn't put much stock into anonymous reviews, as they can easily be created and used by anyone, like say, the company marketing the product or an irate consumer with an axe to grind. But what about actual reviewers that are registered with the site?
If you can, try checking their account and seeing what other reviews they left on other products. And if you see any peculiar patterns, like only leaving one exceedingly negative or positive review, or leaving a chain of good or bad reviews on a certain brand of products, there's a chance that they are bogus accounts set up by the company. Also, keep your eye out for bizarre, random usernames like "pt56008" or "xj9000," as those are usually telltale signs that the review was created by an automated program and not a real person.
3.) Always check the date of a review
Dates can be extremely important in determining whether a review is for real or not. For example, if you happen to read a review boasting about extensive hands-on experience with a product several months before that product comes out, there's a good chance it's probably bogus, as it will usually take people quite a while to get a comprehensive review of a product online, even after it releases.
Dates are also important when you're looking at restaurants, hotels and apartments, or other such businesses. Sometimes you'll see a lot of positive reviews in a row, but when you check the date, you'll find that they were posted on or around the same day. That's another sign that those reviews are fake. Also, especially with hospitality and food service places, you should double-check the dates on any super negative reviews. If it was just a few months ago, it may still be an issue, but if it was posted over a year ago, those problems have more than likely been fixed by now.
4.) Turn negatives into positives
If you see a very low review, most of the time it's either a one-line completely useless gripe, like "this product sux," or an extremely long and angry tirade written in all caps. (at which point I immediately discard it because writing in all caps makes you look like an idiot) But that's not to say you should dismiss low reviews altogether.
A well-written low review will often point out problems and issues you're not going to hear from the site itself, such as overcrowded parking, long wait times, or poor maintenance. So long as it's not ranting or useless, negative reviews can actually serve as a good source of info, especially if it's for a place like a hotel or apartment, where you can actually ask people about those problems yourself.