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-Megan Davis, Chief Reviewer Officer

In today’s era of the internet, information can be very easily and conveniently accessed by us using our phones and computers. We can get access to information on every topic that we can think of by just typing out the words on a search engine. Now, this obviously has been a boon for us consumers as we can get all the information we want about a particular item or service before we purchase it.

We can check its technical details, pros and cons, compare it to other similar products and then make a well-educated decision using all that information. There are millions of websites out there that review a wide variety of goods and services from electronics to shoes to tourist destinations. These websites talk about every aspect of the product it is reviewing and provide you with a complete picture with expert opinion thus enabling you to make proper decisions.

Now while these review websites can be very convenient, how do we know if the website is actually providing you with accurate information and not trying to rip you off with false or misleading information?

Well, first off we need to look for trusted and popular review websites which have a reputation for being accurate and unbiased. We should also make sure we cross examine these information with other reviews of the same product in order to make sure that we are getting a complete picture of what we would be purchasing.

How much of an impact do online review websites have?

While the average internet user knows better than to trust every single review site on the internet. A recent survey found out that nearly 80 percent of consumers trust online review sites just as much as they trust personal recommendations. The survey also found out that positive reviews made them trust a business more. Now, every single business out there is aware of this fact and hence it is often found that a lot of these businesses create their own “review sites” or pay off other sites to manipulate information to give positive reviews of their products.

New online review sites pop up every single day, but a majority of them are nothing but farce. It is thus very important for us to make sure that the website we are reading our reviews on be trusted and verified.

Why you should not trust all online review sites

You should never trust everything that you read on the internet. That is one of the most basic rules of the internet. And if what you’re reading happens to be reviews about products, restaurants, hotels or other businesses, you should believe even less. Businesses constantly try to boost their online ratings through good reviews as that would mean more customers being drawn to their stores.

Over the course of last five years, these online reviews have become so crucial that business often plant fake reviews through their own employees and pay strangers to write positive reviews about products or services they have never used. These businesses also try to bring down the ratings of other rival businesses by writing harsh reviews. So it is very unwise to take all the reviews that you read on the internet seriously. A few other things that you should know about –

  1. There exists a marketplace for fake reviews. It is a known fact that sites such as freelancer.com have a huge number of people writing fake reviews for businesses at minimal prices. Writers create glowingly positive reviews for businesses at prices around 5 dollars.
  2. More than 30% of the online reviews are fake. This comes from a professor of the University of Illinois at Chicago who is working on a software to filter out fake reviews.
  3. It is pretty difficult to spot fake reviews. While most of us might think we are good enough to differentiate the fake reviews from the real ones, we are actually wrong. A study that was done recently found out that we are about just as good at sniffing out fake reviews as we are at predicting the result of the flipping of a coin.

How to figure out which online review sites are more reliable?

There are certain signals that you should look for in review websites when you first visit it to read a review of a product.

  1. Check the reviewer. There can be reviews by thousands of people on a particular review website. You need to look at the reviewer’s profile and check out the other reviews that he might have done in order to figure out any sort of bias towards a particular business or group. You should also be wary of first time reviewers who have no history of reviewing other products as they often (but not always) turn out to be fake.
  2. Read as many reviews as you can before making a decision. You should never make your decision regarding a product or a business based on just one review that you read on some shady website. You should instead read at least 10-12 reviews on different websites as that would make sure you have enough content and information regarding the subject.
  3. Discard reviews that are overtly negative or positive. This is one of the thumb rules of spotting a fake review. Reviews that are that sound too good to be true or ones which are extremely harsh are very likely to be fake.
  4. Be wary of trolls. Groups of trolls often target particular business just for fun to try to harm the business or the consumer or both. If you spot a bunch of reviewers posting similar reviews with similar wordings with hints of sarcasm, be wary as it might be a bunch of trolls.

Top 5 Trusted Online Review Sites

In order to help you out with finding trusted websites that have mostly honest and accurate reviews, we have a list of 5 websites that you should get your reviews from for various products or services. You should still stay careful as not all of the reviews that have been posted here are real, and some might turn out to be fake.

  1. Amazon.com
  2. Yelp.com
  3. Tripadvisor.com
  4. Angieslist.com
  5. Google Plus