How to Find Helpful Online Reviews

How to Find Helpful Online Reviews

Online reviews have become increasingly relevant to consumers. In the Local Consumer Review Survey 2014, BrightLocal found that 88% of consumers reported reading online reviews to determine the quality of a local business.

Even more interesting to me was that just 12% of consumers reported not reading any online reviews. Back in 2011 that number was 29%. Seems like more and more of us are turning to the interwebs to find restaurants. hotels, hair salons, doctors, and any number of other businesses and services.

And why not? According to the infographic below, many of us want to improve our shopping and buying experiences, so we're motivated to write reviews.

But the trolls still exist.

And not everyone has your startlingly good taste. 

And there are folks out there paying people to write reviews. Groan!

So how do you determine which reviews are honest? What information is helpful? I've got some basic strategies in place, but I'd love to hear how you navigate online reviews.

No extremes permitted!

The anger ball consumer is not to be trusted. I spot them with their extensive use of all caps, or overusing exclamation points! One will suffice. The reason we have the exclamation point is to distinguish it from the period. Then there are the curse words or the disguised curse words. If the anger ball were complaining to a friend, then bad language may not be an issue. But when I don't know you and you toss out explicit language, I'm thinking you're more angry than genuine. And if you don't have the good sense to cool off before writing a review, then I can't imagine your opinion is all that relevant to me.

With any overly positive review, my skepticism also kicks in. Pollyanna is a freelance writer supplementing her income by writing bogus five-star reviews. Avoid the sugar.

How's the grammar and spelling?

If a review is full of mistakes, I'm not likely to trust that source. How reliable is the person who can't be bothered with basic composition skills?

I do consider the number of mistakes in comparison to the length of the review. A long review with a couple of mistakes? Ah, could be proofreading too quickly. However, if someone writes a few sentences with multiple mistakes, then I dismiss them as being either stupid or a troll. Maybe a stupid troll?

Check usernames and profiles.

If a username is something meant to offend, I immediately disregard their opinion.  Just another unfortunate idiot fishing for conflict. Same thing with nonsense usernames. If it looks like a randomly generated username, I tend to think that person has been booted from the site, and now they're generating random usernames to try to disguise themselves.

People who use their names and pictures (if possible) are the people I usually trust a bit more. They generate a history. I can check their profile and see what other services or products they have reviewed. If what I'm reading sounds like the voice of the same person, then I tend to lean toward deeming that source as legitimate. The more reviews present, the more legitimacy I credit to that reviewer. 

Look for down-to-earth sensibility!

I tend to respond better to thoughtfully constructed reviews. 

If a reviewer takes the time to explain circumstances, expectations, levels of communication, and actions, then I usually deem them reliable. They're telling me their story about an experience and they are trying to place that experience into context.

The sensible reviewer doesn't waste my time with useless detail. They don't claim to speak for everyone. Whenever I see statements like "Many people have complained about this product," I stop reading. Anyone who doesn't recognize that their review is a reflection of their one experience is too self-involved to offer any reasonable information.

They don't tattle online. Any time a negative review goes off on an employee and names that employee, I skip that review. I just consider it rude. If someone is that torqued about how an employee treated them, then take it up with a manager who can address the situation. Maybe even make it right. And put those details in the review. Of course, one exception to this rule that I've seen and been okay with is the reviewer who criticizes the business owner.

So what other tips do you have for finding online reviews that you trust? Please comment below.

Jill Lepore is Wonder Woman!

Jill Lepore is Wonder Woman!

Ten Essential Resources for Researching & Choosing Your Ideal Neighborhood

Ten Essential Resources for Researching & Choosing Your Ideal Neighborhood