Should You Take Online Reviews with a Grain of Salt?

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We all do it. I know I do. Whenever I am in the market for a product or service that I am unfamiliar with, I jump online and look for reviews. In just seconds, I can usually find dozens of sites with helpful reviews. But, just how accurate are all of those reviews?
The power and the weakness of online reviews lie in the fact that talk is cheap. Anyone or any business can post online reviews. I can review a product that I feel strongly about and help people who are considering purchasing the same item. On the other hand, an employee of the company that made the product could just as easily post a review of their own. After all, there are a lot of dollars involved in online sales and a good review could have a big impact. There is a lot of temptation for hotel operators, authors, and other businesses to create fake comments telling how wonderful their product or service is.
So, what can you do to put the odds in your favor? Here are some steps you can take:

  • Look for multiple reviews. For instance if you want to book a hotel room, look for hotels that have many reviews. If there are only a small handful of reviews, keep on looking.
  • Look at multiple review sites. Don’t stop looking at the first site you visit.
  • Look for independent expert reviews. I am an avid photographer and when I want to buy a new lens or camera body, I look for reviews by photography experts. They tend to cover the product in-depth and openly.
  • Look for complaints. I will often look specifically for product complaints by googling XYZ product complaints or ABC company complaints. You can also check out companies and service providers at the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Look at the average reviews and not the best and worst reviews. Chances are the crowd is right. This means being very skeptical when looking at reviews that are overly scathing or over the top enthusiastic.

The bottom line is that you need to exercise your common sense when considering online reviews. If the review seems too good or too bad to be true, trust your instincts.

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