Monthly Archives: November 2013

The 5 Biggest Problems with Online Reviews

We all know them and, if you are a business owner, you probably fear them. We’re talking about Angie’s List, Yelp, CitySearch and all of the other online review sites out there. While millions use these sites every day to help them make decisions on where to eat, shop, get a check-up and do just about everything else, there are some serious problems everyone should know about before they consider trusting what they are reading.

1) Reviewers are not Average Joes.
Only a small percentage of the population post reviews. Typically, reviewers have to be motivated by an exceptionally good or bad experience to take the time out to write about it. So, not only are the people that post reviews not reflective of the entire population but also their experience probably isn’t representative of the typical interaction with that business. There is an inherent adverse selection problem with online reviews, which makes it tough to believe what you are reading.

2) Lack of context.
Who is the reviewer? Are they related to the doctor they are reviewing? Or did the owner of the business they are posting a negative review of just dump them? All of this data is critical to understanding the context behind the review. Without it, the review simply isn’t trustworthy.

3) Rankings are subjective.
What one reviewer considers a one-star spa might be what someone else considers a four-star business. Without clear criteria at each level there is not an accurate way of determining a scoring system that these review sites are using.

4) Most sites goals are not clear.
What specifically are users looking for in a review? TripAdvisor allows for the filtering of results by price, rankings, location etc. But ultimately for other sites the goal is to find a service or professional that is trustworthy, but the sites do not explicitly call out that goal and reviewers aren’t focused on that specific attribute.

5) The A-Word.
We’re talking about advertising in exchange for better rankings or reviews. Many of the online review sites struggle to turn a profit without having businesses pay to improve their rankings or even get on their lists to begin with. There is no way that an online review or ranking system can be trusted if there is money changing hands between the site and the businesses being reviewed.

Asking your own contacts for their feedback would get you a more accurate picture before patronizing a business or hiring a professional. Until now that wasn’t possible unless you wanted to email, chat or (gasp) call individuals in your network. But with Wyngspan a trustworthy ranking in the form of a Trust Factor is at your finger tips.

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