Money Matters: Should You Trust Reviews When Choosing a Business to Support News, Sports, Jobs


Have you ever wondered if the reviews you browse are legitimate? Whether you’re looking for a taco lunch restaurant or an apartment in a new city, you want to know that other people have had a great experience. But seeing thousands of rave reviews might sound a bit suspicious – and you’re right in thinking it.

With false information so prevalent on the internet, how can you confidently choose which company to give your hard-earned money to? Learn how to find reliable reviews by understanding that some unscrupulous businesses pay for positive reviews, that some review platforms are better than others, and that there are ways to be an informed consumer of reviews online.

Some unscrupulous companies can pay for positive reviews.

It’s far too easy for businesses to pay for false positive reviews. To see how easy it is, the investigators of NBC News started a fake gardening business on Facebook and only paid $ 168 to sites promising to post positive reviews. Within days, the page had nearly 1,000 likes and 600 five-star reviews praising the bogus company.

Don’t worry, though. False reviews at this extreme are rare.

“This story, while alarming, is a bit of a borderline case, and steps have subsequently been put in place by credible review platforms and the Federal Trade Commission to better block this,” said Denise Graab, responsible for the examination program at, an elderly care website. “At, for example, we haven’t really had that problem because we pre-screen review submissions before they’re published, require the reviewer’s phone or email, and have other measures to ensure real consumer reviews. “

In addition to completely bogus reviews, legitimate but inciting reviews are something to be aware of. Incentives can do two things:

  1. As expected, incentives increase the likelihood of people leaving a review, researchers say Kaitlin Woolley and Marissa A. Sharif, both assistant professors in marketing. If you’re like me, a barber with 100 reviews looks better than one with just four, so these incentives can skew how trustworthy or established a business looks.
  2. The same researchers found in another study that “customers who receive an incentive are more likely to write positive reviews, regardless of their experience with the product.” So when you see a disclaimer in an enthusiastic Amazon review (eg, “I received this product for free in exchange for a review, but these are my honest reviews”), be aware that the review can be slightly more positive than that of the person. opinion is in fact.

“At the start of the assessment sites, the landscape was less regulated than it is today,” said Graab. “With the increased use of online reviews these days, review sites (and the government) are paying more attention to online reviews. prevent fake reviews. “

Don’t overlook all the enthusiastic reviews you read, but consider the reviews as a whole to help you get a better idea of ​​how good the business is.

Some review platforms are better than others.

Let’s say you’ve just moved to a new city and need to choose a new family doctor. You find someone promising on Google, but her reviews are confusing: there are five-star reviews saying she never makes her patients feel rushed, and then there are one-star reviews saying she pushes you. practically out of his office.

Are the one star reviews fake, published by a competitor? This is a possibility if the review site is not well managed, but the reviews are likely not to give you the full picture, even when taken as a whole.

“When you see negative reviews that seem legitimate, don’t automatically overlook the business,” Graab said. “A complaint made by someone else may not apply to your situation, there could be factual errors in the review and the review could even be misplaced or lack relevant information.”

Keep in mind that some sites may handle reviews more diligently than others. On Amazon, for example, you can see a “Verified Purchase” label that lets you know if the reviewer actually purchased the item they’re reviewing. And sites like Yelp and Google have algorithms that try to filter out fraudulent reviews, although their systems aren’t. infallible.

It can be a complicated world to navigate! Consider your priorities and preferences, and weigh the reviews you read to make the right decision for you. Reviews can be a great decision-making tool when used in the context of all the information you have.

Be an informed consumer of online reviews.

When you only see five-star reviews, it’s a red flag that something is wrong – no company or product is perfect.

In addition to that, here are four signs that may indicate that a review may not be trustworthy or merit further consideration:

  1. A strange profile. The reviewer may have left only one review or many very similar reviews, and the profile photo can be either generic or a celebrity photo.
  2. A very short review. Who would bother to write a two-word review? Potentially someone who is not that sincere.
  3. Mentions of specific competitors, in a positive or negative light.
  4. Phrases like “bespoke (custom), commercial (operating) or… priced at $ 1000.” These items can be “indications that the appraiser is from overseas” and probably didn’t buy the headphones out. brand you are considering, depending on

One of these signs alone will not indicate that a review is wrong. But a few of them could mean that you should do some additional research before handing over your business to the company.

Before you trust a business with your money, understand that businesses can pay for positive reviews, know that some review platforms are better than others, and be an informed consumer of reviews online. Knowing which reviews you can trust will give you peace of mind and help you make safer buying decisions.

To learn more about reviews from a healthcare organization’s perspective, watch this on-demand webinar hosted by, “New Study on Skilled Nurses: Using Digital Technology to Acquire and Care for Patients.”


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