When it’s time to make a purchase, what’s the first thing you do? If you are like me, you jump online to look at reviews. Wether it’s a product or service, the honest feedback of our peers is the single most reliable way to judge quality. According to one recent study, 88% of consumers now trust online reviews just as much as they do personal recommendations!
Online reviews are a great way to get a feel for the quality of experience you can expect from a given product, service or provider. But not all online reviews are created equal. When searching for online feedback, it makes the most sense to look at reviews that are as unbiased as possible.
Look at sites like Google, Bing and Amazon. These websites are free to join, require nothing of the reviewer other than that they log into their account, and offer no incentives that might skew a reviewer’s viewpoint. These sites also effectively move the best products and services to the top of the list for searchers. How so? A product or service’s ranking in the search results of these sites is based solely on the customer’s feedback. That’s not the case with other types of sites.
Take Angie’s List, for instance. Angie’s List has become somewhat popular for homeowners who are looking for reliable home service providers. But Angie’s List search results may not give the consumer the unbiased results they are looking for. Sites like Angie’s, Yelp and Home Advisor are, in effect, “pay to play” companies. Why is that the case? Because these sites list companies who have paid (sometimes exorbitant) fees to appear higher in search results.
It works like this. The more a service company pays out in ad dollars, the higher they will rank in the results list. This effectively eliminates the naturally “organic” rankings that occur when no advertising dollars have to enter into the equation. A scenario is created wherein the best companies for any given service may not be shown at the top of search results or even on the first page! Instead, companies who have paid for advertising space will take up those top spots. So what the consumer gets is a list of the companies who have paid the most for the highest spots, a list that pushes great companies who aren’t willing to “pay to play” down and out of your view. Does that sound like a reliable way to find the best company? Who’s interests are being served in that case- you, the customer’s, or the website who’s trying to sell ad space? The answer is clear.
Consumers are best served when they can choose a company that’s been peer-reviewed without the built-in bias that advertising games create. This is where search engines like Google and Bing, and e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, are superior. The reviews are unfiltered, unbiased and straight from the source.
Of course, a wise service provider will always maintain a strong online presence with every significant online review portal. They just may have to work harder to claim their rightful place at the top of the search results.