Getting the most out of online review sites

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I routinely go online to read reviews about products and hotels before I buy or book. If you do too, I want to share a few tips I’ve gleaned that have helped me get the most out of the collective wisdom of Internet reviews.

I recall once finding a deal on electronics at DealNews.com from a web seller that was unfamiliar to me. So I looked around the web reading opinions that people posted about this particular seller. Well, it soon became apparent to me that I didn’t want anything to do with that seller!

The reality with online reviews is that businesses actively try to manipulate those reviews with a variety of automated programs. But I see a more hands-on kind of manipulation on TripAdvisor.com all the time. Whenever I’m researching a new hotel, here are some of the guidelines I follow:

  • I ignore anybody from New York or London when they’re gushing about how their hotel room is so big. People in those cities are used to living in rooms that are the size of your closet,  so they think anything is big!
  • I ignore any complaints about slow room service. I have never ordered room service in my life, so that’s so irrelevant to me.
  • I ignore complaints about how long it takes a bellhop to bring a bag up to the poster’s room. Again, irrelevant to my life since I only travel with a carry-on to avoid extra baggage fees.

With any review site like Epinions.com or TripAdvisor, when you look at reviews, you want to look for a pattern. If you see a person who hates everything and they’re the only one, well, throw their opinion out. If somebody goes on and on about how it’s the greatest place they’ve ever stayed, throw that out too.

Think about the bell curve. You want to look for the preponderance of opinion in the middle, not on the fringes. And with something that gets a lot of reviews, know that more recent reviews are generally more valuable than older ones.




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