How to Tell If an Online Review Is Trustworthy

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably read an online product review or two in the past week alone. And that’s completely fine—there are tons of useful articles on the internet that can help users come to informed decisions about purchasing a certain product or service. Nevertheless, you should be cautious about the things you read on the internet.

The online world is crawling with fake product reviews and customer forums. One moment you’re looking for accurate computations for car shipping costs in your city and the next you’re being given information on how to sell your car in Brazil.

Luckily, there are ways you can weed out the bad articles from the good ones. If you don’t already have a system to avoid fake online reviews, here are some tips on how to tell if an online review is trustworthy:

1. Balanced and Genuine 

There isn’t a single product on earth that doesn’t come without a caveat. Even the most reliable manufacturers admit to creating products that aren’t 100% perfect. Yet, with the rise of influencer marketing, the number of ad-type online reviews seems to have skyrocketed over the past couple of years.

While there’s nothing completely wrong with influencer marketing, there are some instances when it can do more harm to the public than good. Influencers are paid to promote a product and make it look nice to the product’s target audience. The more people buy into the product an influencer is promoting, the more money the influencer makes in the process.

This is essentially why you rarely see an influencer give negative feedback about any product they promote. So, be wary of product or service reviews that seem to put the product on a pedestal. They were probably paid by the company to say all those nice things.

Instead, look for reviews that are balanced and genuine. You want to know what to expect on either side of the coin.

2. More Informative, Less Entertaining

Online customer forums can either be the best or the worst place to get information. All types of people gather there to communicate their joys and woes about certain products and services. It’s all fine and dandy when the people on the forum are writing their reviews seriously. But when you run into a comedian, that’s when you should stop reading.

It’s fine to use a few funny anecdotes here and there to add a little character to your comment. But when it starts to look like an episode of “Whose Line,” the review loses its quality and reliability.

If you were looking to buy Yeezy boots this summer, for example, and weren’t sure whether it was worth the money, you wouldn’t want to read a review that simply makes fun of how the boots look on the outside. You want to read a review that talks about the material of the product, comfortability level, available sizes, appropriate activities you can use the product for, etc.

Stay away from reviews that are trying too hard to be entertaining than informative.

3. No Incentivization

Amazon used to incentivize a lot of its users to leave reviews on product and store pages. For every product review that you left, you could get a gift card valued at around $1 to $3—regardless of whether it was a positive or negative review. What started as a harmless tactic to engage the clientele on the Amazon website later turned into the reason why a lot of sellers ended up with a bunch of fake reviews on their product pages.

Luckily, in 2020, Amazon announced that it was banning all incentivized reviews from the platform. This was to control the number of fake reviews their website was generating.

All that said, spotting a fake or incentivized review can be tricky. A lot of them are incredibly detailed and well-structured, passing off as a reliable source of information for most people. However, there are signs that you can look out for to determine if a review is incentivized.

For instance, if the product page mentions anything about gift cards or cash back deals when you leave a review, it’s a strong indicator that there will be several fake reviews on there.

4. Proof of Purchasing the Product

Honest and genuine reviewers will post a picture of the product that they bought. If you’re reading a review from someone who has a lot of things to say about the product but can’t show any pictures to prove they bought the product, you probably shouldn’t take their words to heart.

The only conceivable exception is those who purchased an item elsewhere and then evaluated it on a different platform to inform others of its flaws. However, this is uncommon because most people wouldn’t take the time to do anything like that.

If you suspect someone is a fake reviewer, look at their profile to see what other products they’ve bought and reviewed. If they’ve purchased several items that are extremely similar or completely unrelated and all the reviews are generally positive, the user could be receiving the items for free in exchange for a nice review.

5. Good Spelling and Grammar

Poorly written reviews that contain a lot of misspellings and grammatical errors are two huge giveaways of a fake reviewer. According to experts at SiteJabber, fake reviews are often outsourced to content farms that are often based internationally. This may be why so many fake reviews are written in poor English or aren’t written in a way a real user would express their experiences and feelings.

Don’t Rely Solely on Online Reviews

If you’re making a particularly big purchase (e.g., a car or an expensive gadget), it’s not the best idea to rely solely on what you read online. Instead, reach out to people who have bought the product you’re eyeing. Ask them about their experiences and opinions—and find out if it’s the best option for someone in your situation.

Finally, don’t take your friends and family’s experiences for granted. Ask for their insight on certain products and services. They’re less likely to oversell a product’s benefits than any other source available.

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