Can You Trust That Review? Watch Out for These Red Flags

Can You Trust That Review? Watch Out for These Red Flags


Whether you’re looking for a book, a restaurant, or a car, you’ve probably read a consumer review online. They can be useful, but if you put too much emphasis on them, you might end up disappointed.

TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Amazon users aren’t infallible, and many are overly generous. When Best Reviews looked at 360,000 Amazon user ratings across 488 products, it found that 240,000 of those reviewers gave five-star ratings.

It’s not just extreme positivity that you need to watch out for. Researchers from Cornell University estimate that about 10 percent of online reviews are fake.

The Red Flags

There are ways to avoid being drawn in by a fake review or a misinformed reviewer. Watch out for:

  • Poor methodology: Discount any review that has no factual basis. If a user didn’t test the product, troubleshoot it, or compare it to competitors’ products in the same price range, the review will offer about as much as the product description.
  • Irrelevance: Suppose you’re looking for a new family car that gets good mileage and won’t be a nightmare to park. Do you really need to know how it performs in the Alaskan wilderness? Disqualify any reviews that aren’t relevant to your needs.
  • Missing perspective: Products need to be reviewed against similar options. A local diner cannot be compared to an upscale restaurant, and any review predicated on that comparison lacks perspective.

Spotting Good Reviews

So what should you look for instead? Good reviews tend to have two things in common:

  1. They’re detailed. Look beyond the star rating. The more thorough the explanation, the better. Situational details are important. Anybody can have a bad experience with a product or service, but that doesn’t mean the product or service is bad. It could mean the product didn’t fit the user’s needs at the time.
  2. They come from a credible source. Not all reviewers are equally trustworthy, so you need to gauge user credibility. Some include assurances of their credibility in their reviews, but you should also look for external signifiers. How many reviews has he or she left? Some websites have trust or credibility scores for reviewers. Does this user have a good one? If you’re looking at Amazon, is the review marked “Amazon Verified Purchase?"

Don’t assume reviewers will do your work for you. You need to understand the marketplace yourself. There’s a huge difference between $4 headphones and $400 ones, and if you’re looking for a high-quality product, that $4 pair, even if it earned five stars, isn’t worth your time or money.

Don’t trust every reviewer. Know what you want, and read relevant, detailed, credible reviews to find the right match.

As co-founder and CEO of Soda, Corry Cummings focuses primarily on products, marketing, and the overall vision and strategy of the company and its three properties:, Freshome, and The Simple Dollar. Soda’s three human-centric media brands aim to establish standards to make quality measurable, make decision-making less burdensome, and help brands understand how to make content not only plentiful, but also better.