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Online Reviews: Great Idea, Typically Poor Results

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There are no shortages of places to go on the Internet for reviews of products, vendors, movies, blogs, you name it!

I happened across a site recently called VendorRate. What a great idea! What a great layout! VendorRate has a search mode to pull up a single company and review a whole snapshot of customer review data. Not only does it give an overall rating of the company; it breaks it down by services offered, customer service, reliability, timeliness, etc. You can even call up a service or product category and compare the main vendors in that area. For example, call up cloud computing and there's a side by side comparison of Amazon, Salesforce.com, etc.

There's only one problem.

All the data is typically based on 50 people or less. So, what is this really telling you?

Especially, when you consider the likelihood that the PR departments of some of those vendors have stacked the numbers with bogus reviews. One or two planted reviews could skew the data very easily with so few contributions in the mix to begin with.

There are some good review sites out there.

How to separate the good from the bad from the ugly:

- Look at how many individual reviews are involved.

- Read up on how the site compiles its reviews (based on customer feedback, independent usuablity testing, etc.). If the site doesn't offer details then that's a bad sign.

- How independent is the site? Who sponsors the site? Are they reviewing their own sponsors or their sponsors main competitors? Are they owned by the people they are allegedly reviewing independently. If it's not clear, move on!

Last updated: Dec 22, 2008




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