When my family takes a vacation, I scour Internet review sites to help plan possible restaurants to dine in, hotels to stay in, and activities to take part in.

While I do enjoy happening upon surprises when we travel, we have children and a budget so it is important that I do a little bit of research.

On a recent trip we were able to find some activities we may not have discovered had the reviews not been so glowing. The same goes for some local eateries.

There are reviews for everything. Whether you are looking for a new doctor or veterinarian, a realtor or photographer, a restaurant or hotel, you can find websites dedicated to providing you with people’s views.

That being said, just as there is a right way (and a wrong way) for businesses to handle their online reviews, there is a right way (and a wrong way) to use Internet reviews in your day-to-day life.

7 Tips For Consumers To Make Good Use of Online Reviews

 Take Them With a Grain of Salt – People tend to only write reviews when they feel passionately about something – whether good or bad. Or, if they are given an incentive to leave a good review. That being said, if the same negative comment comes up over and over again, perhaps there is some truth to it. Or, if a place is laden with a variety of positive reviews that seem legitimate, that once bad review may be a case of sour grapes.

 Consider The Source – As mentioned above, some establishments provide incentives to leave (positive) reviews. Sometimes the competition will leave negative reviews. Sometimes after a negative review an establishment will gather friends and family to leave a bunch of good ones. 

Take the Average – Most review sites will give you the average. If there are too many reviews to read them all, read a few reviews from the low end and a few from the high end and make a judgement call from there.

Spot the Gems / Spot the Fakes – Look for reviewers that have left multiple reviews for various establishments. Regular reviewers usually provide valuable feedback. Reviewers with weird user names, only one review, and especially glowing or scathing reviews could be fake.
Trust Your Gut – Try out the establishment for yourself. That’s a great way to know if it is right for you.

Remain Objective – Reading reviews can compromise your objectivity and flavour your own experience. For instance, if every review says how amazing the pancakes are, you may try the pancakes and think they are amazing too, simply because you continue to read that they are. Or, if every review states how you must try a certain activity because it is so fantastic, your expectations could be heightened and you may not find the activity as exhilarating as you were expecting. Had you not read so many glowing reviews, you may have found the activity would have met your more realistic expectations.

Leave Your Own Review
– Take the time to leave your own review after visiting an establishment, whether you are happy, unsatisfied or indifferent. Be thoughtful and truthful. The more reviews you leave the more you may be able to see what is valuable incite in other reviews.

People are starting to trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends. And, more than ever, online reviews are impacting purchasing decisions.

We often advise businesses to encourage patrons to leave a review. After all, it is a good way to increase users to review websites, build review communities and increase awareness about the business.

So, the next time a business asks for your review, go online and leave it. But be truthful.

And, the next time you read reviews online, remember that while there are plenty of fakes, by looking for the truth within the reviews you may find some new favorite places of business.

Businesses: Learn the Right Way To Handle a Bad Online Review

Which review sites are your favorites? Has your opinion ever been swayed by online reviews? Do you think online reviews are generally accurate?

By Michelle Collie
Internet Marketing Specialist
GetOn.com – Kelowna Web Design and Internet Marketing