Last week I shared some tips for writing reviews. But, most people are more likely to read a review than to write one. Reviews helps us discover new products that might be useful to us. They help us make a decision on major purchases. And they help us discover whether or not a product lives up to its claims.
Unfortunately, not all reviews are reliable or useful. Here are some tips for finding the best and most reliable reviews.
Avoid the extremes.
Although there are honest one and five star reviews, those are also the most likely places for scam reviews. Someone paid to write a review will almost always give a five-star ranking. Someone determined to undermine a product or brand (yes, those people exist!) will go with the one-star. Most truly thoughtful reviewers will fall somewhere in between.
Seek details. If a review is rated low and begins with a comment about slow shipping or a damaged product, it is probably not going to be helpful or relevant. Also, if a reviewer either raves about or bashes a product without giving true context, it might be hard for you to apply those pros and cons to your own situation.
A caveat to this would be the reviewer who says that the product arrived damaged, but an assessment of the product was still possible. In fact, a review like that could be incredibly useful!
Look for experience.
How many ways was the product used? For how long? Is there information that is not in the product description? Does the review candidly respond to the product description? Or does every detail seem to simply mirror the description?
Consider the relevance of the review.
An example will actually work best to explain what I mean. A few months ago, I took to the Internet to search for a shoulder rest for my daughter’s violin. I found one with solid reviews, but there was one primary complaint: there were no instructions for mounting the shoulder rest. The shoulder rest received several one-star ratings for that one reason.
In all honesty, lack of instructions is not a bad reason for a product to receive a low rating in some cases. Users need to know how to use a product. In this case, however, other reviewers offered slightly more helpful input than those who just gave the product a low rating. These reviewers stated that, although a newbie might have issues, someone who had mounted a shoulder rest before would have no problems. Our conclusion? YouTube and knowledgeable friends were close at hand, so the negative was not relevant for us.
Bottom Line: Before you accept the reviewer conclusion, whether positive or negative, make sure his arguments are relevant to your unique needs.
The more reviews a product has, the easier it is to make a genuine assessment. Compare pros and cons. Consider voices and credibility. Often, good reviewers will evaluate other reviews and directly respond to common negatives and positives.
As a side note here, a low number of reviews doesn’t automatically mean a product is bad. If you are familiar with a product that has few reviews, consider that an invitation to write one! Other customers will be grateful. And, if your review is positive, so will the manufacturer. (This is especially true of authors. They will love you for your help!)
The ultimate advice for reading reviews is this: pay attention! With a little discernment and practice, it becomes quite easy to sort out the bad reviews from the good.