An astonishing 92% of consumers check reviews before using a new business. Given the ubiquity of reviews, knowing how to read them properly is unfortunately still more art than science. However, equipped with the following four insights, whether you’re on Sitejabber or reading reviews somewhere else, you can make yourself less likely to fall victim to scams and ensure great buying experiences.

1. Businesses can buy good reputations

While this is not true on Sitejabber, sadly, nearly all complaint and review websites sell businesses the ability to remove bad feedback and replace it with good reviews. This practice—which feels a lot like extortion to the businesses involved because their reputations are often held hostage by review sites—is also unfair to consumers who cannot tell the difference between a business who has earned great reviews through years of excellent service and a poor business who has paid for a good reputation.

For this reason, it’s important to understand a review site’s business model before trusting its reviews. If the review site charges businesses for reputation management or review collection, choose another site.

2. Fake reviews are common

Fake reviews are an issue on every review platform. As a consumer, your best bet is to learn to spot fake reviews while paying special attention to bad reviews. To spot fake reviews look for:

  • Multiple reviews with similar grammar or syntax
  • Reviews with poor grammar or spelling
  • Non-specific reviews that sound too general or are too short
  • Many reviews generated suddenly instead of built slowly over time
  • Not enough negative reviews—if there are good reviews, there should be at least some bad ones since all business have at least a few grumpy customers

A lot of fake reviews should be seen as a red flag against a business.

If you do spot fake positive reviews, it becomes particularly important to read the business’s bad reviews to get a sense of a worst case scenarios. Look for patterns in bad reviews and ask yourself if you can live with that outcome.

3. It’s critical to carefully read businesses’ responses to bad reviews

While you’re browsing the bad reviews, pay close attention to the company’s responses. If they are prompt, professional and propose reasonable resolutions, it makes it a lot easier to live with some of the negative outcomes that might surface in the bad reviews. But if the business is rude, defensive, unhelpful, copying and pasting canned responses, or doesn’t respond at all, it should be a red flag that tells you: “If something goes wrong, you’re on your own.”

4. If you’re not sure about a business, message other reviewers

Either by sending individual private messages to reviewers or posting in the Q&A section of a business’s review page, you can verify the buying experiences of past customers and ask specific questions. For example, if you’re looking to buy a pair of shoes and another reviewer has also bought a pair of shoes but had trouble with how they fit, you might benefit from messaging that reviewer to ask, “Were they too big or too small? Where you able to return them easily? Would you buy again?” This can also give you a sense of whether reviews are genuine.

Knowing how to read reviews the right way can be tricky, but with these four review insights, you can become not just a savvy shopper, but also a savvy reader of online reviews.

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