Can you trust online reviews?

You can’t deny how important reviews are when it comes to shopping. Over half of online shoppers use reviews to aid their decision. Amazon shoppers spend more time reading reviews than actually looking at the product(yes, we’re looking at you).

To say the least, reviews play an instrumental role in company reputation and purchasing decisions. Though, consumers are getting smarter. Fake reviews pop up left and right. Some are obvious. Others, well disguised and indistinguishable from a genuine review written by your grandmother.

Consumers like you are starting to wonder if you can even trust online reviews. Do companies make genuinely good products or have they mastered the review system? Don’t let these bad apples let you lose faith in online reviews. Online reviews are more important than ever. 

In this article, we will

  • examine how to stop a fake review
  • take an in-depth look into review systems such as TrustPilot, Ebay, and Amazon
  • learn about the different types of reviews
  • learn how you can use reviews to grow your business

Why You Can’t Trust Some Reviews

Consumers are becoming increasingly sceptical. With the current review ploys, we don’t blame them. Reading through reviews can be a headache if you have to question its legitimacy. In this section, we’ll explore ways companies exploit reviews and how you can spot them.

Conning The System

There are a number of ways companies exploit reviews. For the most part, they do it to increase sales. The ethics are debatable. Some companies who exploit reviews create great products. Others, not so much. Either way, it’s important to spot these exploits since they often lead to biased reviews.

Review Exchanges

You’ve probably come across a review with “I received a discounted product in exchange for my unbiased review” slapped on the end. This is called a review exchange. Companies offer heavily discounted products for a glowing review. Since these companies only want glowing reviews, they’re often biased.

Fake Reviews

Fake reviews are like review exchanges, but money is exchanged instead. Jobs paying for reviews are often found on freelancing websites such as Freelancer and Upwork. Compared to review exchanges, fake reviews are much more biased.

Spotting Fake Reviews

Whether you like it or not, fake reviews are out there. Luckily, they’re easily avoided using a few simple tips and tricks.

Fake reviews

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Genuine reviews should sound like something you’d hear from a close friend. Over exaggerated language, expressions, and unnatural language are all red flags.
  • Check out the reviewer’s profile. If they only write for a certain product or company, chances are, they aren’t doing it for free.
  • Look for the amount of reviews, account creation date, and their language for other reviews.

Learning About Reviews

Now that we have the ugly side of reviews covered, let’s get into the good stuff! In the consumer’s eyes, a review from Amazon is much different from a testimonial. In order for reviews to drive your product, you must encourage the correct kind. In this section, we’ll learn about the types of reviews and how you can use them to your advantage.

Service vs Product Reviews

Service reviews operate differently to product reviews. In general, A service is provided from one person to another, which can change over time. Examples include Uber, Spotify, and Amazon Prime. Services are suspect to change, which can quickly change the value. That’s why old reviews on services are unreliable.

Products, on the other hand, stay the same over time. We all have products that we’ve owned for years. If you were to buy it again, chances are, it’s available in the same form. Exceptions include new models and discontinuation of a certain series. In general, reviews from any time are accurate for products.

Early Adopter Review

An early adopter review can bring success to a product/service or ruin it. What is an early adopter? You can think of an early adopter as your first customer. An early adopter can also be a tech junkie who wants your product before anybody else.

Impressing them should be your number one priority. Why? An early adopter review is the first thing future customers see. If the only review on your product is under 4 stars, future customers will feel hesitant to trust you. Do what you can to make early adopters happy. Are they having problems? Offer to fix it, free of charge.

Impressing an early adopter can be the best move you make for your business. More often than not, early adopters spread your product to their circle. They don’t say word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing for nothing!

Third party reviews vs on-site reviews

One issue business owners juggle around is their testimonial page. Should you include one? How will customers trust a testimonial page? Testimonials can be effective for sales copy. It’s debatable if they’re more effective than third party websites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp.

Testimonials play their role, but are they trustworthy? To answer this, think about what you do when researching a product. Do you hop to their testimonial page? Probably not. On-site testimonials are clearly biased, often with no verification system in place. You have a better idea of where Amazon reviews come from. The legitimacy of on-site reviews can be questionable.

Third party reviews are often from well-known websites. This creates an instantaneous trust factor from your audience. Some buyers even skip past your testimonials and go straight to a review website. So which type of review should you use? We recommend both. They each serve their own purpose.

On-site reviews are for customers already familiar with your company(thus, trust you already). Third party reviews help unfamiliar customers gain trust in you. Use both to your advantage!

How Do Reviews Even Work? An In-Depth Analysis

Now that you know the different types of reviews, it’s time to really dig in. What differentiates Amazon’s review system from Ebay? Their methods. As of 2015, Amazon gives weight to newer reviews with upvotes taken into account. Ebay has their own way of weighing reviews.

On top of the display algorithm, each business has their own method for filtering fake reviews. Are some systems better than others? That’s debatable. Do their systems and algorithms work differently? Absolutely! In this article, we will analyze Amazon, Ebay, and TrustPilot for their methods. First, let’s learn how top review websites such as Angie’s List work.

A Look Into Top Review Websites

You may have come across a review website such as TripAdvisor. There are a number of review websites that help businesses grow while giving customers the honest scoop. Just like any service, there are some bad apples in the bunch. Top review websites include ConsumerReports, TrustPilot, and Angie’s List. How do these websites run and do they make money?

Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Angie’s List is considered premium because of their membership fee. Others are free, but vary in quality. Before using a third party review website, consider their trustworthiness. Review websites generally make their money through affiliate sales. A good product benefits from trustworthy reviews.

If a third party review convinced you to purchase a product, they likely took a slice of the pie. Other methods include Google Adsense and premium fees(like Angie’s List).


Amazon review

Amazon is by far the biggest review website, without actually being one. Being the big ecommerce giant, it makes sense to integrate trustworthy reviews with a shopping experience. Amazon’s biggest challenges are fake reviews and incentives. Anybody with a keyboard can write a review, which makes the reviewer’s credibility questionable.

There are even websites dedicated to gaming Amazon’s system. As a result, Amazon’s algorithm heavily weighs verified reviewers. In 2015, Amazon changed the algorithm to prefer newer, verified reviews with upvotes taken into consideration. In the future, Amazon announces they are cracking down on illegitimate reviews, especially exchanges. Coming into 2017, you can expect the algorithm to heavily lean towards new, verified purchasers.


As of 2013, Ebay’s review algorithm is based on the Cassini search engine. Like any big ecommerce platform, Ebay has problems with sellers gaming the system. Before Cassini, sellers stuffed keywords, made 10 different listings of the same product, and generally dominated the search page. Cassini changed how sellers could list their product, and ultimately, what users bought from who.

The idea of Cassini is to weight listings that provide the most value to the consumer. This is a combination of factors, including customer support, response times, the product listing, seller feedback, quality pictures, and so on.

The main four metrics are:

  • Product title and keywords
  • A comprehensive product description
  • Product category
  • Catalogs

These metrics mean nothing without a good seller. Cassini favours sellers who provide value through customer support. Trying your best to help your customers is the best way to rank high. As a result, seller feedback is more important than ever. Heading forward, this system isn’t going anywhere. Changes will include tweaks to further improve the algorithm.


Review platforms such as Yelp and Trustpilot can be an important part of your business growth. Generally, they work the same way, emphasising recent reviews. Trustpilot uses a “Trustscore”, which is your product or service’s overall rating. A trust score is a value ranging from 1 to 10, which translates to a star-based review system(1 to 5).

The trust score is calculated using a Bayesian average. A score calculated by a bayesian average ensures the score remains balanced. A company with a single one-star review won’t have a score of ten, and vice versa. Ultimately, your recent reviews matter most when it comes to your trust score.

In order to keep your score up, you must consistently receive good reviews. Other third party platforms such as Yelp work the same way. Keep your product consistent in quality, and your reviews will do the same.

How Businesses Can Grow With Reviews

Reviews are a keystone factor when it comes to sales. Reviews not only give customers the scoop, they establish credibility. A few good reviews give future customers a sense of trust. An early bad review will nearly destroy your sales. So how can you leverage reviews to grow your business?

In this section, we go over types of customer reviews, the impact reviews have on your business, and simple ways to boost the amount of reviews on your pages. Ready? Let’s dig in!

Types of Reviews and How To Use Them

You might have the opportunity to pin reviews on your website. A review can represent your product as a whole. What kind of review should you display? Should it be from somebody influential in your field? That depends on your product and business goals.

Constructive Criticism

In a perfect world, customers enjoy your flawless product. In reality, there’s always something to improve. Some reviewers point to these flaws and give you practical ways to fix them. These aren’t necessarily bad reviews. A constructive review gives you free ways to improve your product. That’s right, the customer is doing work for you!

When you receive constructive criticism, it’s best to throw your ego out the door. Improve your product, make your customers happy, and your sales will skyrocket. In general, it’s best to take silent notes instead of pinning it.

Influential Reviews

These types of reviews typically require cold calling or an incentive. They are extremely effective in a specific niche. For obvious reasons, these reviews aren’t always practical, especially starting out. If you can manage to grab one, pin it to the top of your website. Influential reviews hammer trust and credibility into your customer’s brains. It’s phycology!

Comparer Reviews

Competition exists, and your customers know it. These reviewers generally compare both positive and negative aspects against your competition. These reviews are honest, giving your customers a transparent view of your product or service. A truly constructive review can establish credibility and build trust over time. In general, pinning this type of review is a smart move.

Anecdotal Reviews

When it comes to a product or service, customers have their own unique experience. A review that is accurate for one customer won’t be for another. It’s your job to acknowledge this. These reviews are often glowing, so it’s tempting to pin it. Consider every type of customer and how an experience can apply to them. If you want to provide an honest description, anecdotal reviews aren’t the best way to go.

Business Impact of Reviews

Reviews can make or break a business. You’ve heard that throughout this article, and there’s a reason for that. Our app Kanbanchi spread like wildfire thanks to excellent reviews on Chrome Web Store, Google’s online store for web applications, Capterra, online service that helps businesses find the right software, and, of course, the world’s leading business software review platform G2Crowd. Reviews follow a snowball effect. The first review is the hardest but sets the course. Once you get the snowball going, it grows faster with less effort. A bad review is a rock that slows down the snowball. In other words, reviews are about momentum.

Kanbanchi CWS Reviews

Kanbanchi listing on Google Chrome Web Store

Kanbanchi grew so fast because the first few reviewers gave momentum to what become thousands. Our customers loved the product so much that they advertised for us. You read that right!

Review platforms make create different lists to compare products, and on the amount and quality of your reviews, directly depends your position in it. Thus, thanks to our users’ support and their amazing reviews, G2Crowd featured Kanbanchi in multiple lists of popular software products, for example, “Top 10 Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Software for Small Business“Through word of mouth, more and more customers pushed that snowball. Good reviews brought more customers to the app, and we received thousands of downloads. It’s a win for everybody!

Kanbanchi user Review on G2Crowd

One of Kanbanchi user reviews on G2Crowd

You can do the same with your product. The first ten reviews are critically important. One bad early review can cause thousands of potential customers to turn away. If you receive a bad review, do everything in your power to make it right. In most cases, customers appreciate outstanding customer support. Remember, reviews build momentum for future customers. Don’t let a bad review kill that momentum.

How To Encourage User Reviews

Let’s face it, more than half of your customers read reviews before making a purchase. We’re willing to bet a chunk of them make a purchase because of outstanding reviews. Customers don’t realise how important their feedback is. So how can you push them in the right direction? Here’s what we learnt from our experience with Kanbanchi:


It seems too simple to work, but results speak for themselves. Customers are busy. They don’t remember to leave a review, even for their favourite products. By asking in a friendly way, you are reminding them that their feedback is important. More often than not, they’ll leave a quick review! Within Kanbanchi, there’s a short and sweet reminder to users to rate us on Chrome Web Store. Most importantly, you have to be clear and precise about what you’re asking for. Our goal is to get as many 5 star reviews as possible, that’s why we articulated our ask as “Give us 5 stars on Google Chrome Web Store”. It goes without saying, there shall be confidence in the high quality of your product – you have to be sure it deserves the highest rate you’re asking for, otherwise it may backfire in negative feedback and mockery.


Asking for a review within the application

Use Your Leads

Customers who signed up for your list are generally interested in your products. Chances are, they won’t mind leaving a review if they’re reminded. At Kanbanchi, we use a bit different method – we reach out to users with whom we had a chance to get acquainted and communicate via our Support system, and usually ask for a review 1 or 2 weeks after their ticket was successfully closed.

Asking users for a review

Communication with users

Make It Easy For Them

Nobody likes to give away personal information. Forms aren’t exactly a customer’s best friend either. When asking, make it as easy as possible for them. Don’t ask them to fill out a form. No no no. What often works best, as we learnt from our experience with Kanbanchi, is sending users straight to the review platform with a convenient link. If any instructions are needed to make the process easier, make sure you share them with them. Walk in their shoes. What would annoy you? Would you leave a review for your own product? If you would, chances are, your customers will too.

Don’t Push Them

Whatever you do, never push for a review. This includes pestering them with emails, pop-ups, and excessive reminders. Customers are happy to leave a review in the right context. For us these are two aforementioned ones: firstly, within the app interface, not flashing before their eyes, but strategically placed to gently remind about reviewing, when they are about to sign out, and, secondly, short and sweet personal email after their support ticket is closed. It’s all about balance – ask too often, and your company starts to look shady and desperate.

Appreciate their support

Be appreciative and never take your clients for granted. Thank your customers and users as often as you can. Every one of us needs to feel appreciated, don’t we? When we reach new heights with Kanbanchi, we always know that it’s all thanks to our users, and find a way to tell it to them. Here’s a Facebook post we wrote when Chrome Web Store Editors picked us for Featured segment in June 2016. And if any of Kanbanchi users is reading this now, thank you 😉


Facebook post of appreciation

Summing It Up

At the end of the day, reviews matter. A large slice of your customers read reviews before making a purchase. This includes third party websites, on-site testimonials, and word of mouth. You can con the system, but that never works long term. The only real way to keep your customers happy is to listen to their needs and deliver a consistently great product.

Helping business owners create that quality product is our bread and butter. Chances are, you need a team of highly specialised engineers to craft software for your customers. Here at Magic Web Solutions, our tight-knit team of senior engineers give you #1 priority. In the end, we give you a hit of a product guaranteed to get those reviews flowing. And our digital marketing team can to the rescue when it’s time to promoting it and actually making those review work for you.

Having trouble finding this team? Let us help you!

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