Review site

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A review site is a website on which reviews can be posted about people, businesses, products, or services. These sites may use Web 2.0 techniques to gather reviews from site users or may employ professional writers to author reviews on the topic of concern for the site. Early review sites included and[citation needed]


Business models

Review sites are generally supported by advertising, and in most cases, comparison shopping[1] or price comparison. Some business review sites may also allow businesses to pay for enhanced listings, which do not affect reviews and ratings on the site. Product review sites may be supported by providing paid links directly to websites that sell the items being reviewed.

With the growing popularity of affiliate programs on the Internet, a new sort of review sites emerged - the so called affiliate product review sites. Most often these websites review only one product or compare a couple of products from the same niche. The writer of the review is affiliated with the owner of the product, which means that each time someone buys this product, affiliate gets a commission. This leads many people to question the value of affiliate reviews. In turn, they seek other opinions of the product on forums or on larger user review sites.


Studies by independent research groups like Forrester Research, comScore, The Kelsey Group, and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association show that rating and review sites influence consumer shopping behavior.[2] In 2007 even large companies such as Best Buy and Walmart began to mention online reviews in television advertisements and on the back of receipts.[citation needed]


Originally reviews were generally anonymous, and most review sites have policies that preclude the release of any identifying information without a court order. Review sites act as public forums, and are legally protected from liability for the content by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).

According to Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), anonymity of reviewers is important. "You couldn't have services like ratings sites or Craigslist or message boards or's user feedback or eBay's reviews of sellers without it."[3]

Beginning approximately 2005, however, consumers became more open with their identity and personal information on review sites. Some sites like those from Yelp, Inc. encourage consumers to use their real names, real photos and personal tags.[citation needed]


Most review sites make little or no attempt to restrict postings, or to verify the information in the reviews. Critics point out that positive reviews are sometimes written by the businesses or individuals being reviewed, while negative reviews may be written by competitors, disgruntled employees, or anyone with a grudge against the business being reviewed. Furthermore, studies of research methodology have shown that in forums where people are able to post opinions publicly, group polarization often occurs, and the result is very positive comments, very negative comments, and little in between, meaning that those who would have been in the middle are either silent or pulled to one extreme or the other. [4] Another criticism against sites that rely on income from businesses is that they are reluctant to post negative reviews since that undermines their business model. This leads to a conflict of interest.[citation needed]

Response to criticism

Operators of most review sites acknowledge that reviews may not be objective, and that ratings may not be statistically valid. A FAQ [5] on the Ratingz Inc websites states that, although the ratings are not statistically valid, “They are a listing of opinions and should be judged as such. However, we often receive emails stating that the ratings are uncannily accurate, especially for businesses with over 100 ratings".

Bob Nicholson, a co-founder of Ratingz Inc, goes on to state that "If you get useful information from the ratings, great. That's what we hope happens. If you look at a rating and say, 'Boy, these were obviously all written by the staff in this guy's office', then take it for what it's worth." [6] founder Jeremy Stamper echoes this sentiment, advising site users to "take a person ratings profile with a grain of salt." [7]

In effort to resolve the issue of biased reviews written by the party itself being reviewed, the Power Reviews Verified Buyer solution [8] verifies whether the person writing the review has actually purchased the product.

Professional review sites

Aside from sites that enable users to post reviews of products and services, there are also those that work on a "professional" or "expert" basis, commissioning, and paying for, named individuals or bodies with expertise in a particular field to provide their review material. By endeavouring to maintain independence and objectivity and allowing their writers' credentials and site ethos to be scrutinised, such sites avoid many of the criticisms mentioned above that the user-review sites are open to. For example, in the UK the consumer advocacy organisation, the Consumers' Association offers Which?, a site that carries no advertising but covers all manner of products and services, with reviews and ratings often based on exhaustive independent testing.

See also


External links

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