Product review sites abound in the vast seas of the internet, but finding one that is unbiased and operates with integrity can be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Consumers are bombarded with information and it can be hard to mine the reputable gems from the rest of the rubble. Here are some guidelines that trustworthy sites utilize in adhering to industry best practices for product review websites:
1. Is There an Explanation of How the Reviewer Conducts Product Reviews? A big item on the integrity checklist is if the site details how products get reviewed – what they look for, how they evaluate a product, and if they purchase the products themselves or instead utilize reciew copies. This should all be fully disclosed and easily accessible (not buried down at the bottom of the footer, hoping the consumer won’t find it.)
2. Is There an About Us Page? This is a crucial element to look for. Many “reviewers” hide in anonymity and you’re never really sure who runs the site – or what their agenda is! A great hallmark of a honest product review site is transparency. If they reviewer identifies him or herself, and gives some background about why they built the site.
3. Is There an FTC Disclosure, and Is It Properly Displayed? In the United States, product review sites that utilize affiliate links MUST comply with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requirement to display an FTC disclosure. This must be prominently displayed on the site without having to click away to another page. It should also show up ‘above the fold’, i.e., on the top half of the web page, so that the reader does not have to scroll down to find it.
4. Does the Review Site Offer Other Consumer or Marketing Information, or Just Reviews? A consumer-oriented site will be focused on the needs and interests of the consumer. Reputable product review sites usually offer supplemental advice and practical information in addition to reviews – not just pitching every product they “review.”
5. Does the Site Have a Privacy Statement? As a consumer, you’re entitled to know how your personal information and IP address are being used. Reputable review sites will have the required privacy page that detail how your information is used.
6. Is There a Mix of Both Positive and Negative Reviews? Authentic, unbiased product review sites will have a mixture of both positive and negative reviews. Beware sites that only give glowing reviews to every product they review, or are single-based sites which feature only one product. A respected review site should be consumer oriented and fearless in panning products that don’t serve the needs of the buying public.
7. Do the Reviewers Purchase the Products Themselves? While there are some reputable reviewers who are able to objectively evaluate a free review copy of a product without bias, the mere fact that they got it for free undermines the appearance of objectivity. Reviewers that purchase their own products are able to remain objective and hold the product accountable to the standards that a regular consumer would.