Reading reviews of a product before choosing to purchase it is one of the smartest things that a savvy consumer can do. However, it is important to be discerning when you read reviews. These days, there are as many user reviews and even paid online reviews as there are legitimate unbiased product reviews. If you want to get accurate information from a product review, then you need to have a complete understanding of how to find legitimate reviews and how to properly read them once you’ve found them. This guide will assist you in developing those important skills.

Finding Legitimate Review Sites

The best thing that you can learn if you want to use product reviews to your benefit is to learn how to find legitimate review sites. A legitimate review site is one that is unbiased, does thorough testing of products it reviews, and provides information about both the pros and cons of the product – even if the conclusion leans one way or the other in terms of the product’s value.

Some tips for finding legitimate review sites include:

  • Bookmark the big names. There are a few major review sites that are known for their true credibility in the industry. It is always best to start your product review search with these sites. Consumer Reports is a leading site for product reviews across multiple categories. Edmunds is a top site for auto reviews, TopTenReviews and CNET Reviews are popular for consumer electronics and Cheapism is good for budget item reviews.
  • Use sources you already trust. There are many major sites that do reviews of a variety of different types of products. For example, there are sites about books and writing that do book reviews and sites like PC World and Computerworld that do reviews of computer products. If there are sources that you already use to get news and information in a particular industry, then consider looking to them as a review source, as well.
  • Use forums to get leads on good reviews. Each industry has its own best sites for reviews. If you’re looking for reviews within a certain industry (such as baby products or yarn stores), then you should post in forums related to those industries to get opinions from other people about what sites they use for reviews.
  • Look for blogs that disclose their biases. Blog reviews run the gamut from being completely biased and unfair to being terrific sources of unbiased review information. If you want to use blogs as a product review source, you should look carefully for blogs that disclose their biases and present fair reviews that tell you the pros and cons of the item.
  • Do not enter terms like “best reviews” in a search engine. The majority of results that you’ll get will be completely biased promotional reviews and not legitimate sites. If you don’t believe this, do a search for best reviews of weight loss products and use discernment to scan the results.
  • Look at user review sites with a careful eye. User-generated reviews can provide you with a lot of great information and shouldn’t be overlooked. These sites include Yelp, Amazon and ePinions. You can definitely utilize these sites to get information about products that interest you, but do remember that the people posting these sites come from many different situations and may not have the same opinion as you.

Even legitimate sites do sometimes have mistaken or biased reviews that slip through.  Even when you find some good sites, you should always read reviews carefully and with an open mind.

How to Properly Read Reviews

Once you have located the sources that you want to use for obtaining your reviews, you should keep the following tips in mind to read reviews properly:

  • Make a list of the information you want from the review. The purpose of this is to give you a focused method of evaluating the review so that you aren’t just swayed by the tone of the review. For example, let’s say that you’re looking for a hotel and the information that matters to you is its price, location and room size. A negative review that harps on the lack of a spa and the construction noise outside may sway you to think the hotel is bad, but if you’re focused on the fact that the review says price, room size and location are all great, then you’ll be able to read the review with a more open mind. Ultimately, the review should serve to provide you with the information you want about a product, not with just general information. Making a list of what you want to know before you read reviews will aid greatly in this.
  • Stars only matter so much. Most reviews come along with a rating either in the form of stars or points. You may use this information to get an idea of the reviewer’s opinion. However, the details of why the reviewer assigned this rating are far more important than the rating itself.
  • Always read more than one review. You should get information from multiple sources instead of relying on the information in a single review. This gives you a broad perspective on the overall quality of the product.
  • Double check for disclosures. A reviewer may use fine print to disclose a relationship that may have biased the review. Always double check for that when reading reviews.
  • A review is ultimately just an opinion. It is not fact and it is not the final say on the item. It can guide you in making your decision about buying a product but it shouldn’t be the only tool that you use to make this decision. Consider your own thoughts, your gut instinct and the opinions of friends as well.

What is your favorite go-to site for reading reviews?