Consumer Reports takes a look at review websites this month, including Angie’s List, Yelp, and Google+ Local. While there’s a hint of conflict of interest of a review-based business writing a review about competing review sites, the authors do make some compelling points…
We think that the ability of A- and B-rated companies to buy their way to the top of the default search results skews the results. Cheryl Reed, a spokeswoman for the company, disagrees. “We don’t believe that,” she says. But Angie’s List marketing materials intended for businesses say that companies that advertise get “an advantage of increased exposure” that “can propel you ahead of your competition.” They get 12 times more profile views than companies that don’t buy ads.
Angie’s List encourages businesses to solicit reviews by giving customers free, postage-paid forms, stickers on thank you notes, and Web links embedded in e-mail invoices. But experts who study survey techniques say that can create a bias for positive reviews.
Angie’s List misleads consumers by prominently promising that “businesses don’t pay” and that it’s a consumer-driven service supported by membership fees. But almost 70 percent of the company’s revenues come from advertising purchased by the service providers being rated. Angie’s List tells consumers that it provides “reviews you can trust,” and takes steps to detect and remove fraudulent positive and negative reviews. But company investment disclosures say that “we cannot guarantee the accuracy of our reviews.”
On many Front Porch Forums, recommendations among neighbors for a wide variety of local businesses are a big ongoing topic of interest. FPF makes no attempt to aggregate reviews or score businesses… we just provide a platform for neighbors to connect and talk about whatever they like. Having a conversation with neighbors who are recent customers of a certain roofer/plumber/mechanic/etc. can be much more valuable than a couple of sentences typed by an unknown stranger.