Local Reviews are Overrated

18 Jun

How things turn eh?

I read about Local.com adding reviews, and I thought to myself – “is it really that important?”

I look back to my experiences when trying to find something. Be it a doctor, lawyer, or a restaurant – the only time I have ever given a damn about reviews is for restaurants. Most times doctors, lawyers, etc only have a few reviews, and one bad (or good) experience can easily be an anomaly.

Lets take a simple example – finding a doctor. I have a bum knee (on account of a soccer injury), and wanted to find a doctor that had experience in that area. I also wanted to find out how many years the doctor had worked, where they got their degrees, and so forth. Honestly, my interest in reviews was quite low.

This is quite the turn for me – I was trumpeting reviews (and user-generated content) for a long time earlier, but I am starting to shy away from it. About the only place I think reviews work at all are restaurants. In other areas I’ve become convinced that reviews are not the holy grail. No – the holy grail is knowledge about each business (contextual information). Educate me so I can find who I need.

… On a tangent this brings up my favorite argument against reviews – if a business has good reviews, why bother advertising on your site? And if a business has bad reviews, why bother advertising on your site?

Not to mention other problems with reviews – quality, quantity, relevance, spam, shills, and so forth.

7 Responses to Local Reviews are Overrated


Michael Wood-Lewis

June 18th, 2008 at 11:11 pm

A contrarian view! Ahmed… I’ll agree if you add “anonymous” to your panning of most local reviews. We find that reviews from clearly identified nearby neighbors are tremendously popular in the 130 online neighborhood forums that we host in our pilot metro-area (greater Burlington, VT). Need a plumber? Ask a neighbor. Better yet, use Front Porch Forum and ask 100 neighbors.

And one other problem with reviews… many get stale quickly. A restaurant might get a few great reviews over a period of months, and then get a bad score from the health inspector or temporarily close due to a kitchen fire… the reviews likely won’t catch that… but asking 100 neighbors might.

Cheers! And welcome back to North America. -Michael



June 18th, 2008 at 11:13 pm

Ahh – not in NA just yet. Not for another two months!

Okay yes – in the purely neighborhood sense, *IF* you can build the base (which you guys are doing), then it works. But at the same time – it doesn’t. A recommendation is NOT a review. Maybe a follow-up post – the future is in recommendations, not in reviews :)



June 19th, 2008 at 10:38 am

Another issue: the quandry if someone is advertising on your site and gets a bad review. According to the client, it’s a competitor who’s just bad mouthing the client. Do you A) do nothing and potentially lose an advertiser, B) remove the review and risk a reputation for censoring reviews of advertisers (and what if it really wasn’t a competitor but a customer with a valid bad review?) and also put you at rick for the reviewer to start bad mouthing YOUR site all over the place, C) mediate between the two parties to see if it’s actually a valid complaint and see if you can negotiate some sort of agreememnt between the client and reviewer?

Obvious A will cost you money. B can cost you your reputation, and also open you up to lawsuits from disgruntled sue-happy people who feel you’re helping people slander their businesses. C will eat up lots of time and resources and in many cases will never appease an realistic nut case reviewer.



June 19th, 2008 at 10:43 am

Yep Dave – just one of the many damn issues.

I think I’ve literally about-faced on reviews in 72 hours.



June 19th, 2008 at 11:36 am

I disagree, an example in the past few weeks that I’ve looked up time and time again are reviews on golf courses. Sure there might be only a few areas where local reviews add something, but where those reviews are added I find the information invaluable. I go to local sites based on who has the most reviews typically.


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