|Posted on February 12, 2015 at 5:30 PM|
Today's marketplace has moved over to online advertising. Take a look at the difference between a phonebook from 2005, and today; the difference is significant. Part of that advertising comes in the form of online reviews. Even Google uses reviews as part of their algorithm in ranking sites for SEO. And, this often leads to businesses often asking former customers or clients to place reviews of their products or services online. The important part to remember is that not all reviews, nor review sites are considered equal.
The review system in today’s marketplace is extensively abused. In the grand scheme, Google has probably the most reliable review system available. Google requires reviewers to setup a Google Plus account before they can post reviews of a business. This system allows for Google to monitor that account to determine whether it was setup only to post a single review of business (ghost account), or is an account that is regularly used, and contains unique content and activity. Google also has a system of filters that allows them to detect if a review comes from an IP address that is too closely associated with the IP address of the business or business members. Even so, this algorithm does not always detect an unreliable review. In essence, Google is generally able to kick out reviews that don’t meet certain criteria for legitimacy. Always keep in mind that a friend, family member, coworker, or another vendor is always capable of posting a review, and it's nearly impossible for any review system to catch those occurences. This problem lies at the heart of this unreliable review system.
Yelp is another review-based system, and has a very strict review evaluation algorithm. In fact, more than 50% of reviews for any given business are filtered out as “Not Recommended.” These are reviews that may fail a single factor in the Yelp protocol. There is a multi-op DJ company here in Albuquerque that placed a review on Yelp under their own account, and you can actually see that the review is, “Not Recommended.” So, Yelp does catch most unreliable reviews, but it also filters those that are legitimate as well. Being too stringent in their review system makes the whole system unreliable. Did you know that there are folks who will actually sell reviews as a Yelp reviewer after they become a trusted Yelper?
Then you have a company like WeddingWire, which has gained most of its online presence around 2011, and into the present time. Most vendors signup with a free storefront on WeddingWire because it has an substantial backlink system, and a network of other Wedding and Event sites. WeddingWire gives out an award every year called the Couple’s Choice Award which was formally called Bride’s Choice Award. The site claims that the award is based on four criteria:
1. Overall Rating (Quality)
2. Total Number of Reviews (Quantity)
3. Review Performance over the year (Recent)
4. And Consistency of reviews from year to year (Consistency)
The winners are able to put some fancy language on their site about excellent quality and service, and then a misleading 5 star icon on their website. All this fancy stuff is created to make the vendor look special, but let’s go ahead and dissect what this award really is. Now, I could break down each factor in this criteria, and give you the problems associated with each one, but let’s just consider the one thing that the award is based on, WeddingWire reviews.
The WeddingWire system is much more inferior at filtering out fake reviews than say Google is. If you go onto WeddingWire and have a look at the reviews that get posted for vendors there are certain red flags that indicate a fake or biased review. Look to see if the string of reviews all sound the same. One of my competitors has a list of WeddingWire reviews containing maybe two to three sentences with almost all qualifying language such as (they are the best, he was awesome, he was remarkable, etc...). You hardly see any details about the event such as where it took place, any dates, how they mixed genres together, if they were recommended, the type of equipment they used, etc…. A client who actually hired the vendor will have a ton of detailed information to talk about, and a fake poster will have very little and less factual. Also look for a vendor response containing facts instead of qualifying language.
Another factor to look for is who made the posting. Does it sound like a typically used name? Is the review made anonymous? Is there any picture posted of the person? A real reviewer will often show they are proud to have made the decision to hire a particular vendor. They will post their full name, a picture, and the date of event. Also consider how many posts that person made; if only one, that screams out fake review.
Also consider whether there are lots of WeddingWire reviews (eg. 20 or more), and virtually none or just a couple of Google reviews. This is a huge discrepancy since it’s much easier to post a fake review on WeddingWire and much harder to post a fake review on Google or Yelp. Look to see if the same reviewer also posted the review on Google or Yelp.
Last but not least, make sure you uncover if the company receiving the award pays WeddingWire for advertising. WeddingWire charges between $700 and $2400 per year depending on the advertising package a vendor purchases with them. Take a step back and consider the process that takes place here. Do you really think that WeddingWire is going to give an award to a vendor that has not purchased a package with them? To me, this is the same process of bribing a judge for higher placement in a beauty contest. In the end, do you really want to depend on an award given out by a company that has not even seen the vendor in action? That’s like the Oscar judges giving out an award for best picture to “Gigili” based on what was posted on Twitter (if Twitter was around back then).
There are other wedding advertising companies out there that partake in the same sort of award process as WeddingWire; it’s just that WeddingWire tends be the most brash and unscrupulous in its approach.
So, now that you’ve seen how unreliable the review system can be, how does one make a reliable decision since reviews suffer from such untrustworthiness? MEET THE VENDOR IN PERSON!! Reviews and meaningless flashy awards cater to the lazy client. These clients have a major event such as a wedding, but are not willing to put in the footwork to meet vendors in person. They see a few reviews, and figure a decision based on that. I've worked with a certain photography company many times, and I like their philosophy that you should meet with at least 10 photographers before making a decision. The same goes for DJs.
A DJ can sound great on the phone, and often acts as the sales person of company who is only wishing to close the deal with you. And, when you do meet in person, make sure that you meet with the DJ who will be doing your event!! It does you no good to talk with the owner who meets with you in a flashy outfit, and an ego the size of the Sandia Mountains. Demand to meet with the one who is actually going to do your event because he or she is the person you will be dealing with before and on the day of the event. If the arrogant DJ/Salesperson doesn’t allow for that then come talk to me, and we will treat you the proper way.
Thanks for reading.
Categories: Online Reviews: A Tall Tale