Ratings – how much should we believe in them?

Ratings are now used in pretty much everywhere you go on the web. Google even has ratings advertized in it’s search results for the websites and the products that people want to purchase. How much can you rely on them and how much effort should you place on ratings for your site? Hopefully some of the points here will help you make those decisions.

Firstly, it really boils down to the type of business that you have, if you want ratings to help you get more customers. If you are selling shoes, let’s say, then ratings would be a good bet on what you are selling. The likely scenario is that if you have no ratings, people may assume that there is no business on your site and go to another site. If you are selling very specialized types of shoes, then that would be different. Take the example of the unique shoes offered by the site gravitydefyer.com and you will see that many of its line of shoes do not have any type of reviews at all.

The popular site yelp has ratings on businesses that could swing users to lean on companies that have higher ratings over others that do not. But then again, we can easily overlook ratings based on the number of reviews. For example, some business establishments can achieve high ratings with a handful of customers initially and then their ratings would correspondingly go down as they have to handle more customers and possibly more problems. Make sure to check the numbers in the brackets against the rating. A five star rating with only 1 review is likely suspect but a 4 star rating with 500 reviews is more likely accurate. But then again, you might see 16 reviews with a 5 star rating which can be equally suspect especially if you read the actual reviews.

One of the problems with reviews is that there are many folks who would immediately mark a review of 1 star if the unit arrives defective. This actually derails the value of the unit and it’s worth which is basically an honest review of the working product. Manufacturers would have to ramp up their quality checks to avoid high negative ratings by those users.

The ratings have been around for a long time. Heck, I started doing ratings implementation in 2001 when I built a site to review other online dating sites that were popping up all over the place at that time. Over time the rating system has become an essential part of everyday business. Amazon attracts plenty of users based on ratings of it’s products and I often go there to review the ratings on a product before I make a purchase. Not all websites have the ‘stomach’ to advertise it’s true ratings on the product. For example, say you had a new product launched and the first review gave you a ⅕ rating, this would require some courageous effort on your part to plough advertising dollars on that specific product. You may feel the urge to ditch that random rating in favor of no rating on the product. However, there are ways to circumvent this problem and that is for the company to respond directly to the user of the rating and place it right next to theirs. In this way, a new user may come to the site and see it as something that the company is addressing and potentially a one-off problem.

In the next part of this subject, we will talk about how some companies have added bogus ratings on their product but it actually helped them to enter a very competitive market. We are not advocating such a practise but just to show you how ratings may not necessarily have the effect that you are always looking for. Stay tuned!

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