Is this online review site telling you the truth?

If you’re booking a weekend getaway, buying a new grill, or trying to find the best beer garden in the area, you might want to check your smartphone or laptop first to read some reviews online.

How influential are online reviews?

Of course, you know that you shouldn’t believe every review you read. Yet nearly 80% of consumers trust online review sites as much as personal recommendations, according to a BrightLocal study, and nearly 75% say positive reviews trust a business more.

Only about 25% think the information available on review sites is unfair, according to another survey from Maritz Research. As you might expect, both studies found that older baby boomers trust online review sites less than younger consumers who grew up logging in, reading, and valuing reviews.

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While new review sites are constantly popping up, consumers tend to stick with the bigger and more established ones. Maritz Research surveyed more than 3,400 people last year for their opinions on 13 customer review and rating sites. The online travel site TripAdvisor and the restaurant review site Zagat topped their list of “most trusted sites”. OpenTable, which rates and reviews restaurants, automotive website Edmunds.com, and Yelp, which also rates restaurants and other local businesses, round out the top five.

Determine which online reviews are the most reliable

The number of reviews on these sites can be overwhelming. TripAdvisor has more than 150 million reviews and opinions on its site. Yelp has over 57 million local reviews. Which online sites to trust and which to discount?

Here are four key steps to follow:

1. Consult the examiner

Check out other reviews of the same reviewer to help you decide how much confidence to place in that person’s opinions. Beware of “one-off” or “first-time” reviewers. Read reviewer articles on products, companies, and services other than the one you are looking to purchase.

Also, “Google” the reviewer and search for it on social networks. Some sites require people to use their Facebook account to post comments.

2. Read a dozen reviews on several sites

If you rush to make a dinner reservation, book a trip, or buy a product before the “sale” ends, you might not take the time to read a lot of reviews to form an opinion on the site. and decide if he is trustworthy.

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One study found that most consumers make a decision after reading less than seven reviews. Don’t skimp. Compare reviews on multiple sites to determine if there is a trend.

TripAdvisor says that, on average, people read more than a dozen reviews on its site before deciding where to book. A dozen reviews is a good guideline for every consumer, but be sure to check out multiple sites.

3. Beware of similar terms in reviews

You may find that a reviewer used the same wording in reviews for a number of products or services. This can be an indication that the examiner is being paid for the exams. Additionally, if the reviewer uses specific wording that is helpful to the consumer looking for a particular product, it may be a paid blogger for the business.

4. Delivery of “extreme” opinions

You know some reviewers will love this hotel or restaurant and others will hate it. If a reviewer is completely exaggerating by making overwhelmingly positive or negative feedback, it is worth checking out the reviewer. They can be encouraged to publish this notice (competition or remuneration). Or maybe it is a fake.

What if you think an online review is fake?

While the law says reviewers must disclose if they have a connection to the business, some businesses may ask family and friends to write reviews or pay people to contribute and feature complimentary testimonials. as impartial recommendations. It can be difficult to tell if the reviewer has a connection to the company, but searching the Internet for the reviewer can give you some insight.

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Try to verify if the reviewer actually purchased a product. Amazon.com, for example, will tell you if a reviewer purchased the item they are reviewing through the online store.

Check the site with an independent third-party source, such as Consumer Reports or the Better Business Bureau.

If you believe the notice is fake, contact the Federal Trade Commission.

By CNBC’s Sharon Epperson