A review site is a website on which reviews can be posted about people, businesses, products, or services. These sites may use Web 2.0 techniques to gather reviews from site users or may employ professional writers to author reviews on the topic of concern for the site. Early examples of review sites included ConsumerDemocracy.com, Complaints.com, planetfeedback.com, and Epinions.com.
Studies by independent research groups like Forrester Research, comScore, The Kelsey Group, and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association show that rating and review sites influence consumer shopping behavior. In an academic study published in 2008, empirical results demonstrated that the number of online user reviews is a good indicator of the intensity of underlying word-of-mouth effect and increased awareness.
Originally, reviews were generally anonymous, and in many countries, review sites often have policies that preclude the release of any identifying information without a court order. According to Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the anonymity of reviewers is important. Reviewers are always required to provide an email address and are often encouraged to use their real name. Yelp also requires a photo of the reviewer.
Review sites are generally supported by advertising. Some business review sites may also allow businesses to pay for enhanced listings, which do not affect the reviews and ratings. Product review sites may be supported by providing affiliate links to the websites that sell the reviewed items. With the growing popularity of affiliate programs on the Internet, a new sort of review site has emerged - the affiliate product review site.
This type of site is usually professionally designed and written to maximize conversions and is used by e-commerce marketers. It is often based on a blog platform like WordPress, has a privacy and contact page to help with SEO, and has commenting and interactivity turned off. It will also have an e-mail gathering device in the form of an opt-in, or drop-down list to help the aspiring e-commerce business person build an e-mail list to market to.
Most review sites make little or no attempt to restrict postings or to verify the information in the reviews. Critics point out that positive reviews are sometimes written by the businesses or individuals being reviewed, while negative reviews may be written by competitors, disgruntled employees, or anyone with a grudge against the business being reviewed. So-called reputation management firms may also submit false positive reviews on behalf of businesses.
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