Before we buy a new gadget or try a new restaurant, most of us look at the reviews at Amazon, or Yelp, or whichever online retailer or site we’re browsing, just to make sure we’re not wasting our hard earned money on something useless. Even so, those reviews can be a crap-shoot. Some are useless and angry, and others are so glowing that can’t be real. The best ones walk between, and regardless of the experience the reviewer had, they offer up the kind of information that’s invaluable when making a decision. Here’s how you can write those kinds of reviews.
Think Before You Write: Some Tips to Remember
Include relevant details, and omit the extraneous ones. Don’t get me wrong, everyone likes a good story, and part of the best online reviews I’ve read is the way the reviewer set up the situation so I could identify with his or her experience. Even so, you want to make sure you include things like the date you went to a restaurant or shop, when you placed an order or opened your product, who you ordered through if it wasn’t the site you’re writing the review on, and of course, lay out your experience with relevant information to your complaint or compliment. If you had a tough time getting service at a restaurant, other readers will want to know what time of day you went, whether the restaurant was crowded, and whether the staff ignored you outright, or something specific (like your order took too long to arrive, or it took a long time to receive a package) was the root of your issue. Trim out the fat, like the weather, what you were wearing, or where you sat unless it’s important.
Offer yourself up for validation. This one may not work for everyone, but it can go a long way towards making sure that your review stands out, and no one doubts its veracity. Open yourself up to commentary. If you’re writing on Yelp or Amazon, use your real name, or invite readers to message you if they have additional questions about your experience. If you want a response from the business or the manager, leave some contact information, even if it’s an email address you opened specifically for the task. Giving people a way to contact you to corroborate your story, or even share their own experience, makes your words more powerful. Again, it’s not for everyone—sometimes you need the cover of anonymity to be truthful and honest without fear or reprisal, and we understand that. If you can stand behind your words though, it helps.
Remember and note that your review is just your experience. Qualify your statements with that—no one needs to hear “and I’ve heard lots of other people have the same problem.” That just sounds like you’re manufacturing those “other people” to bolster your opinion. Make it clear that this is what happened to you, and that other people’s experiences may vary, even if yours was particularly positive. Point out why you think you may have had your specific experience—perhaps your meal was late because of what you ordered? Or maybe a hotel upgraded you to a suite because you approached them with kindness. Don’t be afraid to speculate—future readers will benefit from it.
Address the other side of the story. Finally, remember that there’s another side to your story. Positive reviews almost never get challenged, but they’re also most often ignored by future readers. Negative reviews draw the most attention, and while most people are smart enough to look over all reviews and omit the ones that are strange, particularly useless, or irrelevant to them, even negative reviews can be useful if you address why you think your experience unfolded the way it did, by putting yourself on the other side of the issue. Sometimes there’s no excuse for poor treatment, bad service or a horrific experience, but if you can show a little understanding, it goes a long way towards validating your review as an honest one—even if a future reader still decides to steer clear of the place.