The Good, The Bad, & The Incredible Usefulness Of User-Generated Content

Here’s a callout to the community! From all of us who operate locally focused sites, thanks are in order to the users who write reviews about local businesses such that others can make more informed decisions. User-generated reviews, as we have mentioned in past columns, are not a ‘silver bullet’ that can build or sustain […]

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Here’s a callout to the community! From all of us who operate locally focused sites, thanks are in order to the users who write reviews about local businesses such that others can make more informed decisions. User-generated reviews, as we have mentioned in past columns, are not a ‘silver bullet’ that can build or sustain Web sites on their own. However, they sure can add relevant and useful content, as well as some entertaining anecdotes.

Since we launched more than 100,000 sites in late June, I have had the chance to comb through many of the thousands of user reviews that have come in. It is enjoyable to step back from the day-to-day work we all do and take a look at what the community is capable of producing!

In browsing through the reviews, I was specifically looking for:

  • Good reviews: Providing sufficient details about a business to offer useful, unique content that truly helps other users make better decisions
  • Informative reviews: Alerting site operators and consumers to up-to-the-moment information on business closures or changes
  • Constructively critical reviews: Good user generated content is not always about favorable reviews, after all
  • Ironic, amusing, and other interesting reviews: See for yourself!

The good: This user provides useful details about a hotel: “Based on our recent stay, the hotel was just okay. I chose it primarily because of location. The lobby and dining area is very nice. The pool is okay, it’s a lap pool, just a bit small and was crowded. Pool area was clean though. Room was quite small for a King Suite. Decor was pretty dated in my opinion. Living room area was dark due to not having any windows. Good location and views, but overall I need more room than it offered. Little too small for more than one person.”

The bad: This reviewer does not include enough information about a karate school: “This place is the greatest – No other Karate School like it.”

The positive: This consumer provides positive details on a barbershop, with a twist on an old adage: “This place was clean, friendly and offered great service. Mostly family owned, the family that cuts hair together stays together! Great service for the whole family too. I have my hair done there on a regular basis, but now am taking the kids too. They look chic and upscale, but without the price tag! Check them out!”

The negative (constructive criticism): A regular customer of a bike shop writes about a specific concern: “The guys that work there have been knowledgeable and helpful, but the owner/manager at the central store was extremely insulting and non-customer service oriented on covering a minor seat problem on a new bike that was purchased less than a month ago. I have purchased all my bikes there, but after the last extremely unpleasant experience with the manager, I will never darken their door again.”

And a repeat customer of a restaurant franchise points out consistent flaws with a particular location: “I have eaten at other [restaurants in this chain] before and been pleased. My experiences at this one though have not been good. The food has either been very slow in coming to the table or not cooked right when it got there. I have had cold food served to me and a not so friendly wait staff who didn’t want to assist. They were slow, the tables were sticky, and I will not go back. I have been there 4 times and not once was it a good experience.”

The informative: A reviewer alerting us and our site’s users’ about a change to this banquet facility: “While the Ballroom at Church Street has been a popular wedding site, it has recently been sold, and not booking weddings/receptions.”

And this user calling out a recently closed business: “Betty’s Hair Boutique closed in 2007 after the owner retired.”

The compelling: Every so often a feel-good story about a business emerges: “I have a checking acct. with this bank. 2 days before I was to go on vacation my purse was stolen at my job. All my vacation money was spent by the thief using my visa check card. The people at this bank went out of their way to replace the money and give me a temporary ATM card to use while I was in FLA. This bank has many branches and is always ready to help you.”

The owner: Business owners should be encouraged to participate, as long as they identify themselves as the owner: “Hello,This is my first Business and it’s a Franchise. My wife and I and 7 family members work at the store. We have been blessed and welcome all of you. Please stop by as this is like no other Party/Gift store imaginable.”

The ironic and amusing: Talk about a deadbeat florist: “I got DEAD flowers. I ordered flowers for a funeral and they were DEAD, and VERY expensive too!”

And this travel tip: “This place would scare the Bates Motel. Sleep behind a dumpster, it’s cleaner. Roaches, bad AC, staff could care less.”

The breadth: A storage facility: “This is a great facility offering climate or non climate units. Gated security, friendly staff and very clean. My son had a unit there for a while and was very pleased with the facility and its management. Great rates also. If we ever need storage again this is where I would go.

A security system company: “Great clean installation of my security system. I’d refer my mom!!”

A pool hall: “Top quality place attracts top quality players. I have played in many of the pool halls in the area. This one attracts some of the best local players. Looking for great pool atmosphere, this is it. Looking for great players, this is it. Has a bar and good food.”

With any type of review, we always advise our consumers to consider reviews in totality—that is, one reviewer’s Bates Motel could be another’s Shangri-La. The wisdom of groups should converge on an accurate overall assessment.

Through it all, it is a fun and educational exercise to scan local reviews, where the good, the bad, and the amusing meet.

Chris Linnett is director of Open List for Marchex. The Locals Only column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

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Chris Linnett

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