Ratings, Reviews and Relevance Criteria

I wanted to call attention to an interesting piece from Gord Hotchkiss in MediaPost. He writes:

"[N]o one with enough market traction has taken up the task of aggregating [consumer ratings/opinion] information into an easy-to-digest rating system. There is no 'seal of approval' that comes from customers. But for the first time, the potential is there . . .How about search engines? Can they provide customers with a podium to be heard from? They're already the most popular sites online, so critical mass and traffic certainly won't be a problem."

This is a fascinating suggestion.

We've long said that user-generated content — ratings and reviews (and by extension blogs/social networking) — is important to next generation local search products. Consumers clearly value this information as a kind of online word-of-mouth.

Indeed, Yahoo! Local, Google Local and AOL Local are all integrating this information into their products. (Yahoo! 360 will potentially accelerate the process of generating this content.) And several IYPs are mulling this over.

Gord Hotchkiss is suggesting that search engines aggregate and present consumer/user-generated information about businesses and brands. To take that one step further — he is suggesting this by implication — why not make this information part of the relevance algorithm itself?

As good as they are, search engines can improve considerably and offer a great deal more structure (and thus help) to a user, especially in the local context.

As Hotchkiss points out in his article, TripAdvisor ranks hotels by popularity (user reviews/ratings). Why not factor that into the presentation of search results?

As a consumer, I don't care how big the index is, I just want good information/answers.

Assuming it could be elegantly done, ranking businesses in search results partly by customer satisfaction, though it carries some potential pitfalls, would be extremely valuable.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Greg

    Agree, there's a danger. See: http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/050401-100252

    But the possibility of fraud isn't a reason to abandon the effort to aggregate it for consumers, who do find it valuable.

  2. D

    The low cost and “democratic” appearance of user-generated content is appealing. The possibility of “review/ratings fraud”, however, and the actual minority nature of user-generated content may hamper its potential. More than 50% of individual bogs are abandoned upon creation and the percentage of Internet users posting public content is in the low single digits. Those who do take the initiative to post are generally anonymous and often motivated by extreme positions.

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