Reviews are a mess.
Thanks to sites like Amazon, the amount of products available nowadays is head spinning. Deciding what to buy is a daunting task, since a top product can look quite similar to a bottom-feeder from the outside looking in.
The answer used to be to check the reviews, but that didn’t last long, especially in the supplement industry. Reviews got gamed. Brands now pay for them to get written, or have their reps review the product without actually having used it!
It’s gotten so bad that Amazon started suing reviewers in 2015,, and just went through a new round of lawsuits a couple weeks ago on June 1, 2016 as well. But that’s clearly not enough, as they have a true epidemic on their hands, and these lawsuits have only scratched the tip of the iceberg.
ReviewMeta to the Rescue
Enter the brains behind SupplementReviews.com, who recently launched ReviewMeta. For those of you not familiar with SR, they are a community dedicated to providing accurate reviews on products that are verified and checked by moderators to ensure completeness and filter out the “This product rocks”-type of reviews that litter supplement sales site, Bodybuilding.com.
The guys at SR have developed a tool for separating out all of the junk reviews on Amazon andBodybuilding.com called ReviewMeta. It started with supplements, but the technology knows no bound.
How Does It Work?
Simply copy and paste a product page URL from Amazon or Bodybuilding.com into the search box on ReviewMeta.com. From there, ReviewMeta runs a series of tests on the reviews that currently exist to see if there are any patterns that would indicate “unnatural” reviews.
ReviewMeta not only looks at the individual reviews on the product, but the individuals writing the review to see if they have a history of providing quality or crap reviews. Once the data is collected, it’s put through an analyzer where 12 different tests are run using a unique statistical modeling tool. (For more info about statistical modeling, check out ReviewMeta’s in-depth explanation).
After the calculations are run, ReviewMeta spits out an “Adjusted Rating” based on the number of “natural” reviews and removes the low-quality, shilly ones. In addition to providing an easy to read score, there’s also an entire Report Card on the reviews showing you which tests the reviews failed, passed, or could potentially be false. From there, you can scroll through the Report card to get all the analytics and really learn how ReviewMeta dissects reviews and reviewers to ultimately help you make the most informed purchase possible.
The technology works best on products with several reviews – if there’s only five reviews on a product, there is not much of a sample size to learn from.
(Side note: Don’t be surprised if many of the products you see hyped in ads on the internet end up having drastically lower scores once they’ve been put through ReviewMeta’s algorithms.)
We asked Tommy, chief brain at SupplementReviews.com / ReviewMeta, why he went down this path. His answer:
I’ve been running SR for 10 years now, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of the shady tactics that brands use to try to pump up their ratings.Since I’m passionate about providing hype-free and honest reviews, I’ve successfully created a lot of safeguards to help keep this kind of low-quality, totally biased content off our site.Sadly, some of the other major reviewing platforms have been completely swamped by low quality reviews, and they aren’t as proactive about maintaining the integrity of their platforms as I have been.
Late last year, I got some requests to use my expert review-vetting senses on a few products on Amazon and Bodybuilding.com.As I spent hours looking over hundreds of profiles and compiling stats, I realized two things:
1.Just how massive the scale of this problem was.
2.I could write a computer program to automate the vetting of reviews and massively scale my investigation to create a detailed analysis on every product.
The gears were turning in my head and I started building the site.As I started seeing some preliminary data, it just further motivated me since some of the products had such blatantly biased reviews.8 months later, ReviewMeta.com was launched and is starting to change the way that people view online reviews.
— Tommy Noonan, ReviewMeta / SupplementReviews.com
At this point, a better question would be to ask Amazon and Bodybuilding why they haven’t done any deep-learning like this yet. Amazon has the programming capability, no doubt, and are only resorting to legal tactics, which don’t solve the actual problem.
And what would Bodybuilding have to lose by spamming and removing spammy reviews?
As always, follow the money.
Who are the biggest culprits?
One of the most interesting pages is the “Worst Products” page on ReviewMeta. As we write this, the system shows Fitmiss Tone as the product with the most unnatural reviews. It has 143 reviews on Bodybuilding.com that yield a 8.9/10 score. ReviewMeta, however, says that 127 of those reviews are junk — once they’re removed, you’re left with 16 reviews for a score of 5.2/10!
Not surprisingly, the next most violating product is SHREDZ 30 Day Quick Weight Loss Plan, whose 4.7/5 on Amazon from 133 reviews becomes a 2.3/5 from just five reviews the system deems honest and legit.
Eye-opening, but not surprising, sadly.
Can This Work for Any Review Site?
In theory, yes, but there’s a caveat. ReviewMeta works at its best when there are lots of data points (i.e. reviews and reviewers). Currently, in the supplement industry, the two richest sources for these commodities is Amazon and Bodybuilding.com, so those are the ones where they’re starting.
Rather than adding more supplement stores to get slightly better scores, it seems best to focus on where the fake review problem really is – these two sites – and allow the system to expand into other niches on Amazon as well.
What’s Up Next?
In this age of “give it to me now!” ReviewMeta understands that some people may not want to visit their site every single time their browsing a new product on Amazon or BB.com. To get around this, they’ve created browser extensions that install directly into your favorite web browser.
Now, while you’re browsing through the Top Pre Workouts list and get taken to Bodybuilding.com, you can simply click the extension button in your browser and automatically get directed to ReviewMeta where you can get the “Adjusted Rating” and determine if the product really is worth your hard earned money.
Currently, browser extensions are available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.Coming soon are extensions for Apple Safari and Internet Explorer.
What will happen to SR?
We asked Tommy if this meant the end of SupplementReviews, and he said,
While both sites share some guiding principles, they are technically two completely separate companies. I’m still just as passionate about both sites since both are ultimately helping consumers cut through the fluff that’s produced by the brands and get to the real information they’re seeking.
This isn’t just for supplements
Since Tommy didn’t develop this technology directly onto the SR platform, it seems clear that he’ll be taking it outside of supplements – or letting the technology take itself in that direction as new users come. This is exciting, because there’s a whole big world of fraudulent reviews out there.
There’s not much else to say other than THANK YOU!
A tool like this has been needed for a long, LONG time for mega retail sites such as Amazon and BB.com. Millions of people have most likely wasted millions of dollars on products that were bought under the guise of over-inflated ratings. In an industry filled with connivers and frauders, it’s refreshing to see some people are still out there to help the average joe.
The only questions that remain are how ReviewMeta will reach the masses, and why Amazon and Bodybuilding have done seemingly nothing about the first place.
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- Mullin, J. (2015). Amazon sues 1,114 reviewers, some selling their opinions for $5. Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 June 2016, from http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/10/amazon-sues-1114-reviewers-some-selling-reviews-for-5/
- Conger, K. (2016). Amazon sues sellers for buying fake reviews. TechCrunch. Retrieved 13 June 2016, from http://techcrunch.com/2016/06/01/amazon-sues-sellers-for-buying-fake-reviews/