Ask yourselves this, when last have you been able to find a decent tech review on Google? Sure, sometimes you may come across one or two reviews from major sites, but in my experience it seems that every time I try and Google for a tech product review I get inundated by dozens of search results from price comparison sites. Pricegrabber, Bizrate, Shopbot–how many of these things do we need?! Even Reseller Ratings, a site which originally served to review online stores, has dedicated much of their site to price comparisons. I’m not at all against consumers empowering themselves by making well-informed purchases, but after a certain point it seems that these sites have become more of a hindrance to consumers than a benefit by making it harder to find legitimate reviews.
You can see the problem for yourself by looking at this search for the Samsung 906BW monitor. My search string was simple: “Samsung 906BW Review”. The search may have changed since I ran it at the time of this post, so I’ve provided a screen shot just in case. As you can see, the entirety of the first results page points to stores and price comparison sites. You can also see why those results rose to the top; many of the links plaster “Review” across their title even if they contain no reviews.
This is especially disheartening for the results from CNET and ZDNET. These are sites I normally trust for product reviews, but when I click on one of their links and end up with price comparisons and a few user reviews, I end up feeling somewhat cheated. They are gaming Google, but it seems that no one has complained about it yet.
So what is a consumer to do? Initially, I thought up the idea for a review aggregator site that would compile expert reviews in a social format. This was to be my Web 2.0 cash cow until I realized that Viewscore and Wize already beat me to it. Both sites seem to be doing basically the same thing by compiling expert and user reviews and bestowing an aggregated rank on the product. Thankfully, they seperate the user and expert reviews, which is another one of my problems with running a Google search for reviews.
I prefer Viewscore’s granulated approach to review scoring compared to Wize’s pass/fail system which seems often to oversimplify many reviews. Review aggregators have existed for a while now in other mediums (Rotten Tomatoes, for example), but I’m glad to see that tech reviews are finally getting the same treatment. My only worry is that the average user will not pick up on these sites and will be stuck with awful search results until Google and other search providers step up. They may be under a professional banner, but most are just as much spam as that Viagra email waiting in your inbox.
(Update 7.25.08): Greetings Redditors! This article was written more than a year ago, but this problem still clearly affects Google and other search engines. In the comments below, Adrian recommended Get Me Back My Google, which seems to offer a bit of relief against the flood of useless price comparison sites.