Much of the online research we do these days about products and services involves reading user or customer reviews. But can you trust what you are reading online? Recently, it came to light that Stephen Lather, top selling Amazon Kindle author, and RJ Ellory, bestselling British crime writer, had been posting fake reviews of their own books to boost up sales. As shocking as the revelation may have been, it is nothing uncommon in the world of online marketing and product placement.

According to the research conducted by Bing Liu, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois, about 30% of online reviews on certain products are fake. Another research done at the Cornell University discovered that about 10% of offline reviews are fake. This means that 40% of all the reviews that you read (both online and offline) are by people who have a self-interest in posting the review. So how can you find the genuine reviews?

Researchers have pondered over that question and built algorithms to detect fake reviews. For example, if you go to Cornell University's Review Skeptic and paste a hotel review that you have found, the website tells you whether it is fake or not. But for most reviews, there is really no way to know whether it is genuine or fake. So if you are looking for a contractor to repair your roof, for example, you will have to shift through mounds of online reviews before you can be sure you can trust what you are reading. 

There is no doubt that a large number of online reviews are genuine and when written by a person with a flair for writing, they can be highly informative. Such a review can really help you buy the best product or service available in the market. For example, in a genuine review of roof repair contractors in your area, you can find detailed descriptions about their services and costs.

However, reviews can sometimes be misleading. Fake reviews often fall into two types: those that praise a product or service and those that disparage a competitor's product or service. Both types of reviews are highly skewed and are of little value to the consumer. It is suspected that even big-name companies are involved in fake reviews to promote their products and services.

One way you can determine whether an online review is fake or not is by looking at the "bias". If the review is too favorable to a company's products or services, then there is a high probability that it may have been sponsored by the company. On the other hand, if the review is full of venom against a company's products or services, then chances are that it may be the handiwork of a rival company or a single customer who has blown an issue out of proportion. So, when using online reviews to choose a roof repair company, trust only those reviews that discuss both the pros and cons of using the company's services. 

It’s important to take online reviews lightly and not base your entire purchasing decision on what you read on the internet. Also take into account word of mouth reviews, the number of years the company has been in business, get referrals from the company themselves and take a look at some of their completed projects yourself. Only by doing thorough research using a number of methods will you be able to determine which Toronto roofing company you want to work with.