In 2005, we gave an InfoCommerce Model of Excellence award to a company called ValueStar. We described it as a "for-profit Better Business Bureau," which doesn't capture all the nuances of the service, but gives you the general idea.

What stood out to us at the time was that while it relied heavily on user ratings, ValueStar went to extreme lengths to assure those that were rating a vendor had actually done business with the vendor. It seemed like overkill at the time, but with so many sites now drowning in user-supplied ratings (many of which are of suspect origin as merchants realize the power of their reviews), ValueStar's concept of validating user input looks prescient.

Last year, I wrote about another company, Tablet Hotels, which had announced it was adding user reviews. No news there, but Tablet Hotels upped the ante in the travel category by limiting reviews to those it could confirm had actually stayed at the hotel they were reviewing. While Tablet Hotels didn't publish the names of those who submitted reviews, it required that users identify themselves when posting their reviews. That might seem crazy to those publishers seeking to build a large volume of review on their sites, but I argued that Tablet Hotels was actually quite clever, because its approach removed all credibility issues while forcing users to take responsibility for their words by asking them to identify themselves.

Just yesterday, I was speaking with Mike Ortner of Capterra, an online buying guide for software. Capterra has gone where few publishers dare to tread: letting its users provide software reviews, including the products of its advertisers.

The process Capterra has devised is highly controlled. Users are required to identify themselves when providing a review, and their company names and job titles (but not their names) are published along with the review. It has purposely built a lengthy review submission form, the better to weed out those who are not serious and engaged. Capterra advertisers are allowed to preview all reviews of their products before they go live, and can challenge factual inaccuracies or reviews from users who aren't customers. There's much more to what Capterra is doing in the area of reviews, but my point here is a basic one: while all publishers are eager to have as many user reviews as possible on their sites, smart publishers are realizing that quantity at the expense of quality is a mistake. Reviews that can be trusted, submitted by responsible parties who are willing to identify themselves, have much more impact and value - even to advertisers, the group you would think would be least interested in seeing unvarnished reviews alongside their advertising programs.

Model of Excellence Awards

We are pleased to announce that Unigo LLC is a finalist for an InfoCommerce 2009 Model of Excellence awards.
Review Unigo's Model of Excellence profile here

Hear Unigo Founder & CEO Jordan Goldman at DataContent 09
DataContent 09: All Roads Lead to Data. Full program here.

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