excessively positive reviewsA friend sent me this article today about a study of reviews and how they impact conversions (or sales).

Their conclusion will come as no surprise to TeleRead readers.

The study also found that positive star ratings didn’t influence sales. Only the content of the reviews impacted conversions. This might be because everybody has a different definition of what counts as a 5 or 0 star product, and the review itself contains the information to make that judgment for yourself.
But here’s the thing…
While the star ratings themselves didn’t influence sales, the variability in star ratings positively influenced sales.

In other words, if a visitor sees nothing but 5 star reviews, they get suspicious.

(Bolding is from the original article)

The timing of my friend sending this article was ironic. He’d sent me a coupon code for a free subscription to a webinar series he’d created. In the email he asked me to rate and review the series, but not to leave anything other than a 5 star review. I emailed him back and told him why I thought that was a bad idea. I convinced him, but then this article showed up to reinforce my case.

Nothing in the study was a surprise to me. I’ve been using similar criteria when deciding to buy a book for some time. I’ve been sold by 2 star reviews before because the reviewers were specific about what they didn’t like. Since I knew I would like those things, I bought the book.

Just reinforces that the most important reviews are ones from actual readers who are honest about why they did (or didn’t) like a book. Readers are smart enough to spot sock puppets, and we as authors risk insulting their intelligence if we don’t remember that.


  1. I never even thought about it analytically before, but I have a tendency to do the same thing when reading reviews. I mostly ignore the 5 star reviews, (other to mentally note that they are there,), but carefuly read a few of the 1 or 2 star reviews to see if there is substance to the low reating, of it’s just an innane complaint. Hmmm.

  2. @Bill, definitely. And it means that the authors buying reviews (assuming that’s still happening) are hurting themselves too, which doesn’t displease me. I figure authors need to assume intelligence on the part of their readers.

    @Rashkae, sure you do, and many other readers do as well, even, if like you, they don’t think about it. It’s human nature to read the complaints.

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