What to Look for in Online Reviews for Marketing Companies

Published on September 7, 2023

Online reviews are a bogus measure of a company’s actual quality. The good ones are often paid for, and the bad ones are usually just irate exceptions to the norm that don’t share the full story. 

To really understand a company based on reviews, you can’t look at average star ratings or just skim the most extreme opinions. This is especially true for B2B companies and services. If you’re going to put any stock in online reviews, you need to actually sit with them, identify the credible ones, and get a sense of how that individual’s experience may be relevant (or not) to yours. 

How to Spot Bogus Reviews

First, you need to get a sense of how much a company is paying to keep their reviews squeaky clean. Are they paying to scrub bad reviews? Are employees pumping good ones to artificially inflate the star rating? Here are the warning signs to watch out for. 

  1. Single Review Accounts: If a reviewer has only posted one review, especially if it’s overly positive, it may be a red flag. It’s uncommon for someone to create an account just to leave a single review.
  2. Vague Reviews: Fake reviews, both positive and negative, often lack specific details about the product or service. They might use generic praise or criticism without mentioning any concrete experiences.
  3. Extreme Ratings: Fake reviews may cluster at either end of the rating scale, being either extremely positive or negative. Genuine reviews often fall somewhere in the middle.
  4. Sudden Influx of Reviews: If there’s a sudden spike in reviews within a short period, the reviews are being manipulated. Either the company is forcing employees to participate, or they paid a vendor to spam the review site. Natural reviews tend to trickle in gradually over time.
  5. Similar Language Across Reviews: If multiple reviews use similar language or phrases, it could suggest that they were written by the same person or even a bot. 

Of course, there are plenty of other ways a company can fudge their online review presence, but these principles will help guide you. 

What to Look for in Good Reviews 

Once you’ve eliminated the companies that are completely full of it on review sites, here are some key elements to look for in these reviews that can indicate whether an agency is actually a good fit:

  1. Relevance of Services: Look for reviews from businesses that are similar to yours in terms of size, industry, or target audience. If the agency has successfully served such businesses, it’s more likely they will understand your unique needs and challenges.
  2. Quality of Work: Good reviews often highlight the quality of the agency’s work. Pay attention to comments about their creativity, strategic thinking, and ability to deliver results.
  3. Communication Skills: Effective communication is crucial in a marketing partnership. Reviews that mention responsiveness, clarity, and regular updates suggest that the agency values transparency and customer service.
  4. Results and ROI: The ultimate measure of a marketing agency’s effectiveness is the results they deliver. Reviews that mention significant increases in website traffic, lead generation, or sales indicate that the agency can drive tangible outcomes.
  5. Professionalism and Ethics: Look for comments about the agency’s professionalism, honesty, and integrity. This can give you an idea of their work ethics and whether they’re a trustworthy partner.
  6. Customized Strategy: Every brand is unique, and marketing strategies should be, too. Reviews that praise the agency’s ability to tailor their approach to the specific needs of a business can be a very good sign.
  7. Long-term Relationships: If reviewers mention long-term partnerships with the agency, it suggests that the agency is reliable and consistent in delivering value.

Remember, while reviews can provide valuable insights, they’re just one piece of the puzzle. It’s also important to meet with potential agencies, ask them questions, get demos, and request a proposal or a trial project to see if they’re truly a good fit for your brand.

What to Look for in the Bad Reviews 

Some of the bad reviews out there are legitimate, but does that mean they’re reflective of the experience you would have?  Here are some things to keep in mind when you read (real) bad reviews of a marketing agency. 

  1. Consistent Complaints: If multiple reviews mention the same issue, like poor communication or missed deadlines, it’s not a fluke experience. Consistent negative feedback might indicate systemic problems within the agency.
  2. Lack of Results: Reviews that consistently highlight a lack of results or failure to meet objectives can be a major red flag. It suggests the agency may struggle with effectiveness or doesn’t have a solid strategy in place.
  3. Poor Customer Service: Negative comments about customer service, such as unresponsiveness, rudeness, or lack of transparency, can indicate a lack of professionalism and respect for clients.
  4. Ethical Concerns: Repeated mentions of dishonesty, hidden costs, or unethical practices should be taken seriously. Trust is crucial in a business partnership, and these types of complaints can be a sign of a problematic agency culture.
  5. Scope Creep: If reviewers complain about the agency constantly pushing for more work outside the agreed scope without adjusting timelines or budgets, it could suggest poor project management skills or an attempt to inflate costs.
  6. High Turnover: Comments about frequent changes in the point of contact or team members can suggest instability or high employee turnover, which can impact the quality and consistency of the service.

Remember, it’s important to evaluate the context and details of each review. A single negative review doesn’t mean an agency is bad, especially if they’ve responded appropriately to address the issue. Similarly, several bad reviews among many positive ones might not be representative of the agency’s overall performance. Always consider the bigger picture when making your decision.

CEO & Founder Erik Huberman is a member of Grit Daily's Leadership Network. He launched Hawke Media in 2014, which is now valued at over $150 million. As a serial entrepreneur and marketing expert, Erik has been recognized by his industry peers through honors and awards including, Forbes Magazine’s 30Under30, CSQ’s 40Under40, and Inc. Magazine’s Top 25 Marketing Influencers.

Read more

More GD News