Epinions
Epinions is an online review website specializing in physical products. They provide both product reviews and price comparisons by real people rather than paid reviewers, so you can make informed buying decisions.

Epinions is owned by Shopping.com, which in turn is owned by eBay. The site is run by people with years of experience in the online shopping space; providing a seamless review experience.

Here’s an overview of Epinions.

Finding Products

SiteThere are two main ways you can find products on Epinions. The first method is to type in the specific product name or type in the search box along the top.The second method is to browse by product category along the left or top navigation bars.

Compare Prices and Stores

On the product page, you’ll be presented with a list of the stores that sell the product and the prices that they sell them at.

You can also view them in compare prices view, giving you just the prices and the purchase links.

Product Reviews

The main draw of Epinions is its product reviews. These are unbiased reviews by everyday people who just want to share their opinions.

Technical Specifications

For each product, you can get detailed information on the product’s technical specs.

Writing Your Own Review

An integral part of the Epinions experience is submitting your own reviews. You can share your opinions on everything from movies to appliances, cameras to USB drives.

The first step is to write your overall review.

Then give a brief pros and cons analysis of the product.

Finally you’ll be asked to asked to rate the product on a few different scales.

Earning Money from Reviews

Particularly well written reviews can actually earn money. Well written reviews can rank well in search engines, which bring people into read them. If they buy a product, Epinions gets a commission – Which they share with you.

These are the most important features of Epinions. Using Epinions, you can find reviews or products and compare prices to get the best deals. You can post your own reviews and even earn a bit of spare cash in the process.

Amazon
Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, with revenues of over $34 billion dollars in 2010. One of the big draws of Amazon is its on site review process.

Every time someone buys a product on Amazon, they’re invited to review it. Because so many people purchase products on the site, Amazon effectively has one of the largest repositories of customer opinions on the internet.

Here are the main features of Amazon’s review system.

Editorial Reviews

Site2Most Amazon books have a number of editorial reviews. These are reviews written by professional journalists, book authors or editors.Reviews by professionals are featured above the customer reviews, making it easy for you to quickly get a sense of what the book’s about.

Average Rating

Most people who’re scanning Amazon won’t want to read in-depth reviews. Instead, they’ll just take a look at the review average to determine if they’re interested in delving further.

Product Details

How many pages is the book? Is it hardcover or soft cover? When was it printed? All this information and more are available in the product details section.

Customer Reviews

By default, Amazon sorts customer reviews by most helpful to least helpful. Usually the first review you’ll see is fairly long and goes into detail on the pros and cons of the product.

Subsequent reviews will be shorter. Reading a variety of different reviews is a good way to get a sense of the product before you buy.

If you click “See More Reviews” towards the bottom of the page, you’ll be presented with one of the nicest features of the review system: The most helpful favourable and critical reviews.

This allows you to get a sense of both the best things and the worst things about the book.

Reading Lists

One effective way to find other books that you might like is to browse lists created by other Amazon customers.

For example, if you’re looking at a book on exercise psychology, other customers interested in the same topic may have already compiled a list of the best books on the subject.

Recommended Products

You can also just use Amazon’s recommendation engine to find more products. The engine works by recommending products that other people who bought the book also bought.

Writing Your Own Review

Want to contribute to Amazon’s collective wisdom by writing your own review?

Start by rating the item on a scale of one to five. Then give your review a title.

Write your actual review. Be as detailed as possible.

Once your review is submitted, Amazon will need to read it over to make sure it’s legitimate. Once your review has been approved, you’ll get an email confirmation.

Amazon makes the review process both fast and easy.

These are the main customer review features of Amazon. We’ve covered editorial reviews, product details, lists, recommended products, customer reviews and writing your own reviews. Amazon’s system makes it truly a piece of cake to decide whether or not to make a purchase.

Google Places
Google Places is a local business review system run primarily out of Google Maps and Google Search.

The results returned by search queries for local businesses is supplemented by address, contact information, reviews and other details provided by business owners and individuals.

Here’s an overview of Google Map’s various features.

In Search Results

If you type a search into Google in order to find physical businesses in a certain location, Google will supplement their normal search results with matches from Google Places. These will usually appear high up in the results page.

For example, these are the results for “Pizza near San Francisco.”

Google can also sometimes just put their Google Places information into the search listing itself. For example, these two results came up for “Pizza in San Francisco.”

As you can see, the results look a lot like Google’s normal results, except it also gives you their address, phone number, one review and a link to other reviews.

Google Maps Results

Another common way to find results from Google Places is to find a location on Google Maps. Simply click any location on a Google Maps search to bring up the Google Places information.

Click on “Reviews” to access the detailed Google Places page.

Detailed Information

The first thing you’ll see upon landing on the Google Pages page is detailed business information. This includes business hours, public transportation, contact information, etc.

Photos and Videos

Want to see what the location actually looks like? If the owner or the user has uploaded videos, Google Places will present those here.

Special Offers

If the owner of the establishment has a special offer for Google Places visitors, they can post it up here. A great way to save some extra money.

User Reviews

What kind of experience have other users had at this establishment? Users rate their experience on a scale of one to five and leave a comment.

Google will also link out to reviews on this business from other websites.

Write Your Own Reviews

If you want to write your own review, you can do so right on the Google Places page. You’ll first give the business a one to five star rating, then write a brief review of your experience.

Then you’ll be asked to rate the food, service, atmosphere and value on a Good – Bad scale. Once you’re done, your review will be instantly published.

Upload Photos or Videos

Want to upload your own photos for a particular business? Just click “Upload Photo or Video.”

Using Google Places is more or less intuitive, both from a searcher’s perspective and from a reviewer’s perspective. You can view Google Places results from the search engine or from Google Maps. Just click on “reviews” to view a detailed listing of the business’s information.

Citysearch
Citysearch is a local business review website that gets over 20 million visitors every month. They have reviews on everything from spas to restaurants, from bars to event venues.

Site4Citysearch makes it easy to find out what other people think about local businesses. They have unique features like the ability to look at a menu online or the ability to find other businesses near a business that you’re researching.

Here’s an overview of Citysearch’s many features.

Search for a Specific Business

If you know the name of a business you’re trying to find or if there’s a specific type of business you’re looking for (E.g. Thai food,) you can just type that into the search bar.

The businesses will be listed in order of ratings. Pick the one you want to open up a more detailed page.

Browse by Category

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the search feature, you can just pick a category and browse the various businesses in that category.

Owner Message & Featured Review

In the beginning of most business profile pages is a message from the business owner and a featured review.

The featured review is often from a news publication or professional food reviewer. Usually the featured review will paint the business in a very positive light; but there’s still a lot to be gleaned from reading these.

Customer Reviews

Of course Citysearch’s main draw is its customer reviews. These reviews can be long or short and will often present both the positive sides and negative sides of a business.

Picture Gallery

Often time’s an establishment will have an online picture gallery, where you can see what the décor and food looks like.

Map & Directions

Need to know how to get there? Just click “Map and Directions” and Citysearch will do the rest.

Online Menu

For certain restaurants, Citysearch is able to provide online menus so you can see the selection and pricing before making a decision.

Things to Do Nearby

What if you wanted to do a bit of shopping after dinner? Or go for a massage, then a nice meal? It’s easy with Citysearch’s “Things to Do Nearby” feature. Just pick what you want to do and Citysearch will tell you what’s nearby.