These Community Guidelines govern the Reviews Program of the Software Advice site and our affiliate sites and describe the rules of play for users, reviewers and vendors. This document includes three main sections:
- Understanding Reviews: A guide for all users which covers our Reviews Program, the quality assurance (QA) and vetting of reviews published on our site, and how to interpret software reviews.
- Writing Reviews: An outline of the guidelines that reviews should meet in order to be published and reasonable expectations those writing reviews, the process for flagging reviews, and a few other details about our program.
- Issues Affecting Vendors: An overview of the issues affecting vendors, including guidelines vendors must follow, vendor expectations, best practices, and a link to our Vendor Portal with more information.
Reviews Program Overview
Reviews play an important part in educating potential software buyers by sharing the opinions of peers and others who have relevant experiences. Reviews not only help buyers make better informed decisions but provide vendors with feedback and valuable insight about their software or service. We take each review seriously and focus on creating a site that is helpful and maintains high-quality, relevant content written by verified users and is free of conflicts of interest.
As a website operator, we display content generated by our community of software users in the form of software reviews. The opinions expressed in reviews are those of the reviewers and not of Software Advice. We do not endorse any of the opinions expressed by reviewers or by vendor management in response to reviews. We identify in these Community Guidelines the rules governing our reviews program for (i) the users of the site, (ii) those users who write reviews, and (iii) the vendors who are listed and/or reviewed on the site.
Quality Assurance (QA) and Verification Process
We’re committed to being a platform for high-quality reviews and have built a robust reviews Quality Assurance (QA) process in order to achieve that goal. All reviews are manually examined by our team of experts in an effort to ensure published reviews are from verified sources and provide helpful content. All reviews are treated equally during the verification process, regardless of rating or vendor.
As a user-driven reviews platform, Software Advice provides a neutral platform intended to facilitate discussion between software providers/vendors and software shoppers. As such, it is our aim to safeguard against fraud by taking steps to verify each reviewer’s identity. We also seek to confirm that the reviewer has no conflicts of interest (such as being an employee or competitor of the product’s company), and that the review content meets our guidelines for publishing (listed below).
Here are the Three Keys of Reviews Verification
- Identity Check. Each reviewer is researched by our team of experts to find key identifiers such as name, job title, or email address to ensure that the review was left by a real person. If they’re unable to identify the reviewer, the review will not be published.
- Conflict of Interest Check. Each reviewer’s name and company is checked against the product they are reviewing. If they’re in any way affiliated with the vendor, or are identified as a direct competitor, the review will not be published.
- Content Check. Each review undergoes an evaluation to ensure it is original, authentic, and meets our quality standards. If the content does not meet our standards (which includes, but is not limited to, those listed below), the review will not be published.
What Else Does the QA Team Screen for?
- Inappropriate language, Violent or Hateful speech. If the review content contains profane or obscene language or is bullying or discriminatory.
- Spam Content. If the review is SPAM, nonsensical, or self-promoting.
- Invalid Reviewer. If the reviewer is identified as fraudulent, such as a vendor writing reviews on behalf of a customer, or a reviewer paid to write fake reviews.
- Duplicate Reviews. If the review content has been previously published online, or the reviewer has already reviewed the product.
- The List Goes On… We use a variety of expert tools beyond a basic web search. A review that does not pass our checklist is given a deeper dive by management or disabled.
- Violations. Reviewers that violate our guidelines repeatedly, attempt to abuse our program, or are found to be spammers will be If we have reasonable cause to believe a Reviewer is violating these Community Guidelines, we will provide notice to Reviewer of such concern. If Reviewer continues to violate these Guidelines following receipt of such notice, we reserve the right to modify or discontinue (temporarily or permanently) Reviewer’s access to our Site and Services.
- Flag a Review. However, as a neutral reviews platform, we do not evaluate the merit of the opinions expressed on our site, and we do not fact-check content, when assessing which reviews should be published. We do offer the ability for third parties to flag reviews for investigation (see Flagging a Review).
How to Read a Review
A review expresses the opinion of a single person with experience using a certain software product. When evaluating a software product’s reviews set, it is important to consider the following:
- Do not rely on a single review. Each reviewer’s experience is unique to their own situation. Wherever possible, take into consideration multiple reviews to develop a broad understanding of the software’s capabilities and support.
- Consider the response of the vendor. There is always more than one side to every story. Take both a review and any response from the vendor into consideration. Vendor responses can be used to gauge how the vendor handles customer support issues.
- Evaluate reviews over time. It’s important to consider how reviews about a vendor have progressed over time to see if past issues are being resolved, and whether new issues are being addressed. More recent reviews are more likely to reflect a product’s most current set of capabilities and most relevant experiences. While the posted reviews are not intended to provide readers a specific course of action, they provide software shoppers with an important tool to help them make informed decision. Use your judgment when evaluating a review’s content and make your decisions based on all information available to you.
Tips for Writing a Great Review
The software reviews posted on our site help guide millions of software shoppers to select the software that best meets their business needs. You should consider these tips when writing your review:
- Be specific. What features do you love? Instead of just saying that you like the product, explain why. Use clear examples of specific experiences - the more details, the better.
- Be readable. Reviews need to be readable for others. Use proper grammar, without excessive capitalisation or punctuation, and be sure to check your spelling.
- Be objective. Try to highlight both positives and negatives in your review, even if your experience skews heavily in one direction.
- Be recent. The best reviews are those written about current software versions, and within a year of use.
- Be relevant. We provide an open forum, but please keep your review useful to other software buyers. Avoid off-topic discussions or personal opinions not relevant to your direct experience using the software.
NOTE: The above tips do not constitute formal guidelines, but rather are intended as best practices for generating a useful, well-written software review.
Reviews that do not meet the guidelines below may, at our discretion, be removed or not published:
- Reviews must be submitted with an identity we can verify. Even if you choose to display your review anonymously, we must be able to verify your identity. We encourage you to log in via LinkedIn to help facilitate this verification.
- Reviewers must not have a conflict of interest with the product being reviewed. Vendors, their employees, or anyone with a financial interest in the success of a product are not allowed to review their own product or a competitor’s product.
- Reviews must be posted by the actual reviewer. In keeping with our verification process, we do not allow reviews to be posted on another’s behalf or under an assumed identity.
- Reviews must contain original content. We do not allow reviews to be copied from another source, including our own website.
- Reviews must not contain abusive, hateful, threatening, or harassing content. We do not allow reviews to contain personal threats, obscenities, or hate speech.
- Reviews must not include others’ personal data. We do not allow reviews to contain information that can be used to identify an individual other than the author or otherwise compromise their privacy. Personal data includes names, addresses, phone numbers, or any other type of personally identifying data.
- Reviews must not promote or disparage a product other than the product being reviewed. We do not allow reference to any product(s) or vendor(s) other than the product being reviewed unless integration with another application is required to leave a helpful review.
- Reviews must not violate any legal agreements. A review must not violate notably confidentiality, non-disclosure, or contractual obligations.
- Reviews must not contain financial information. A review must not contain any references to specific amounts of money spent while using the product.
- Reviews must not accuse or make reports of fraud or any criminal activity. Unless the fraud or activity has been proven by a court of law, we do not allow references to legal matters in our reviews. Our team is not qualified to make a decision as to the truthfulness of a legal accusation.
As a neutral content platform, we rely on our reviewers to provide accurate and honest details about their software experiences. While we do not attempt to determine a review’s truthfulness, or endorse the opinions expressed, we may review a review’s content at any time and for any reason, and at our discretion, we may remove a review that we reasonably believe violates our guidelines and policies.
We strive to provide a place where Reviewers, who respect our Community Guidelines, can have the following experience:
- Equal treatment of reviews regardless of review rating or client status. All reviews will undergo the same verification and quality control processes, regardless of the rating or the being reviewed. Reviews for client products are treated the same as non-client products.
- Reviews published as submitted. We will not edit or modify the content of a review in a way that changes its intent (e.g., we may correct typos). Rather, if part of the review does not comply with our guidelines, then we will not publish the entire review or will remove it. Reviewers may resubmit a review that meets our guidelines.
- Private information remains private. We do not disclose to third parties any personal contact information or communications shared with us (except as required by applicable law to help facilitate legal investigations). However, reviewers may choose to display their name and company information next to their review to provide additional context for their review.
- Anonymous on request. Reviewers may opt for their review to remain anonymous to vendors and site users by logging in using LinkedIn and selecting the option to remain anonymous. In these cases, reviewer’s name and company details will be made available to our back office for verification purposes, but will be hidden from vendors and users of the site.
- Ability to update review content upon request. Any reviewer who wishes to change or update their review should contact our team. For verification purposes, the reviewer must reach out using the same email address submitted with the original review.
Please report violations of the above guidelines or conduct that otherwise interferes with another’s ability to have the experience described above to [email protected] so that we can initiate an investigation. We reserve the right to take measures against the violators in accordance with our Violations section above.
Flagging a Review for Investigation
We have a robust QA and Verification process designed to help ensure site guidelines are met, plus technology in place to further safeguard against fraudulent reviews. However, no system is perfect, and occasionally an inappropriate or fraudulent review may slip through the cracks. In these rare instances, reviews may be flagged by users for review and investigation by our team.
If you believe a review is fraudulent or otherwise inappropriate, please report it by emailing us at [email protected]. Along with the indication that you would like to flag a review, please provide a link to the product page, details about the review in question, and all facts that would help our team in their investigation. Our reviews team will evaluate the review to determine if it meets our site guidelines. If the team determines the review does not meet our guidelines, it will be removed from the site. If the review meets our guidelines, it will remain published.
Because reviews are not fact-checked for content, we cannot remove a review due to a disagreement about the opinions or facts stated. Moreover, because we are a neutral content platform, we will not change a review at the request of a vendor or simply because a review is negative. While we may investigate the legitimacy of a review if a concern has been raised, any decision about the review is made by the reviews investigation team alone, independent of the source of the request. A “flag” request will only ensure an investigation from our reviews team and is not a guarantee for removal. All requests will be evaluated in the order they come in, and no further action is required on the part of the requestor. After confirming receipt of your request, we will send a communication regarding the results of our investigation, once complete. Please be aware that abuse of our flagging system may result in penalties.
Reviews Investigation Process
When a review is flagged for investigation our support team will review it to ensure (i) it meets our Quality Assurance and Verification Process, and (ii) the content of the review does not violate our Reviews Guidelines. The team may contact the reviewer to obtain additional information and will use a number of tools to determine if the review violates our Reviews Guidelines.
Note the following:
- Because we are not able to validate private communications, including email exchanges and phone conversations taking place between a vendor and a reviewer outside of our site, these can be unreliable. Any evidence provided along these lines will be one factor among many considered in our investigation.
- As a neutral content platform, we will not make subjective decisions as to the intent and opinions expressed in the content of any review.
- We do not facilitate arbitration. We are not mediators and will not intervene in disputes between our reviewers and vendors.
Most investigations are concluded within a week but may be extended to allow for the research and outreach necessary to make an informed decision. During the investigation, the review at issue will remain published and visible on the vendor’s profile. In order to prevent false accusations from manipulating the overall reviews scores received, we do not remove reviews during investigation.
We do not disclose our investigation protocols, as doing so would help those looking to game our system. Be assured that we take requests for investigation seriously, and that each case is manually evaluated and discussed by our team in the order that the requests are received. At the conclusion of our investigation, an email will be sent to the requestor to communicate the decision form the investigation.
About Incentivised Reviews
Offering “nominal incentives” as a means of encouraging the submission of reviews is widely considered common practice these days. Simply put, incentives help motivate software users to leave reviews. We believe that the value our online community gains by having a greater number of reviews to consider far outweighs any potential downside, a belief supported by several of our studies. Were we to only publish those reviews that did not receive an incentive: (i) our online community would have less practical guidance to help inform their purchasing decisions; and (ii) there would be a risk that the incentive practice would simply move “underground” and not be disclosed. This underground activity would be nearly impossible to police.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” – An American agency) Endorsement Guidelines require online companies to provide clear notice when a review has been submitted in exchange for a nominal incentive (whether invited by the website or by the software vendor). See the link for more information. Our policies require that any such incentive must be made available to all reviewers who submit honest reviews, regardless of the rating they ultimately give the product they are reviewing.
About “Anonymous” Reviews
Some reviews posted on Software Advice appear without an accompanying reviewer name or company, instead simply noting they have been posted by a “verified user.” To be clear, while it may seem that these reviews have been submitted anonymously, these reviews have been submitted by people (logging in via their personal LinkedIn account) who have submitted their information, but have opted not to display their identity publicly for privacy reasons. While a reviewer may choose not to share personal information with the public, their identity is always verified by our Quality Assurance team before we permit their review to be published.
Once a reviewer has selected the anonymity option, it is against our policy to reveal to the public or other vendors any details about the reviewer, including their personal contact information. Our QA team manually verifies each reviewer in accordance with our Guidelines in an effort to confirm published reviews have been submitted only by legitimate reviewers. For further guidance on our QA process, click here
Where Our Reviews Come From
Like all online reviews sites, SoftwareAdvice sources its reviews from a variety of channels. Many reviews are submitted by software shoppers who visit our site in the course of their research and choose to leave a review. Other reviews are (i) posted by members of our reviews community to whom we may offer an incentive in exchange for a review; and/or (ii) solicited by a vendor that encourages its customer to leave a product review on our site. In all cases, regardless of the channel by which the review is submitted to our site, we apply the same rigorous Quality Assurance and Verification Process to all reviews.
About Our Reviews Team
Our reviews team seeks to evaluate each review submitted through our sites. We train each team member on our investigative procedures and task them with verifying the identity of each reviewer, identifying potential conflicts of interest, and making sure that submitted reviews meet our Guidelines. With tens of thousands of reviews submitted each month, we continue to develop and hone our team’s expertise in this area.
Our team is trained to be neutral and unbiased when verifying a review. We treat a five-star review sharing a positive experience in exactly the same way we treat a one-star review sharing a negative experience. As a neutral online content platform, we cannot remove an opinion or statement from a verified reviewer unless we deem, in our discretion, that it violates our site standards.
To reinforce this position, our reviews team remains separate and independent from our sales and relationship teams and initiatives. The reviews team treats all vendors–clients or non-clients–equally by ensuring that all posted reviews undergo the same Quality Assurance process. We take our legal and regulatory obligations seriously when it comes to our reviews program and continue to ensure that all of our policies and practices comply with the most current applicable laws and regulations.
Issues Affecting Vendors
In an effort to protect our buyers’ rights and remain a neutral, trusted platform, we ask vendors to adhere to the following guidelines regarding reviews of their products and services. Vendors who violate the guidelines below may be subject to penalties imposed both by Software Advice and under the law. Penalties may include a comment on vendor’s profile, or suspension of services, to be determined at our discretion.
- Vendors may not post reviews of their own product, or of a competitor’s product. Vendors may not post reviews on a user’s behalf, nor may they submit a review for their own product, or for any product from which they could receive a strategic or financial benefit. Vendors may not coach their customers in their reviews or indirectly collect or host collection of reviews for our site. Reviews must be submitted directly by the user via our site’s review form. In addition, we do not allow vendors to post a review about a competitor’s product, even if the review is based off of their actual experience with using the product.
- Vendors must not harass reviewers about their review content or rating. Vendors are encouraged to respond constructively to reviewers on our site, but may not contact reviewers directly about the content of a review, especially if done so in a manner that the reviewer might consider to be harassment. Software Advice encourages a constructive dialogue between user and vendor via the ‘reply’ feature within the Vendor Portal, which allows a vendor to post a response to a review. Vendor responses to a review must be respectful and may not contain abusive, hateful, threatening, or harassing content.
- Abuse of our review investigation service is prohibited. At Software Advice, we are happy to investigate reviews that our flagged as potentially violating our Guidelines. However, if we have reason to suspect a vendor is abusing our system by flagging reviews under false pretences as a means of artificially inflating their reviews ratings, we may at our discretion impose penalties to the vendor’s account.
- Vendors must disclose any reviews received in exchange for an incentive. In order to comply with the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, we provide an indicator on every review that was received in exchange for an incentive. Reviews sourced by our site or through our Reviews as a Service (RaaS) program will have this indicator, which signifies that the reviewer was offered an incentive for submitting their honest review. Vendors that offer incentives must use the incentive link provided in their vendor portal when hosting an incentivised reviews program independent from our reviews acquisition services. If the incentive link is not available, Vendors still should disclose any incentive they received and require their reviewers to disclose any incentive received in exchange for submitting a review. Vendors are encouraged to contact their account representative for guidance on how to report reviews that received an incentive or for other questions.
We apply these vendor review guidelines equally to all vendors, regardless of account status (clients or non-clients).
All vendors who access our site and adhere to our community and vendor guidelines should be able to expect the following:
- A rigorous evaluation of submitted reviews. All reviews, regardless of their rating or the status of the vendor (client or non-client), undergo the same rigorous quality assurance process.
- A fair investigation of flagged reviews independent of client status. Because our reviews team operates independently from our sales and marketing teams, all flagged reviews will be investigated and independent from any client relationship between our site and a vendor.
- An opportunity to respectfully respond to any review of their product. We encourage all vendors to respond to reviews about their products as a means of engaging in constructive dialog with the reviewer. This interchange can result in a positive experience for both vendor and reviewer and demonstrate to other software shoppers a vendor’s responsive customer service.
Vendor Best Practices for Reviews
Our research shows that a trusted online reviews program complements vendor marketing efforts and encourages an active user community. The best place for vendors to actively manage their reviews is in the Vendor Portal. Vendors will find, within their Reviews Tab, a link to the review form for each of their listed products. If the vendor has multiple products listed, they should also have a link to a product page, which allows them to send a reviews request to multiple customers at once.
Here are some things for a vendor to keep in mind when building out their reviews program:
- When soliciting reviews, vendors should be aware that only reviews that pass our Quality Assurance and Verification process and meet our reviews guidelines are eligible to be published.
- Vendors must comply with our vendor guidelines.
- Vendors are encouraged to request reviews during ongoing communication with new and existing customers, in their email newsletters or campaigns, at industry events, and on their website. For more tips, read our Reviews eBook.
- Vendors are encouraged to participate in our reviews acquisition programs, such as Reviews as a Service (RaaS), to help collect reviews from users and complete a strong profile. For more information about review collection options, vendors can log in to the Vendor Portal or contact their account representative for more details.
- Vendors are encouraged to respond to all reviews, regardless of the overall rating, as a means of demonstrating to their customers and all software shoppers that they are interested and receptive to customer feedback. An effective vendor response may also help put a review into context, providing another side to a reviewer’s opinion. Regardless of the nature of the review, all responses should be professional, constructive, and helpful in tone.
A Buyer Alert is a written notice posted proximately to a Vendor’s listing on our Product Profile Page, warning users of the Site that the vendor has violated our legal terms and guidelines, as further described below. The intent of the Buyer Alert is to ensure that our users are given the best and most current information necessary to make informed purchasing decisions.
Because we believe a trustworthy and helpful reviews catalogue is critical to helping buyers make informed decisions about software, we may issue a Buyer Alert, in accordance with the terms outlined below, if a vendor is discovered to have manipulated their own, or a competitor’s, reviews, or to have violated any other terms on our site, or performed any action that could call into question the integrity of our programs.
A Buyer Alert will remain displayed across a vendor’s product profile pages for 90 (ninety) days after the action has been verified as a violation. The following is a non-comprehensive list of actions that could trigger these Buyer Alerts:
Writing fraudulent reviews, or submitting reviews on another’s behalf. Vendors are prohibited from submitting reviews for their own profile or a competitor’s profile or purchasing fake reviews. We actively monitor all incoming reviews to ensure they are authentic, submitted by a reviewer with no conflicts of interest, and are not submitted on another’s behalf.
Threats of any kind. Vendors are prohibited from pressuring reviewers to edit or remove their review, threatening legal action against reviewers who leave an honest review, or publishing misinformation about our programs. In addition, we do not allow vendors to threaten our associates, our reputation, or any third party.
Attempting to manipulate reviews scores. Vendors are not allowed to solicit from their customers only positive reviews. In addition, in light of the local law, we do not allow vendors to enforce non-disparagement clauses contained in their customer agreements that prevent a reviewer from submitting an honest review.
Not disclosing incentivised reviews, or other FTC violations. Vendors are required by the FTC (i) to disclose that they are offering incentives to their customers in return for s- ubmission of honest reviews, and (ii) to limit the incentives they offer to nominal value only (e.g., $25 or less). In addition, vendors must disclose if a review received has come from a reviewer with a material connection to the vendor (see FTC definition here).
- Abuse of our review investigation service. Vendors are prohibited from abusing our system by excessively flagging reviews under false pretenses as a means of artificially inflating their reviews ratings.
While “Buyer Alerts” are primarily issued in relation to reviews, we also seek to warn buyers of other violations intended to manipulate our vendor listings, or other such as:
Violation of any of our terms or protocols. Vendors will be subject to a Buyer Alert if they violate any of the legal terms on our Sites, including, without limitation, the terms for Vendor Reviews Guidelines, Product Listing Guidelines and General Vendor Terms.
The nature of the violation will be indicated on the “Buyer Alert” graphic. Further questions about Buyer Alerts may be directed to our Reviews Compliance team at [email protected]
Understanding Reviews Snippets
Review snippets are system-selected direct quotes compiled from user-submitted reviews that have been published to a product’s profile (see How are Review Snippets Selected). Snippets provide software shoppers with an easily digestible snapshot of “Pros” and “Cons” extracted from the user-submitted reviews for quick reference, and may be displayed where a summarised view of reviews highlights is required, such as a product’s reviews profile page, or product comparison pages.
As a neutral reviews platform, our site does not edit, or create, any content selected for snippet display. The opinions expressed in selected review snippets are those of the reviewers and not of SoftwareAdvice, and we do not endorse any of the opinions expressed by a snippet quote.
Similar to the rules governing the reviews they are sourced from, snippets cannot be removed or taken down based on subjective challenges regarding their content. Only snippets that fail to meet the guidelines below may, at our discretion, be replaced by a new system-selected snippet:
Snippets must quote product features accurately. Snippets mentioning an unsupported product feature, or a lack of a product feature that currently exists, will qualify for replacement
Snippets must be correctly categorised. Snippets featuring content that is clearly miscatorgorised as a “Pro” or a “Con” will qualify for replacement
Snippets must not violate our Reviews Guidelines. Because snippets are sourced from reviews content, they are subject to the same set of Community Guidelines. Any snippet found in violation of our Community Guidelines will qualify for replacement.
Flagging A Snippet
If you believe a review snippet violates our Snippet Guidelines, please report it by emailing us at [email protected] Along with the indication that you would like to flag a snippet for replacement, please provide identifying details about the snippet in question, your rationale for removing it and any facts that would help our team in their investigation. Our reviews team will evaluate the snippet to determine if it meets our criteria for display. Snippets found to be in violation of our Snippet Guidelines and/or Community Guidelines will be flagged for replacement by our system.
Last Update: JuneNovember 2020