Q. What is ConsumerSearch?

A. ConsumerSearch.com is a website that helps users find answers about what products are top-rated or best bets in their class. Our mission is to reduce the time it takes readers to make an intelligent purchase. The process begins when our editors scour the Internet and print publications for comparative reviews and other sources relevant to the topic. We then analyze these reviews and sources and rank them according to how credible they are, based on specific criteria we have developed for this purpose (see below for more on these criteria).

Our website is partly a search tool (see the Our Sources page) and partly a consolidator of wisdom and analysis (see our Best Reviews and Full Report sections). Use whichever of these tools you find most useful.

Q. How do ConsumerSearch editors select the best products and services?

A. We prepare our Best Reviewed section by selecting the products that are top-rated by the most credible experts and/or the products about which there is reviewer consensus. Our process and judgments are documented in the Full Report and the Our Sources sections.

Q. How do you decide which reviews are most credible?

A. We have the most respect for reviews that cover multiple competing products -- and when a reviewer can demonstrate testing. We also listen carefully to a reviewer who has tested many products, and then makes an assertion that the product he is reviewing today beats other products he has reviewed in the past.

Q. How does the rating system in the Our Sources section work?

A. Our editors evaluate articles using the following criteria to assign each review a one- to five-star credibility rating.

  1. How up-to-date is the review compared to others?
  2. How credible are the reviewer's top picks in relation to the top picks of other reviewers?
  3. How expert is the reviewer?
  4. How extensive and convincing is the reviewer's methodological approach compared to other reviews?

As part of this evaluation, we consider questions like these: Did the reviewers test the products? Which ones? How many? How did they pick the ones they tested? Does it appear that they tested things that most experts would consider important? Did they test products multiple times? Do they explain their test process? Do they clearly document results? Provide detail? Point out pluses and minuses? Compare products against each other?

Q. I noticed that you gave a low ranking to a really great article I read. Why?

A. ConsumerSearch does not rank reviews based on how well written they are, or on how informative they are. Instead, we assess a review's credibility in identifying the best products or services. Many otherwise excellent articles or information sources don't make it into our charts (or don't rank very highly) because they don't make recommendations, or if they do, the recommendations do not indicate how the products stack up against the competition.

Q. I saw you gave a review a five-star rating in one report and a two-star rating in another. Why?

A. Our ratings of reviews are specific to product category, time and purpose. A review of passenger cars may get a higher rating in our report on mid-priced sedans than it gets in our report on economy cars if the review covers mid-priced sedans more thoroughly. In other words, our ratings are not an indication of the article's credibility apart from the specific category on which we're reporting.

Q. Do you favor professional reviews over user reviews?

A. We do consider reviews prepared by users of a product or service. They often have more passion and insight than professionally prepared articles. In practice, however, individuals don't conduct exhaustive comparison tests as often as professional organizations do. For example, CNet.com and Consumer Reports operate laboratories staffed with dedicated experts, making them hard to beat in terms of credibility. We do read thousands of reviews by individuals, and we often include websites where consumers vote on which products they consider best in the Our Sources pages. Rather than consider a single owner-written review, we look for commonalities across dozens or even hundreds of such reviews. Among other things, we are concerned about the potential for manipulation by individuals or groups who wish to skew the rating results.

Q. What makes your editors downgrade a review?

A. We downgrade reviews if they are out of date, do not critically weigh the pros and cons of the products they are covering, contain logical flaws or emphasize criteria that appear unsophisticated in relation to the work of other experts.

Q. ConsumerSearch accepts advertising. How can you be objective about which products are best?

A. Our objectivity is built into our core process of reporting what the reviewers say. We make our process transparent to users, who are free to examine our sources. Consumer Reports has popularized the notion that a publisher cannot be objective if it takes advertising. We appreciate this point of view, and there is good reason to be cautious about the influence advertisers can have on publishers. That is one of the reasons we rigorously evaluate reviews.

Q. Do you get money from the retailers who appear on your site?

A. Yes. We do receive money from the reliable retailers with competitive prices that we allow to advertise on our site, and customer feedback on retailers is welcome. ConsumerSearch separates its editorial content from its advertising content and its editorial operations from business operations. Our editors' work is not linked in any way with financial rewards from retailers or advertisers.

Q. How do you decide which categories to cover?

A. We cover any product or service category that has been the subject of independent evaluation. There is no theoretical limit to the number of categories we can cover. We are open to suggestions.

Q. How often do you update your reports?

A. There is no set timetable. We update our reports as often as new information comes in. Our goal is to incorporate standout reviews soon after publication. If you see something you think should be reflected in one of our reports, let us know.

For more information on how ConsumerSearch evaluates reviews, see also our Ratings Criteria discussion.

Q. How do you calculate a product's price estimate (e.g. *Est. $550)?

A. Pricing information is approximate as of the time the report was written and is based on observed market selling prices and/or list prices. Actual selling prices may differ.

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