In the last few years, online reviews have become a popular topic of conversation. Reviews have managed to find a permanent position within most successful marketing budgets and are proving more than their worth in terms of local SEO and brand trust.

So should your business simply collect online reviews on any review site and call your job complete? No, probably not.

The reason is, not all review sites are made equal.

To demonstrate the core differences between review sites, and help you determine which is best for you and your company, we’ve constructed an in-depth guide to online review sites.

3 Core Types of Online Review Sites

While there are literally thousands of review sites out there, most fall within a few core types:

  • Popular, consumer online review sites
  • Industry-specific online review sites
  • Self-hosted online review sites

Popular, Consumer Online Review Sites

These types of sites generally consist of Google, Yelp,, Facebook and more.

Popular, consumer online review sites are the sites that millions of people use every single day to research a seemingly endless supply of verticals and businesses. They are also, in most cases, the sites that can appear within search engines. For instance, reviews from Google and Yelp can appear within local Google search results with a company’s average star rating and total number of stars.

These types of sites are, in general, the most effective due to online exposure and local SEO benefits.

Industry-Specific Online Review Sites

As the title denotes, these are reviews sites that are geared toward specific industries. For example:

Industry-specific sites do a great job of delivering relevant information to a very targeted type of searcher. For example, someone looking for reviews on a certain doctor would be a targeted type of searcher and would likely end up on one of these sites through their search query or pre-existing knowledge of one of these sites.

While industry-specific sites do a great job for targeted searchers, they also help with general search queries. If you were to type “doctors in Salt Lake City” into Google search, you’d likely stumble across HealthGrades’ website. This proves industry-specific sites to be very relevant for finding businesses organically (via search engines), as well.

These types of sites are generally supplemental to popular, consumer online review sites.

Self-Hosted Online Review Sites

These types of sites consist of review sites that are published and updated by a review generation software company.

Some review software platforms will help businesses generate reviews and them place them on the software company’s site, thereby forgoing the placement on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

While some software companies carry enough clout to prove some level of effectiveness, many get lost within the search engines. This is because Google doesn’t recognize online review sites that are self-hosted and can’t necessarily verify the validity of the reviews.

One major downfall to self-hosted online review sites is the “use it or lose it” mantra. This refers to an occurrence where a business stops using a software platform’s service and in turn loses all of their hard earned reviews on that specific review site.

This doesn’t happen with Google, Yelp, or Facebook. Rather, your business “owns” those reviews.

Which Type of Online Review Site is Best for You?

To a large extent, this depends on the end goal of your company.

If you want to manually drive potential customers to a site that may be unfamiliar, but shows your company’s customer reviews, a self-hosted site could be for you (note: this can be effective for some companies).

If your company is looking to improve search engine optimization (SEO), build brand trust on the most trustworthy review sites, and increase online exposure, the consumer and industry-specific reviews sites could be for you.

While both options will aggregate your happy customers’ reviews, it’s up to you to decide where you want them placed and what the goal is of your company.
In conclusion, we suggest building a balanced presence on multiple review sites. If your company opts for a self-hosted option, be sure to make yourself visible on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook, as well. Also, be sure to supplement your efforts and existence on industry-related online review sites. This will help your business have a higher likelihood to be found and be visited by potential customers.


Request a demo to see how Podium’s efficient, mobile process can help your business collect 15x more reviews than traditional platforms. This will, in turn, improve local SEO and ultimately boost revenues.