One of the first things you notice in search engine results, are the gold stars. You may notice that most businesses tend to have a relatively high number of stars. This is because many customers or guests tend not to bother to give a negative review. They think it's wasting more of their time! Many imagine others will have something better to do, than waste time reading negative reviews, and there is no reward for their effort. It would be like having their time wasted a second time. If you'll permit the metaphor, it's like a form of re-victimization, being forced to re-live the experience, in addition to wasting his, or her, time on what they think is now someone else's problem. There is clearly some systematic bias in the gold star system. The gold star system alone is one of the worst ways to compare bed and breakfasts.
How many reviews?
The next thing is to compare the actual number of reviews. Warning: when there are relatively few reviews: it is true that every business owner will ask all their friends and family, especially those which he or she expects to only say good things, and more importantly to say them well, if not in an excellent way! However, eventually those opportunities do run out. And the quality of writing skills of friends and family do eventually run out as well. Fewer than 5 reviews may very well be the limit of the more educated friends and family, willing to be bothered with the exorcise of emotional blackmail.
Perhaps that's a bit too much of a generalization. For example, it is also affected by how many customers or guests are actually members of a particular social network system. And if you're not already a member, how difficult is it to join a new network just to be able to leave a review. At the time this was written, Google seamed to suffer from this problem, reporting 12, 5, and 1 for the number of total reviews left by prior guests for their top 3 search results for actual bed and breakfasts in Madison Indiana (click here to see for yourself).
Compare this to Trip Advisor, on their page for Madison Indiana, lists two bed and breakfasts with the number of reviews as 50 and 24 respectively. You might also consider how many different social networks with the ability to leave reviews on actually show any reviews for a particular bed and breakfast, as well as how many don't. For a large number of reviews, at least you know many others have at least tried and tested the service, good or bad. And at least many have thought highly enough to go there in the first place.
When the number of reviews are small, one should beware of possible huge variation in the quality of the reviews, and that a particular gold star value may not reflect a true average. That is to say, although 5 data points are statistically significant, it's just barely the minimum number of data point to be considered statistically significant. And the addition of just 1 more data point could wildly shift the average, i.e. gold star value.
On the other hand a large number of reviews, like a large number of data points are hardly affected by the inclusion or exclusion of a single data point. The gold star system is likely to be more reliable for a business with a large number of actual reviews!
Looking not just for the highest number of reviews, which could be 8 for example, is not enough. To have any measure of certainty, you need to find a business with an actual high number for the total number of reviews in addition to a high gold star rating. Without the large data set, the gold star system is meaningless.
This of course is the best chance of determining if a shop actually provides what you hope to find. However if you spend 5 minutes on each of 10 reviews for each of 5 businesses, that will take you about 5x10x5 = 250 minutes or 4 hours 10 minutes! If you have that kind of time on your hands, good for you! But for the rest of us still slaving in the salt mines, praying for that winning power ball ticket, 4 hours x $10/hr x overtime 1.5 = $60 bucks! Consider the opportunity cost.
A better use of your time:
Seriously if you're a man, I would suggest working hard to get all the talking out of your relationship, at least on the short scale, before you get to a bed and breakfast, that way, you you can enjoy the simple peace, quiet, beauty and surroundings when you get here.
However if you're a woman, I still suggest working hard to at least get all the small talk out of the bloody way! So that way, when you're at a bed and breakfast, you can at least focus on the more meaningful talk! Perhaps about things more important than the usual daily rattle. It really will make the experience more enjoyable for you and your spouse, significant other, and especially a lover.
Any shop that does not have a high number of reviews, you cant even be sure about a negative review or low gold stars. Because it's meaningless. Don't waste your time on gold stars alone. It is pointless.
Look for a high total number of reviews
and then and only then the gold stars!
Everything else is meaningless.
And if your still looking for a place to visit, remember Madison.