People Are Trusting Online Reviews More Than Ever

By: Chris Crum - July 8, 2014

It appears that people are not only turning to online reviews for local businesses more and more, but they are actually trusting them more than ever despite all the media coverage questioning their legitimacy.

If people are trusting what they read about businesses online more, do you view this as a good thing or bad thing? Let us know in the comments.

BrightLocal recently put out the results of its 4th annual Local Consumer Review Survey, finding that for better or worse, online reviews are only gaining momentum with consumers.

Most (57%) of consumers have searched online for a local business over 6 times in the past year, while 39% have searched online for local businesses at least one time per month, and 15% searching almost every day.

“Consumers are becoming more comfortable using the internet to find businesses on both PC & mobile,” says Myles Anderson, BrightLocal’s CEO. There are more & better services for locating businesses which make it faster, easier & better for consumers. It’s habit forming and they start to use it with increasing regularity.”

“Part of this growth can be attributed to more local businesses building & improving their online presence,” he adds. “Local data is more abundant & increasingly accurate which delivers better experience for consumers – i.e. they have a great selection of businesses to consider with lots of information to make in informed decision.”

The survey found that more people are searching for more types of businesses this year than last year. Restaurants and cafes are still the biggest category, but as people seek out more types of businesses, the percentage is down.

88% of those surveyed said they have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business (up from 85% in 2013). 39% read reviews on a regular basis. Only 12% don’t read reviews, down from 15% last year.

One of the more interesting takeaways from the findings are that consumers appear to be doing their homework on businesses, and reading a significant number of reviews before deciding whether or not to trust them. 67% say they read up to 6 reviews. 85% say they read up to 10. 7% say they read over 20. That last percentage may be small, but it’s up from 2% last year.

“The significance of these stats is that it sets a benchmark for the number of positive reviews that they need,” says Anderson. “With 85% of consumers reading 10 or less reviews then we need to ensure that we have at least 10 reviews to satisfy them, but more importantly that the most recent 10 reviews are all positive. If your most recent reviews are negative in sentiment & rating then most consumers won’t look beyond these to the better ones that may lie further down the page. It’s important to ‘manage’ out bad reviews and focus on generating regular, fresh, positive reviews.”

92% of users will use a local business if it has a 4 star (out of 5) rating. 72% will us one that has a 3 star rating. 27% will use one that has a 2 star rating, and only 13% will use one that has a 1 star rating.

72% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, which is one percentage point lower than last year. 10% say they don’t take any notice of online reviews.

Here’s perhaps the most interesting finding of all: 88% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That’s actually up from 79% last year. Think about that for a minute. Most people trust random online reviews from people they don’t know or have any real evidence of the legitimacy of the review just as much as a recommendation from someone they know. Only 13% said they don’t trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.

That’s good news for Yelp, who’s been constantly battling fake reviews.

Anderson says local consumers are trusting online review more than ever before.

57% said they will visit a local business’ website after reading a positive review, and 72% said they will take some sort of action.

Reliability was found to be the most important “reputation trait” that consumers look for in online reviews – more so than expertise, professionalism, good value, accreditations, friendliness, courtesy, or localness.

Based on the survey’s findings, people are far more likely to recommend a local business via Facebook than via Yelp, though good old fashioned word of mouth is still on top.

One more interesting finding that highlights another problem of Yelp’s is that 9% of people will recommend a business if asked to by the business. By asking for a review, Anderson notes, one in ten people will be more inclined to give you one. Yelp forbids this practice, though it might not be so easy for the company to police when the reviews aren’t coming from the same IP address (which seems to be its main way of detecting this).

Is a review left by a consumer who was asked to do so by a business less legitimate than any other review? Share your thoughts in the comments.

[Via MarketingCharts]

Images via BrightLocal

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Yelp Sucks

    Yelp is an extortionist organization. We do not trust their reviews. We have clients who have experienced the same fake reviews from Yelp and have rejected using their services.

    • Demetrios Salpoglou

      If you look around the internet – blogs – etc – nearly everyone says yelp sucks. Go read the forbes article – nearly everyone there says yelp sucks. I wonder why when you look all across the internet and even on their facebook page everyone says yelp sucks……

  • steve

    The public is big on complaining and very poor on the compliments. In the travel business we have also had our opposition ‘bad mouth’ us on a forum using a fictitious name that we cannot trace – now you try and get that off a form post. How do we tell the public not to believe everything they read?

  • http://www.sbwebcenter.com/ Steve B

    The reality is fake reviews still account for only a small fraction of all the reviews that are out there. Most reviews are real so yes they are still useful.

    • Demetrios Salpoglou

      Yeah right – your probably a fake yelper. Where’s your real picture of yourself? Do you exist? Are avatars real people?

      • http://www.sbwebcenter.com/ Steve B

        No, you’re wrong, I’m not a fake Yelper. In fact, I rarely use Yelp for myself. But, I have helped small businesses with Yelp.

        In regards to my photo, I choose not to show my picture to the rest of the world. That is my right to privacy. But if you check my profile, I do have a link to my blog. I’ve been doing biz online on and off for over 15 years, so please save the BS.

        You are probably one of those disgruntled business owners who complain about anything Yelp. Sorry, but for every one negative experience, there are tons more positive which never get published because people are more willing to write about negative experiences than positive ones. It’s human nature.

        • Demetrios Salpoglou

          Your full of it. You must work for yelp. What’s your real name and phone number? Why would anyone defend yelp?

          Everyone reading this knows your either fake or being paid in some way shape or form by yelp to try to defend their shady business practices.

          So what is your real name?

        • Demetrios Salpoglou

          Sorry your full of bs. I had three people look and no one can find you. So who are you?

          • http://www.sbwebcenter.com/ Steve B

            You’re a clown and not worth my time. And I don’t believe you had 3 people look up anything. You’re nothing more than one of a handful of disgruntled business owners who want to place blame on others for their failures in business. Successful businesses don’t need Yelp to survive or do well. What did you do before Yelp??!

            I didn’t want to get personal, but you are full of BS.

            This is my last comment here. Can’t reason with people like you.

  • Mitchel clarke

    These reviews are baseless

  • http://www.mrtechnique.com/ Mr. Technique

    In some industries, customers will not leave a good review unless asked. If you satisfied 100 customers and didn’t ask for a review, but 3 weren’t satisfied, it is possible to see 0 good reviews and 3 bad reviews. Is that an accurate representation of the business?

  • http://sayfun.me Sascha

    Hard to come up with an opinion here. On one hand I’m all for user generated content etc on the other hand, having worked with (or against) lots of companies that used ‘bad mouthing’ as a technique I started to doubt online reviews more and more as long as it’s not from one of the people within my network.

  • Demetrios Salpoglou

    YELP SUCKS – HORRIBLE COMPANY – they unfilter avatar fake reviews but when real people with real pictures of themselves and real stories are up there – they filter them. Their sales reps suck as well – they give you super high pressure sales tactics as well – basically they try to extort business owners. Anyone who works there has very low morals. You know what you are doing. How do you live with your behavior?

  • http://michaelallanscott.com/ Michael Allan Scott

    Generally, a good thing …. However, accountability can be a problem.

  • http://www.campfirecontent.com/ w1z11

    Unfortunately, online reviews don’t often impress me as being trustworthy. Maybe I’m over-cautious or even cynical when it comes to believing and trusting them, but in my experience, I’ve learned that when there’s opportunity for abuse and exploitation of a particular platform, venue, or other ‘tool’ of this ilk, it is very likely to be rife with every kind of input imaginable…positive, negative, and in between. I’m not saying the review sites “cook the books” or otherwise make them up willy-nilly (or solicit others to do that), but I think it is safe to say that such practices could (and likely do) happen very easily, y’know?
    I’m just sayin’…

  • Windon H Prince

    I think that online reviews are a good thing. I found and got companies to work with by the reviews that I read on the BBB and Versign. Their are many other places on the net that has places where you can check companies to see how they preform.

  • Emily

    Yelp has been a headache for us. We have 30+ filtered reviews that Yelp claims they are filtering because the users are not “active” Yelp users. Which is not in fact the case for many of the users so there seems to be no rhyme or reason to their algorithm. 99.9% of those filtered reviews are 5 stars. However, Yelp freely let’s through anything 3 stars or lower – it’s rare, I promise! :) – regardless of whether the user is a first-time reviewer or not. The filtered reviews are legit reviews, from legit customers that take the time out of their day to say something nice about us. It just sucks that no one ever gets to see them. Yelp has been hounding us to partner with them with their advertising services, but we refuse to devote ad dollars to sending potential customers to a profile that doesn’t accurately reflect the voice of our customer. Yelp just doesn’t seem to get it. Whatever their algorithm is, it needs to be revisited. With all the haters out there, I would have thought they would have caught on by now and thrown us a bone.