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Online reviews can be critical to small businesses. Your online reputation can increase your growth by helping you gain new customers and build trust with your current customers. Review monitoring, constantly checking your reviews and mentions online, can be a time-intensive investment–unless you have a marketing firm that understands the landscape and can help with a strategy. Reviews can help your business show up in local searches, and quotes from your reviews may show up in your Google My Business listing. However, people are changing the way they leave reviews and the way they think about them. Here are four customer review trends that are worth noting:

1. Reviews From Friends and Family Are Starting to Matter More Than Online Reviews

Bright Local’s annual Local Consumer Review Study for 2020 showed that fewer people trust online reviews as much as they trust reviews from their friends and family. Although 79% of people say they trust online reviews as much as personal reviews from someone they know, that number had decreased almost 10% from 2014, when 88% of people trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Another study from Reviews.com found that almost 40% of people have less faith in online reviews today than they did five years ago. There have been many reports about how easily customer reviews can be paid for or faked, which has contributed to people’s distrust of them.

2. More Reviews Are Fake

Yelp has removed about 8% of its reviews due to violations of its policies last year. In 2019, they only removed 7%, so the percentage of fake reviews seems to be increasing. This is not surprising when combined with reports about fake reviews on online retailers such as Amazon.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a report that estimates about 1/4 of Google reviews for low-quality businesses are fake. A review is considered fake if it’s left by the business owner, employees, vendors, former employees, or people who are just lying.

3. More Reviews Are One Extreme or the Other

It’s probably no surprise that most people are only motivated to leave reviews if they are extremely happy or extremely unhappy with the services a business delivered. The trend toward extremes has only increased in the past five years. According to Yelp, since 2014, the number of 5-star reviews has increased from 43% to 51%, and the number of 1-star reviews has increased from 14% to 17%. Meanwhile, 2, 3, and 4-star reviews have all decreased.
This trend illustrates why it’s important to try to get all of your customers to leave a review. While most platforms won’t allow you to only ask for positive reviews, you can ask all of your customers for a review.

4. COVID-19 has Caused a Decrease in Reviews

Since COVID-19 changed so much about our society in 2020, it should be no surprise that it also affected the number of reviews people posted. Everyone staying home affected the reviews of many in-person businesses. Additionally, there was a lot of confusion at the beginning of the pandemic when businesses and customers tried to adjust to a new way of operating.
Google suspended reviews at the beginning of the pandemic so that businesses wouldn’t be hurt by negative reviews related to following safety procedures. Yelp’s response to the evolving pandemic included adding a feature so that people could rank how well businesses are adhering to health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19.

Speedsquare Can Help

Online reviews continue to be a huge factor in influencing your customers’ purchasing decisions. It’s important to understand how different platforms deal with the issue of fake reviews. Reviews are also likely still a factor in your business’s local SEO ranking, so don’t underestimate their importance, even as attitudes are changing. It’s more important than ever to try to implement a review management policy and get honest reviews from your customers that don’t violate the policies of each platform. If you need help implementing a review monitoring and response strategy, contact the digital marketing experts at Speedsquare.