12 min read
The success or failure of your business can hinge on its online reviews. But more and more people are asking themselves if online reviews are even trustworthy.
From choosing the best hotels and restaurants in town to consulting the right doctors, most people rely on online reviews. Reviews are quickly replacing friend recommendations to become the main way we vet businesses against one another. In fact, we rely on online reviews so much that a single bad review can completely ruin the online reputation of a company.
One study suggests that 91% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations—as long as the reviews are authentic. But about 20% of reviews are fake. So can you really trust Yelp business reviews?
People see star-ratings first
Yelp itself states that 88% of people are "more likely to look past a negative review if they see that the business has responded and appropriately addressed the issue." But that statistic is based on people actually reading reviews. Most people look at the star-rating first. If it's not high enough they may not even read the reviews.
Yelp has been suspected of allowing businesses to pay for more prominent placement in search results. This would be a problem for good reason – this practice can destroy the credibility of the reviews we read.
This makes it even harder for honest reviews to rank over various types of review manipulation. And it also makes it difficult to constantly monitor all the new reviews for a business.
Yelp algorithm vs. motivated humans
The fact is, businesses with higher star-ratings and better reviews get more customers. While Yelp may not always be a trustworthy source, they do make an attempt. Yelp tries to improve its algorithm to weed out fake reviews, but it's tough. It's a lot easier to create fake reviews than it is to create an algorithm to detect them.
If a business is found to have faked reviews Yelp puts a nasty message on the business' Yelp page. Many business owners just shrug this off. After all, they're trying to feed their families and in their eyes Yelp is just getting in the way.
Let's remember that businesses don't ask to have Yelp pages created. And for those businesses that don't want to be listed on Yelp, getting a page deleted is almost impossible. What's a business to do?
The cost of creating fake reviews is generally far less than the cost of finding waiters who never, ever, have a bad day. So if the cost of creating fake reviews is less than the cost of perfection, and the worst thing that may happen is a nasty message on a Yelp page the business doesn't even want, many business owners ask the question "why not?".
It turns out that staying in business is a great motivator for trying to game Yelp.
Common types of review manipulation
This blog will share some of the most common types of review manipulation, and what you can look out for to become a more informed buyer. It's time to stop trusting reviews at face value and take a more critical stance when researching businesses online.
4 most common types of review manipulation: