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How Trustworthy are Online Reviews Anyway?

Recently Yelp, one of the biggest online reviews sites on the web admitted that they filter out about 25% of all reviews submitted to their website. Think about that for a second—literally 1 out of every 4 reviews submitted to Yelp is not published. The reason?  Yelp thinks they are fake.

Online reviews have become big business, both to companies that help with “reputation management” and for businesses that rely on reviews to drive new customers through their door. The quandary  surrounding review sites like Yelp and their review filters concerns the question of how many fake reviews are they not catching? No system is perfect. Google, Yahoo and Bing also have review systems. Sites like Urbanspoon also handle tons of reviews. The list of sites that allow business reviews has gotten pretty long. You can’t tell me that all fake reviews are getting caught by spam filters. Of course they aren’t.

The Problem Extends to Real Reviews

The thing about reviews is that they are valuable, and real ones can be hard to get. I personally encourage all our clients to ask their customers for reviews. We try and make it as easy as possible for a customer to post a review on Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp and a number of other places. Imagine then how discouraging it can be when a business owner goes to all the trouble of asking customers for reviews and then they don’t show up on Google because Google’s spam filter thinks they are fake, even though they aren’t. I’ve seen reviews that have been on Google maps listings for months suddenly disappear. For business owners, it becomes a huge headache, even when they are trying to do things the right way and get real reviews of their business.

Fake Reviews are Big Business and Some States are Cracking Down

Recently, New York cracked down on 19 companies that were both purchasing fake reviews and posting fake reviews. The sting dubbed “Operation Clean Turf” hit the targeted companies with $350,000 in fines, which breaks down to an average fine of just over $18,000 per company. I wonder how much money those companies made because of the fake reviews. In most cases, I’m sure it was worth the fine since the scam has been going on for awhile. Here’s a link to more information about what happened.

What’s a Consumer to Do?

For consumers that rely on reviews to help them make decisions about where to shop and what to buy, I think you have to trust your gut about whether they are real. Most local businesses do not go to the trouble of trying to get fake reviews or even real ones for that matter. So the few reviews they might have are probably real.

What Do Businesses Do?

I think many local businesses are missing out and they should be working harder to get real reviews. A lot of companies are overlooking how valuable they can be. They really can help drive new customers through the door. You just need to realize that it takes time to get them and some real reviews will get caught in the spam filters. But you should keep at it because they provide long term value to your business.

I personally think most online reviews are trustworthy and that they are a valuable resource to consumers. I just recently visited a local Outback steakhouse and ordered the prime rib. Not only will I not order the prime rib again, I won’t be visiting that location ever again either. To voice my displeasure, I posted an online review about the experience on Google before I even left the restaurant and followed up with another one on Facebook. I was really unhappy with the experience. Hopefully, my review will help the next person avoid the prime rib at that Outback location.

If you need help getting found online or getting “real reviews” from your customers call our office at 615-890-3600 or email us. We can help spread the word about your company and put you in front of new potential customers.


Join the Conversation

One thought on “How Trustworthy are Online Reviews Anyway?

  1. I filled out a comment card at a local restaurant recently and got a call back from the manager. He thanked me for my feedback and gave me some insight into what they are doing to ‘fix’ what I had commented on.

    So if you are a small business looking for feedback, I encourage you to read it and reach out to your customers as needed.

    That’s service!

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