Survey: 79 percent of consumers believe they’ve seen fake local reviews

BrightLocal is out with its latest local consumer survey about local business reviews. The survey was based on a sample of 1,031 US consumers and covers a wide range of issues.

It affirms the general importance and influence of reviews on consumer decision-making. However, there are a number of nuances and findings I found especially interesting.

The top two considerations for consumers in considering reviews were average star ratings and overall quantity of reviews. In addition, how recent reviews were was important for many. Less important was whether businesses had responded to reviews, although that factor has gained in importance versus last year.

After reading a positive review, fewer consumers said they were going next to the business website versus 2016. This showed a fairly dramatic decline. More people said they were seeking additional reviews to validate the “positive review” they had just read.

About 30 percent of survey respondents said they needed to see at least two to three positive reviews to enable them to “trust a business.” Another 34 percent wanted four to six reviews, and 33 percent wanted to see at least seven to 10 reviews.

This raises the subject of review integrity or authenticity. In fact, the survey found that nearly 80 percent of respondents had encountered “fake reviews,” with 25 percent saying they had seen “a lot” of them. It’s not clear whether this is a real problem or a perceived one.

One could argue that perception is reality in this context, where the credibility and trustworthiness of reviews are critical. Yelp will see this finding as validating its strict approach to review solicitation.

On that issue, solicitation, the survey found that almost 75 percent of respondents had been asked at some point in the past to leave a review. The majority of those people (51 percent) complied.

The survey suggests that the majority of those “solicited” reviews were positive. BrightLocal found that positive reviews outweighed negative sentiment by almost two to one among those who had “ever left” a local business review.

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