In today’s digital age, online reviews are undoubtedly the most influential indicator that consumers research and consider when determining whether to engage with a business, product, or service. Just as positive reviews can catapult a business or product to the top, negative and fake online reviews can completely tear it down, sometimes to an irreparable state.
Cultivating and maintaining a positive digital footprint is not just an “added bonus” for a business anymore. It is the new standard for businesses to not only survive in today’s competitive digital landscape, but thrive. For example, the average business Google profile in 2020 has 39 reviews for consumers to read and analyze before proceeding down the funnel.
At Minc Law, we understand the severe effects that even a half star drop to a business’s online rating can have on its success, bottom-line, and longevity. We have worked tirelessly with thousands of businesses to help them navigate today’s highly competitive online review ecosystem and remove negative and fake online reviews.
Online reviews play a critical role in the success and longevity of a business because:
- An overwhelming percentage of consumers seek out and read online reviews before making both small and large purchasing decisions;
- Positive online reviews can have a significant impact on a business’s revenue and bottom line;
- Negative and fake online reviews can deter potential customers and employees from engaging with a business or product; and
- Online reviews are often interpreted as an accurate reflection of the quality of a customer’s experience.
Below is a list of 40 key statistics about online reviews and consumer behavior that you should know to better evaluate, bolster, and maintain your business’s online presence. Scroll to the bottom of the article for the full infographic containing the key statistics and more!
How Businesses Can Benefit From Positive Online Reviews
Online reviews are written recommendations in a digital form, and a type of word-of-mouth marketing, given by past customers to potential customers. Now, instead of basing purchasing decisions on in-person interactions, newspaper advertisements, or billboard signs, consumers have real-time access at their fingertips to opinions, reviews, and recommendations from across the country and globe.
In today’s digital age, word-of-mouth-marketing is supreme, with just under 75% of consumers citing word-of-mouth recommendations as a critical factor in determining their purchasing decisions. 92% of business-to-business (B2B) decision-makers are more likely to make a purchase after reading a trusted review.
Of the consumers that researched and read online reviews of a business, 90% stated that positive reviews played a role in their buying decision. Furthermore, 27% of consumers declared positive online reviews to be a driving factor in motivating them to reach out and contact a business – both in person or online.
Increased Conversions & Spending
Positive online reviews do not only affect a customer’s chances of engaging with a business or product. They also have significant impacts on their spending behavior.
For example, businesses that display consumer reviews on their website can increase consumer conversion rates up to 270%. These increased conversion rates are further catapulted into the profit stratosphere when stellar online reviews are visible. This causes customers to spend, on average, 31% more on a business’s products.
Conversion rates increase by roughly 380% in cases where online reviews are displayed next to “higher-priced” products, while online reviews displayed next to lower-priced products see a respectable 190% increase.
A Positive Review Can Carry Extra Weight in the Service Industry
Positive online reviews serve as a trustworthy endorsement to consumers considering similar investments and purchases. They are especially critical to the success of service industry establishments, such as:
- Consultants, and
- Medical professionals.
For example, 94% of U.S. diners acknowledged that online restaurant reviews and content influenced their dining decisions, while 74.6% of prospective patients have researched medical reviews about a medical professional before engaging them.
Even more telling of the impact a positive review can have on a service industry business is that 95% of travelers read hotel reviews before booking a trip. Additionally, 88% of travelers will filter out hotels with an average star rating below three.
The medium in which reviews are published has a significant impact on service industry consumer behavior as well. 43% of shoppers state that text-based reviews influence their purchase decisions the most, while 33% are most swayed by photographs and 24%, respectively, are influenced by video.
The Damage Caused By a Negative or Bad Review
Just as positive online reviews can put a business or product “on the map” and yield tangible success metrics, negative online reviews can cause great hardship and stress. An online business profile riddled with negative reviews can cause consumers to avoid engaging with a company or product altogether. This is especially true when the negative reviews clearly contradict a business’s brand message or product statement.
According to a 2018 ReviewTrackers study of online reviews, 94% of participants answered that negative online reviews have, in the past, convinced them to outright avoid a business. Furthermore, four out of five consumers have completely changed their minds about a recommended purchase after reading negative online reviews.
Negative reviews can have compounding effects. Businesses can risk losing up to 22% of customers when a single negative article is discovered online. This number increases nearly three times, if three or more negative articles are found in an internet search.
Note: If you or your business are seeking a news article removal, we recommend checking out our resource on the subject, “4 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Removing Negative News Articles“. Although there is no surefire way to convince news platforms to remove articles, there are several ways to increase your odds for removal.
However, it is not always a barrage of negative reviews that can deter consumers from engaging a business or product. A 2013 Horizon Research Publishing survey found that 11.54% of surveyees would not even engage with a business or product with a single bad review.
Given that nearly 75% of consumers do not trust traditional advertising methods, such as radio and television, online reviews are seen as a “last bastion” for honest feedback, void of sales jargon and misleading statements.
Negative Online Reviews Affect a Company’s Employment Brand & Hiring Process
Negative online reviews do not only affect a business’s leads, sales, and other success metrics, but they can affect the hiring funnel as well. That negative Glassdoor review or fake Healthgrades review that your business or practice received could have disastrous effects on your company’s ability to attract and retain talent. A 2016 study from Harvard Business Review found that employers with a bad online reputation spent an average of 10% more per hire.
Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s average salary calculations, a company with 10,000 employees could end up spending nearly $8 million per year in additional wages to make up for a poor online presence.
Negative Reviews Can Sometimes Actually Cultivate Trustworthiness in a Brand
For businesses only with a small percentage of negative online reviews, you may not actually need worry. Believe it or not, negative reviews can be a positive driver of business.
According to Reevoo, a customer engagement and research platform, more than two-thirds of consumers trust a review profile more when there is a mix of positive and negative reviews.
When a profile has zero negative reviews, it can raise suspicion of the possibility that negative reviews have been deleted.
Who is Looking at Your Online Reviews?
It is important to understand that everyone from past and prospective customers, to future employees and business partners, all the way to the news media and popular bloggers, look to a business or service’s online reviews before engaging them.
94% of customers actively seek out and read online reviews to gather information about a product or service, get a second opinion, or learn about a business’s brand and message, while 82% of consumers research online reviews for local businesses.
Consumers conducting research do not just briefly scan a business’s online review profile either. 93% of consumers spend an average of more than one minute reading online reviews, while 43% spend more than ten minutes!
This research is critical, as it either reinforces a consumer’s purchasing decision or causes them to abandon their prospective engagement with a business altogether.
Age Influences Consumer Research
A consumer’s age range can dictate whether or not they research online reviews before engaging a business, service, or product. 52% of 18-54-year-olds say that they ‘always’ read reviews before purchasing a product or making contact with a business. That percentage drastically increases when the age range is narrowed, with roughly 93% of consumers aged 35 to 54 stating that they ‘always’ read online reviews.
Once a consumer crosses 55 years old, consumer research activity tapers off significantly. Only 35% of consumers aged 55+ regularly search for local businesses online.
Age can also dictate how long a consumer spends reading those reviews. Consumers aged 18-34 spend on average 33% more time reading reviews than the average person. Breaking that down even further, consumers aged 55+ spend nearly 10 minutes reading online reviews, while the coveted 18 to 34-year-old demographic spend nearly double this amount of time!
Prospective Employees Read Online Reviews Before Applying
Potential employees also take note of a business’s online reviews and ratings. According to a 2018 study by JobVite, a talent acquisition and applicant tracking platform, 46% of job seekers cite company culture as “very important” when choosing to apply to a company.
In fact, 15% of all applicants polled revealed that they have turned down a job that did not meet their company culture expectations.
What is more, 33% of U.S. workers say that they would pass on the perfect job if it was not complemented by a positive company culture.
Impact of Online Reviews on Trust & Credibility of a Business
In today’s digital age, 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. Consumers just do not trust traditional advertising like they used to. In fact, an estimated 75% of today’s consumers do not trust traditional advertising methods at all.
Consumers make up their minds quickly and often base their first and final opinions about a business on a brief snippet of information. A 2017 Martech Zone study on consumer behavior found that 90% of respondents need less than 10 reviews to form an opinion about a business or product.
Consumer trust in those reviews is extremely high, so it is imperative that your digital footprint put its best foot forward.
In the case of manufacturer reviews, consumers trust online reviews written by third-parties nearly 12 times more than product descriptions and copy authored by the manufacturer.
Most customers will not even act to engage with a business or product before reading online reviews. 72% of customers will not even take any action before they research and read online reviews about a product or business. For better or worse, online reviews online play an integral role in creating, building, and (even) destroying consumer trust.
Any Press is Good Press
It is not always just the content in an online customer review that substantially impacts a business’s trustworthiness and credibility. Just having online business reviews (good or bad) on one’s professional profile acts as social proof that your product or services are not an obvious scam, and bolsters trust and credibility with consumers.
For example, a product with at least five reviews is 270% more likely to be purchased than a product with zero reviews.
Impact of Online Reviews on Internet Search Result Rankings
A business’s positioning and rankings in internet search results can be the difference between a healthy and bustling consumer-base and having to close one’s doors for good. Bolstering your business’s online review profile can have a tangible impact on your rankings in internet search results.
After all, internet search engines first place trust in consumers, then businesses.
In 2020, online reviews and ratings are the biggest driver of clicks in local search engine results pages (“SERPs”). While business owners can boast of achievements in long-form blog posts, social media advertising, and website copy, internet search engines primarily focus on how users interact with that business.
When It Comes to Internet Search Results, Google Reigns Supreme
It should be no surprise that Google accounts for nearly 60% of all online reviews on the web, while 63.6% of all consumers opt to research business and product reviews on Google.
A 2018 Moz study on local search ranking factors found that a business’s online review signals (review quantity, review diversity, review velocity) accounted for just over 15% of general ranking factors considered by Google.
For businesses that want to capture that coveted Google snippet or first position in search results, it is going to take more than just several positive online reviews. Businesses that rank in positions 1-3 in Google’s local search have on average 47 online reviews.
Star Ratings Can Make Make or Break a Business
A business’s average online review profile can be a significant indicator of future revenue, sales, and success. However, not all reviewers take the time to leave a well-thought-out and comprehensive review.
Note: If you are the target of defamatory one-star reviews from clients or competitors, we recommend checking out our article, “One-Star Reviews: What Can I Do & Who Can I Sue?”
Oftentimes, a business’s online review profile or page will majorly consist of a “yes” or “no,” in the form of a numerical or star rating. The lower the number or star rating, the less a customer recommends that business, and vice versa.
Consumers take numerical and star ratings very seriously. A 2019 BrightLocal survey found that a meager 13% of consumers would ever consider spending at a business that has a 2 star or lower rating, while only 7% of buyers over the age of 55 would engage a business rated less than 3 stars.
For example, a Harvard Business Review study analyzing the impact of positive Yelp reviews on a restaurant found that a one-star increase in one’s Yelp profile led to a 5-9% increase in revenue, while a U.C. Berkeley study analyzing the same found that a ½ star rating increase translated into a 19% greater likelihood that a restaurant would reach maximum occupancy during peak dining times.
The Prevalence of Fake Business & Product Reviews
Potentially even more damaging to a business than a negative customer review from a genuine customer is the threat of a fake online review written by a malicious online troll, disgruntled ex-employee, or unethical competing business. In today’s digital landscape, fake online reviews (and fake one star reviews) are not just a one-off threat to businesses, they are an ever-present reality.
However, a strategic game-plan to efficiently spot a fake online review (or batch of fake online reviews) and remove it can ensure that a minimal impact is felt.
An estimated 82% of all consumers read at least one fake review in 2019, while upwards of 20% of all online reviews are completely fabricated. Fake online reviews are not just relegated to one or two platforms either. They are everywhere.
A fake online review is not only a threat to businesses and can have a significant impact on a consumer’s spending. In 2019, the average American consumer wasted on average $125 on purchases due to fake online reviews. In the U.K. fake online reviews influence roughly $23 billion in customer spending per year.
Minc Law Fake Online Review Tip: Businesses can better arm themselves against fake Google reviews by familiarizing themselves with their common characteristics. For example, an MIT survey tackling deceptive consumer reviews found that fake online reviews have a tendency to utilize multiple exclamation points and hyperbolic language.
How to Improve Your Percentage of Positive Online Reviews
The best way to cultivate a positive and reputable online review profile is to provide value to your customers, no matter the industry. Negative and fake reviews happen. You could provide perfect customer service, a high quality product, and do everything right, yet still receive a negative review. It is just the name of the game.
Your business and brand’s success ultimately hinges on how you:
- Generate positive online reviews,
- Strengthen your review profiles, and
- Respond to negative and fake reviews.
Take Constructive Criticism to Heart
If your business finds itself dealing with an onslaught of negative online reviews, take time out to thoroughly analyze common themes amongst the complaints. Were the negative reviews caused because of rude employees, staff inefficiency, high prices, low quality products, or a lack of customer service?
If you notice patterns in the complaints, there may be a fundamental shortcoming behind them that is preventing your business from reaching its full potential.
A successful business will take these constructive complaints to heart and take actionable steps to remedy them.
Respond to Negative Online Reviews (When Appropriate)
Responding to negative online reviews provides your business with an opportunity to tell your side of the story. However, responding to negative online reviews could be approached with caution. While more than half of consumers expect brands to respond to online reviews, doing so could lead your business down a slippery slope and cause more harm than good.
As a general rule of thumb, responding to a negative or fake online review should be your last resort.
At Minc Law, we generally recommend against responding to negative online reviews unless your brand is facing a major PR disaster, are in an industry with high volumes of traffic and consumer reviews, or are a national brand.
For example, responding to a negative or fake online review can increase that review’s visibility and prominence in internet search results. as platforms display reviews with more activity, content, and engagement. Furthermore, responding to a negative online review can actually decrease the chances that an online platform removes the review. A response to a negative review indicates to the platform that the matter is being handled appropriately, and that no further action is necessary.
Finally, depending on a business’s industry there may be legal consequences at play. An inappropriate response could put you and your business in hot water legally. Responses can be especially worrisome to navigate for doctors and lawyers, both bound by strict confidentiality restrictions.
Should you weigh the pros and cons and determine that responding to the negative review in question is in your business’s best interests, we recommend crafting a thoughtful and personal response.
If you are in the medical field, make sure to check out our article explaining how doctors can respond to online reviews without breaking the law.
Work With Experienced Defamation Attorneys to Remove Negative & Fake Online Reviews
If your business is shamed, defamed, or attacked in a consumer review (or a barrage of reviews), hiring an experienced online defamation removal attorney may be your best course of action to:
- Remove damaging content,
- Identify the perpetrators behind it and hold them liable, and
- Put an end to the defamation and online harassment for good.
Dayra at Minc Law helped us remove internet posts that were harmful to a representative of my company. She was responsive, informative and I would hire Minc Law in future should I need your services.
DG, Aug 5, 2020
Minc Law gives businesses peace of mind in a digital world by providing a full range of legal services to help businesses of all sizes monitor and control their online reputations.
Reach out today to schedule your free, initial no-obligation consultation by contacting a chat representative, filling out our contact form, or calling us at (216) 373-7706.