Every SME should understand the importance of reviews in local search results. Though Google paused review services during beginning of COVID-19 pandemic and people’s sentiments towards online reviews have shifted, reviews have a crucial impact on small businesses in local searches.
If you are looking for building a solid online reputation, investing time and money in monitoring these reviews across citation listings is worth the effort. If your business is supported by customer reviews, you will increase visibility in local search and show up your business in the Google My Business listing.
Find below a list of the latest trends in online reviews to keep your business in search results in 2021.
Reviews Vs. Personal Recommendations?
In the 2020 edition of BrightLocal (an annual survey involving 1,000 users in the US), online reviews for 79% of buyers are as reliable and trustworthy as getting personal recommendations from family or friends. However, if the overall trend is looked at, we come to know that 10% fewer respondents trust online reviews compared to 2014.
Another study conducted by Reviews.com has revealed that fewer people trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. It has corroborated this trend with more than 35% of people polled saying they trust reviews less than they did 5 years ago.
People are more web-savvy than ever before. They are free to tell when there are suspicious patterns in reviews. It means they can get to know when a business has all 5-star reviews that were submitted all within the same period.
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On the other hand, people are also intelligent enough to sort through potentially fake or negative reviews as one-offs when individuals perhaps had a bad day and they took it out on your business.
In a nutshell, while people are losing trust in online reviews, 80% of people still believe what others are saying about your business.
Stars and Rating
As per the stats released by Yelp in its 2020 report based on reviews left on its platform, approximately 51% were 5-star reviews. When compared with 5 earlier reports, the rate of 5-star and 1-star reviews is increasing, and everything in between this range is narrowing. It’s been a common refrain for many companies who approach online reviews.
In general, when people are pleased or quite dissatisfied, they take to GMB, Yelp or Facebook reviews. The changing distribution of middle star reviews means that it’s more critical than ever for brands to create a review program to solicit a greater volume of reviews from those who may not have wished to leave one before.
While soliciting only positive reviews is against the ‘terms of service’ for most platforms, asking your customers to rate your business is not against the rules.
Increased in Fake Reviews
The 2020 Yelp’s data has also confirmed that:
- Yelp itself has eliminated 80% of reviews since its inception because these reviews were violating Yelp’s policies.
- In 2019, it was 7%. So, over time it appears this is increasing.
Experts are of the view that –
- Half of the difference between Yelp and Google ratings of low-quality businesses are due to fake reviews
- About a quarter of reviews on Google for low-quality businesses are likely fake.
It is also important to note that fake reviews are those given by business owners, employees, customers who are vendors, former employees and others. Platforms such as GMB and Yelp remove fake reviews to prevent the experience of genuine customers and the effectiveness of existing reviews from being polluted.
A Drop in Number of Reviews Due to COVID-19
Lately, in its annual spam report, Google confirmed a drop in the number of reviews last year because to two reasons:
- Lockdown was declared across the globe in 2019
- Only a few people were out for shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.
The same pattern can be noticed in Yelp’s data.
Over the last couple of years, there has been an obvious drop in the number of reviews left in the last 3 quarters of 2020. Coronavirus has impacted the way review services had functioned over the past year alone.
Search engine like Google paused review services during the initial period of COVID-19 due to confusion and communication issues related to safety procedures.
Many customers were reasonably worried when a business listing said a particular business was open but, upon arrival, the customer found out the business was closed or had either limited services or products.
The step taken by Google prevented negative reviews associated with the confusion that could destroy small businesses who were caught up in the invariably changing rules.
Yelp also modified its review service options this year, allowing consumers to leave reviews about how a business follows pandemic-related health and safety measures.
Why You Need to Care
As reviews continue to be a big influencer on buying behavior online, it’s vital to know how the different platforms are battling the problems with fake reviews and how customers are reacting. With reviews still a valuable local SEO ranking factor, you should not underestimate the importance of the review for your business. Reviews still have the in-local-pack even when customer sentiment towards review is slowly shifting, especially during COVID-19.
Jivaso Technologies is standing by you during the coronavirus pandemic and is committed to assisting you with comprehensive Online Reputation Management Services, website design and development services and digital marketing services. Our online marketers implement review solicitation tactics that support each platform’s terms of service.