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How Do Consumers Really Feel About Online Reviews?

Rieva Lesonsky
online reviews

Americans have a love-hate relationship with online reviews, according to a study from YouGov. Although a whopping 78 percent say they regularly look at online reviews before buying something, 87 percent say “star ratings” in online reviews are very important in their purchasing decisions, and 44 percent write reviews regularly, some 90 percent believe that online reviews are often faked or unreliable.

Americans give a lot of weight to online reviews. Half of them read four or more reviews before they decide on buying something. What’s more, consumers are just as likely to rely on reviews when considering a small purchase (under $10) as they are for one over $100.

At the same time as they rely on reviews, only 13 percent of consumers believe reviews are very reliable. In particular, they’re suspicious of business owners. Some 89 percent think businesses write bad reviews of competitors and 91 percent think business owners post fake, positive reviews of their own businesses.

How can you try to overcome this perception of reviews of your business, your products and your services (not to mention your honesty)? Here are some tips:

  • List your business on a wide variety of review and ratings sites so that you’ll get a wider range of reviews. For instance, people who don’t trust Yelp! reviews might feel more confident if they see positive reviews on Angie’s List.
  • Encourage your customers to write reviews of your business. You can try doing this not only in person, but by using signage in your store or business, or sending post-purchase emails asking customers to review your business. When customers see that you’re actually asking for reviews from real people (that is, them!), they’re more likely to trust reviews of your company.
  • Appeal to customers’ good nature to get more reviews. The study found U.S. reviewers predominately write reviews to help others make good decisions (62 percent) to be polite (35 percent) or to share good experiences (27 percent). Just 12 percent write reviews to get revenge for a bad experience.
  • Never offer an incentive in exchange for reviews. Not only does this violate some review sites’ policies, but it also cements customers’ opinions that online reviews can’t be trusted.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.