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3872691762_723d015a2aAny business owner who has ever received online reviews – whether they were negative or positive – can tell you the power online reviews have in influencing how others perceive your brand. All it can take is one glowing or irate review on a popular service such as Google or Yelp to make or break your business.

Most business owners will also tell you the most likely person to leave a review is an angry customer, but a new survey from Mike Blumenthal published on GetFiveStars suggests those business owners may be wrong.

While it is true that extreme reactions are the most likely to result in reviews for your business, the evidence suggests consumers are actually more likely to reward excellent service than they are to attack businesses which provided a bad experience.

Blumenthal surveyed over 600 consumers that self-reported being active online reviews, asking when and why do you typically leave a review for a local business, and the findings show that few reviewers see calling out exceptionally bad service as their primary motivation.

In actuality, most reviewers actually see their reviews as a means to help inform the community, the business, and other consumers.

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For the survey, Blumenthal and colleagues allowed the respondents to answer in their own words, which were then categorized into the following categories:

  • When Experience was really Good or really Bad
  • Only When the Experience really Good
  • Only When the Experience was really Bad
  • To Help Other Consumers
  • To Help Business/Community
  • To Inform Business
  • Other

While the largest cohort of consumers was defined by extremes with a third of respondents only writing reviews based on really good or really bad experienced, the second largest group is entirely characterized by individuals who only use reviews to celebrate excellent service.

Importantly, this group was not much smaller than those who were motivated by extreme experiences on both ends of the spectrum, suggesting business owners are more likely to get positive reviews for good experiences than they are to receive poor reviews when they drop the ball.

To put this in context, 25% of active reviewers reported leaving reviews only when the experience was overwhelmingly positive, but 5% of reviews only leave reviews for truly poor experiences. That means the average reviewer isn’t the perpetually angry critic they are often portrayed as.

The truth is the vast amount of reviewers aren’t out to get anybody. They view themselves as integral parts to the current business ecosystem and an important part of society.

Ultimately, the reason online reviews may seem overwhelmingly negative is because it is simply much more difficult to provide exceptional service than it is to provide a terrible experience. That doesn’t mean it is impossible.

As a business owner, you should naturally be striving to provide the best service possible. If you are doing that, all you have to do to start drawing in scores of positive reviews is make it easy for your consumers to give you feedback and be sure to listen to their needs. If your customers feel like you are listening and responding to what they have to say, you should expect to see great reviews flooding in within no time.

Read the full report from GetFiveStars here.

Google Product Ratings

Google has been working hard to expand their reviews and ratings systems, and yesterday they made a big step by announcing that they will be introducing product ratings for Product Listing Ads (PLAs).

The announcement, which appeared on the Inside Adwords Blog, stated:

Product reviews provide critical information to shoppers making purchase decisions. To help shoppers easily find this information when searching for products, we’re introducing product ratings on Product Listing Ads.

Shoppers browsing on Google will see the typical product listings they have become accustomed to, but beneath the listings product ratings will also be shown in the shape of stars and review counts. For now it appears the changes will only be seen on search results within the United States.

The data used for these review listings will be gathered from multiple sources, such as merchants, third party aggregators, and editorial sites.

If reviews for businesses are any indication of what this change will bring, it seems very likely that businesses offering products with largely positive reviews will be able to leverage the updated listings to not only increase their click-through rates, but to also increase conversions overall.

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Reviews have always been important for reaching and maintaining success as a business, but since the rise of Yelp reviews have become essential. With the increased popularity of rating platforms and our rising reliance on them for online purchases, it is clear we are also beginning to put more trust in online reviews as well.

That is the finding of a new study from BrightLocal which highlights how consumers respond to reviews. This report makes the 4th year BrightLocal has conducted a study on consumer usage and attitudes toward online reviews and the findings overwhelmingly show that we trust online reviews now more than ever.

Myles Anderson shared the findings from the study on Search Engine Land, but the biggest highlight is the finding that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This is great news for businesses with primarily positive reviews, but that means negative reviews have more weight as well.

In the end, the findings just confirm what we’ve all suspected for quite some time. Finding ways to stimulate positive reviews is essential to increasing your online presence and driving new business. Otherwise, you might wind up with poor reviews and dwindling business.

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You can work on building your brand’s image and marketing as much as you want, but at the end of the day bad reviews can outweigh all that hard work. We’d all like to believe that good reviews can balance out the negative, however that notion got pretty well shattered when Mike Blumenthal recently published a set of surveys strongly showing that consumers perceive that a “negative review corpus hurts a business more than positive reviews help them.

For businesses struggling with the issue of negative reviews, this news isn’t a relief. However, Blumenthal reviewed his results and noticed something interesting. Younger consumers seem to be more tolerant of bad reviews than their older counterparts.

Of course, younger consumers aren’t going to forgive a place with an outstanding number of one star reviews. But, it appears that consumers between the ages of 18-24, specifically those who are more savvy to online reviews, may be able to parse negative reviews more thoroughly rather than rejecting businesses out of hand. Rather than accepting the review at face value, they actively search for aspects that could be a deal breaker.

Obviously, the best way to handle a bad review portfolio is to directly address any valid concerns of reviewers, and encourage those who have positive experiences to review your site so that you can potentially water down the negative. But, Blumenthal’s survey suggests that reviews are always the end-all-be-all that we think they are.

As you have likely noticed by now, Google merged Google Plus and Google Places. This has changed the way that Places listings are showing up in a few ways. One of the changes that is most noticeable is the review system – it used to be an easy to see 5-star system. What happened?

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