Consumers are changing their behaviour when looking at online reviews for local businesses – with many struggling to spot fake reviews when choosing who to use, according to new research.
New research from local SEO tool provider BrightLocal finds that nearly every consumer (97%) used the internet to search for a local business in the last year, with 12% performing a search every day.
The latest BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey finds:
- 97% of consumers read reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking daily
- Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a local business
- 85% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 17% fewer people visit a business website after reading good reviews than in 2016
- 79% of consumers read fake reviews in 2017 – but 84% can’t always spot them
- More people than ever are trusting online reviews, with 85% saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (up from 84% in 2016). Worryingly, 79% of consumers have seen a fake review in the last year. A shocking 84% admit that they can’t always spot a false review.
Myles Anderson, Founder and CEO at BrightLocal, comments, “This year’s survey highlights the importance of trust for consumers today. With fake news being such a hot topic, the authenticity of local reviews are under more scrutiny than ever. Nearly 4 out of 5 consumers have seen fake reviews, and this creates skepticism which impacts confidence and ultimately purchasing decisions.
“Business owners can combat this through proactively generating genuine reviews and responding to all reviews they get. They need to show consumers that they are an attentive, customer-focused business they can trust.”
The annual Local Consumer Review Survey explores how consumers interact with online local business reviews. It finds that consumers read an average of seven reviews before feeling able to trust a business – up from six in 2016. And what’s more, half (49%) of consumers now demand that a business has an average rating of four or more stars before they consider using them.
This year’s survey finds a growth of review-reading on mobile devices, with one in three (32%) using mobile apps to look at reviews in 2017 – up from 18% last year. However, these haven’t replaced the viewing of reviews on desktops, with 80% reading reviews in this way (up from 78% in 2016).
Interestingly, more consumers now look for businesses responding to reviews, with 30% naming this as a key reputation trust factor – compared to just 20% last year.
Declining Importance of Business Website
This year’s survey finds that consumers are changing what they do after reading a positive review. Far fewer people now visit a business’s website as their next step (37%, down from 54% last year). This could be a direct result of Google’s growing ability to replace business websites with the information shown in search results, such as opening times, bookings and contact details.
Instead consumers are bypassing business websites and choosing to visit the business directly 17%, up from 7% in 2016. 10% choose to directly contact the business as their next step – up again from 3% in 2016’s study.
Motivations for Leaving Reviews
Two in three (63%) people have written an online review for a positive experience with a local business, while 35% have for a negative experience. Three quarters (74%) of consumers have been asked to leave a review for a local business – with 68% of these going on to do so. Just 6% claim they have never, and will never leave an online review.
Myles continues, “Every year we see even more consumers looking at online reviews when choosing a local business. And the bar is rising with half of consumers only considering businesses that have a rating of 4 or 5 stars.
“But, it’s no longer enough to expect reviews to come to you. Every business needs a strategy in place to encourage happy customers to feedback, monitor across the different review sites, and respond to both positive and negative reviews quickly and professionally. And remember – if you don’t ask, you won’t get.”