Positive reviews and gaming the system: statistics and lawsuits

Getting a positive review on Yelp or Google ranslates directly to sales for most businesses and this seems rather obvious…. but this infographic puts Yelp into exact numbers

 

Lots of interesting statistics here but the ones that really struck me were

87% of small businesses don’t actively use review sites and
22% don’t even check their Yelp page

yet

72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and
http://mashable.com/2013/09/02/yelp-reviews-infographic/ of Yelp users say positive reviews impact their purchase

Another study shows that trust is continuing to rise, but doesn’t have the fancy infographic and shows that trust now at 79%.

What this means to me as a small business owner is that actively monitoring review sites will result in an almost guaranteed return on investment. Your competition probably isn’t active there and you can grab the lion’s share of the market.

Here at DoctorDave Computer Repair in Lawrence, KS we actively monitor as many sites as we can such as Yelp, Google Review, LJworld Marketplace and Angie’s list. It’s critical to business and we stay on top of any problems and resolve them, and I’m extremely proud of all the positive reviews we have — they are absolutely genuine since I know so many of my clients.

Some businesses try to game the system posting positive reviews for themselves or negative reviews about the competition. This landmark study by the Harvard Business School examines the inner workings of Boston ‘s review culture and finds which businesses are likely to fake reviews and why. It’s an absolutely fascinating read and calls into question the reliability of Yelp and in particular the Yelp filter (which I’ve written about before)

This link http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/08/research-underdog-businesses-a/ gives a condensed version of the study for those less inclined to read academic papers. One of the key takeaways that really shocked me (and explains why so many of my reviews are filtered or “not recommended”) is that companies like mine that have a high number of positive reviews are more likely to have reviews filtered. Additionally, the smaller the business, the more likely it is to be filtered which again shows why Yelp can be bad for small business.

Yelp doesn’t just filter these reviews, but is now suing a business that had its employees write reviews. While this is the first firm to be sued by Yelp for such circumstances it’s unlikely to be the last. Of course this lawsuit directly contradicts the validity of Yelp’s filter and I question how Yelp can have it both ways: filter reviews and then sue a business because Yelp’s filters failed. If Yelp’s filters work, how could these reviews have seen the light of day?

It’s not just Yelp suing either but the NY Attorney General has come down hard on some companies that fake their reviews. This is a great read as well as it involves multiple sting operations, one of them being at a frozen yogurt place which very much reminds me of this Seinfeld episode. Similarly, Edumunds (a car review) site is also suing fraudulent reviewers. This guide tells a business owner how to spot a fake review.

If real people write a review, they aren’t immune from lawsuits as one TripAdvisor reviewer found out or simply humilated in public.

To get real reviews this guide is very helpful for small businesses as well as this one. Check them out and make sure to keep your reviews honest, or else you’ll find yourself not just filtered but in some legal hot water.

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