January 24, 2022

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9 in 10 customers more likely to overlook a negative review if the business responds adequately, Yelp says

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Nearly 9 out of 10 people (88%) are more likely to look past a negative review if they see that the business has responded and appropriately addressed the issue, according to a survey on review quality and transparency commissioned by Yelp and conducted by Kelton. The survey also found that 97% of respondents believe that written reviews, alongside a star rating, are the most helpful type of online reviews for local businesses.

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Image: Yelp.

The study included 1,500 people in the United States aged 18+.

Why we care. Although there is not much local business owners can do to influence their reviews outside of providing a positive experience for their customers, there are steps they can take to recover from negative reviews. A timely response to a negative review, for example, might convince the reviewer to upgrade their rating and shows new customers that you’re responsive to their needs.

Additionally, the findings show that customers are cautious of businesses that ask for reviews, so it’s best to avoid doing so, especially since both Yelp and Google have specific policies regarding review solicitation.

The types of reviews users trust. While written reviews accompanied by star ratings were viewed as the most helpful (by 97% of people surveyed), 59% of respondents said that they believe ratings without text describing the customer’s experience should not be considered a review at all.

“One-star ratings with no text offer little value to customers since they provide absolutely no context to support the rating,” Joy Hawkins, owner of Local Search Forum, Local U and Sterling Sky, wrote in an article for Search Engine Land. “They are also the most difficult type of negative review to get Google to remove,” she added, “Since there is no text, there is often absolutely nothing you can point to that will convince Google that it violates their guidelines.” Customers can leave textless ratings on Google, but ratings must be accompanied by a written review on Yelp.

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Image: Yelp.

The study also found that medium-length reviews (between 16-50 words) were believed to be the most helpful by 59% of respondents. Of the respondents that read reviews, more than half (54%) said they read 3-5 reviews about a business before deciding whether they will visit it. 

Being responsive can help you recover from negative reviews. As mentioned above, nearly 9 in 10 respondents are more likely to overlook a past negative review if they see the business has responded and addressed the issue. This complements a previous Yelp finding that customers are 33% more likely to update a critical review if a business replies with a personalized message within 24 hours.

Customers are less trusting of businesses that solicit reviews. Half of respondents (50%) said they don’t trust reviews if they know the business asked their customers to leave a review. Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents who read reviews think that reviews left after a business asked for a review are biased. On the other hand, 71% of people surveyed would still write a review if the business offered them a discount or other incentive to do so, suggesting that customers either aren’t aware or don’t care about the harm that deceitful reviews can cause.

Soliciting reviews in any capacity is against Yelp’s guidelines. On Google’s local platform, reminding customers to leave reviews is acceptable, but discouraging them from leaving negative reviews or selectively soliciting positive reviews is prohibited.


About The Author

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George Nguyen is an editor for Search Engine Land, covering organic search, podcasting and e-commerce. His background is in journalism and content marketing. Prior to entering the industry, he worked as a radio personality, writer, podcast host and public school teacher.
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