The State of Online Reviews in 2018
This past year delivered a number of changes to the online review landscape. From Google increasing the prominence of online reviews in their search results to Yelp threatening to dive bomb the profiles of businesses soliciting online reviews, there’s no doubt that the online review industry will continue to impact how businesses are perceived by customers in 2018.
The state of online reviews in 2017/2018:
⭐️ – Fake Review from Competitor
⭐️⭐️ – Disgruntled Ex-Employee
⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Unhappy Customer
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Happy Customer
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Paid Fake Review
— ????Garrett Smith???? (@GarrettSmith) November 17, 2017
Let’s take a look at the state of online reviews, as we enter the new year.
1. Online reviews influence consumers more than ever
It seems like every week in 2017 there was a new study released pointing to the importance and prominence of online reviews. With customers continuing to trust online reviews almost as much as a recommendation from friends and family, there’s little reason to believe this won’t still be the case 12 months from now. Businesses that are late to embrace online reviews and implement a program will find themselves further behind their competitors that do.
2. Google increasing prominence of online reviews in local search
The online leader clearly ratcheted up their interest and usage of online reviews through both Google My Business and their Google Local Guides program. Online reviews are now a ranking factor, displayed prominently in the local “snack pack” listings, and a focal point for local guides looking to improve their standing with Google. If ranking highly for key search terms or increasing the amount of traffic you get from Google is important, now is the time to act.
3. Rising numbers of fake online reviews threatens consumer trust
Despite online reviews growing influence on customers, 2017 brought to light the growing problem of fake online reviews – both positive and negative. This is a major problem the entire online review industry must tackle head-on. The growth in influence and trust that online reviews currently enjoy is based entirely on authenticity, and if fake reviews continue to proliferate the profiles of business, customers will grow skeptical and the importance of online reviews will diminish.
4. Growing need for platforms to ensure online review authenticity
As more platforms and websites embrace ratings and reviews as filters for quality, the more vulnerable they become to manipulation from marketers, spammers and internet trolls. From Amazon to TripAdvisor, this past year has brought to light a number of ways in which online ratings and reviews can be gamed. When you factor in the rise of fake reviews, the online review ecosystem needs to take steps to ensure consumer confident in rating and review data doesn’t wane this year.
5. Yelp continues to threaten businesses soliciting online reviews from customers
It’s not like we all need another reason to hate on Yelp, but they once again given us all a reason. In what has been positioned as an attempt to ensure high quality, Yelp has began threatening business owners and agencies helping them who proactively solicit reviews from customers. Claiming that asking for reviews leads to bias, this move could be the start of the end for Yelp, or the begin of a trend across online review websites in 2018.
6. Businesses still quick to be litigious with customers who leave negative reviews
Hey, we can write all the how-to posts we want, but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to listen, right? In what has come to be my favorite thing to do every week, it seems business owners continue to be quick to sue disappointed customers who post their opinion online. While we don’t suggest you go do that, we do feel that this online review strategy could be on the rise in years to come.
7. AI, Blockchain, and Machine Learning tech emerge as potential arbiters of online review authenticity
You know it wouldn’t be fair to write about the state of affairs of an ecosystem without mentioning AI, Blockchain, and Machine Learning. Given the rise of fake online reviews, and the games many are willing to play to manipulate the system, these three technologies are already being put to use in an attempt to thwart these efforts. While the reviewer is still the only one who really knows whether the review they left is authentic or not, these technologies will play an increasing role in online review verification and reputation management software.