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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Do Positive Reviews Motivate Consumers?

It seems intuitive that a negative review corpus would severely limit a business’s online opportunities. And likewise that a positive review  corpus would expand them. But these recent surveys indicate that a negative collection of reviews is much more likely to harm a business than positive reviews are going to help them.

In an effort to assist a client in quantifying the value of reviews and to help them better understand exactly what it would mean to a local business if they had negative or positive reviews, we conducted several large scale consumer surveys of 2500 US adult internet users 25 and older asking them whether they would be likely to choose or not choose a business with negative or positive review corpus.

As would be expected with a negative review corpus, ~85% of consumers indicated that they would be “not likely” or “somewhat unlikely” to choose a business with negative reviews. This response seemed independent of industry. It was heavily skewed toward the “not likely” with over 62% of all respondents indicating they would not be likely to frequent a business with negative reviews.

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However when asked the same question about positive reviews, consumers were nowhere near as likely to look upon positive reviews as reason to choose a business. Between 44% and 53% indicated that they were somewhat or very likely to chose a business with positive reviews. But the vast majority of those were “somewhat likely” rather than “very likely” indicating a degree of caution even among those that were predisposed to favor the business based on positive reviews.

47% and 56% of respondents indicated that would remain somewhat unlikely or not likely to choose a business based on positive reviews. That is a large degree of skepticism. Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 1.44.08 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 1.43.58 PM

Interestingly there was little regional difference on the attitude towards negative reviews. Whether you were from Minnesota or California bad reviews were the kiss of the death.

However on the positive side, folks from the midwest were much less likely to be impressed by positive reviews and indicated significantly less likelihood to pick a business based on positive reviews. You have to love that healthy skepticism from the hinterlands.


Similarly when you parse the survey data by age, there was unanimity across age groups that there was little desire to look favorably on business with bad reviews. But there was significant age differences in the approach to positive reviews. The older the respondents were, the less likely they were to be impressed by positive reviews and the younger someone was increased the likelihood that they would view positive reviews in a positive light.


Tomorrow or the day after,  I will explore in more depth what the terms negative and positive reviews mean to people as not everyone parses these terms in the same way. That being said it is safe to conclude that negative reviews are much, much more likely to negatively impact your business than positive reviews are to help.

Depending on you business and your target demographic you need to be more or less concerned about reviews with older consumers less likely to be influenced by positive reviews. From a tactical viewpoint, these results seem to indicate that any business that is taking reviews seriously needs to implement a consistent and thorough way to minimize the likelihood of bad reviews. This speaks strongly to having a culture that is open to accepting complaints, one that is intent upon improving their processes and  one that is truly concerned about the consistent delivery of quality. Here are some ideas on avoiding bad reviews.

I think it alsos mean that any review process needs to be equally concerned with finding and satisfying unhappy customers as it is with finding happy customers to leave reviews.

If you are a member of the Local U forum, the complete surveys are available to you in the LocalU Forums here.

Disclaimer: I have developed, with Don Campbell, a feedback and review management product, that reflects a lot of my thinking about reviews including the idea of actively seeking feedback to help minimize bad reviews. Given my commercial interest in reviews, you need to take any advice I might offer vis a vis reviews with a grain of salt. 🙂