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Consumers Read More Local Online Reviews—Thanks to Rumors of Fakes?

Surprisingly, most trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from friends

Despite the buzz surrounding phony online business ratings and reviews, consumers haven’t stopped reading other people’s posts about their experiences with companies. In fact, a June 2014 study by Bright Local found that more consumers were reading reviews to determine the quality of a local business than in the past: 88% of US internet users, vs. 85% in 2013.

Respondents were also reading more online reviews before putting trust in a local business, with the percentage who looked at over 20 climbing from 2% to 7% year over year. Though most responses still fell between four and six, the portion of respondents who read between zero and three reviews dropped, while higher totals saw increases. Bright Local noted that increased usage levels could be good or bad, driving higher engagement, but possibly indicating that trust had gone down.

But further questioning indicated that the latter may not be the case: 88% of internet users said they trusted online reviews about local businesses as much as suggestions from people they knew, up from 79% last year. Meanwhile, just 13% didn’t have as much faith in reviews as they did personal recommendations, compared with 21% in 2013.

Reading may be up, but January 2014 polling by AYTM Market Research found that few consumers actually posted online business reviews. Nearly three-quarters of US internet users said they had never posted a review of a business on Yelp or a similar site, while 16.0% had done so once or twice and 10.5% many times.

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