Should You Trust Online Reviews?

A whole industry has developed on the internet dealing with reviews of businesses, hotels and restaurants.  Perhaps you’ve used some of these sites, such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, and even Google to assess where you do business.  But can you really trust these reviews?  Should you trust these reviews?

Review Manipulation

The reviews are crowdsourced (meaning the public gives the reviews, not professionals).  In the age of automated bots, as you can imagine, it is very easy to manipulate reviews.  Even without bots, businesses get their friends to give a good review or even bribe customers for good ratings.  They also set up schemes to give bad reviews to competitors.  The Yelps of the world are aware of this and they put protocols into place to prevent manipulation of reviews and ratings.  But do they work?  That’s a valid question.

Fake Restaurant Tops in London

With all the controls in place, Trip Advisor recently rated a completely fake restaurant as tops in London.  The story was detailed in a Vice article written by the “perpetrator”.  In fairness, he did actually open the restaurant at one point (as a joke).  The article also showed something about human nature — scarcity and fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) drives motivation.  The hoaxster kept telling callers that the restaurant was booked for weeks in advance.  This seemed to make people want to eat there even more.  People also didn’t want to seem like they were missing out on something hot or trendy.

Yet Reviews and Testimonials are Trusted

So, all that being said, studies show that website users do trust testimonials on websites. That is odd given how skeptical people, in general, tend to be.


So, the next time you read an online review or look at an online rating or ranking, take it with a grain of salt.  And make sure that you have testimonials on your website.

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