fake-reviewsAnywhere between 20-30% of all reviews are fake. Many conversations I have with business owners is how Bizyhood makes feedback “fair” for both the consumer and the business. One thing that is true is this: regardless of the popularity of sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor (and the popularity of Amazon Reviews), the concept of a 5 star review has serious flaws. Some question whether business owners should or should not be allowed to ask for reviews. A Harvard Business School study from 2011 showed that a 1-star increase in score for a restaurant on Yelp can translate into 5-9% higher sales, which further promotes businesses to not only “game” the system to goose up their scores, but to also stress over a “bad” review. Bad reviews may actually contain helpful and actionable feedback but is often overlooked as the business owner is simply concerned about upping their overall score.

Going too far to the other side is bad too. In just the past 2 weeks, I’ve read about 2 new startups that promise to “promote” good reviews publicly and only share bad reviews privately. This is not terrible – it gives the business owner the actionable feedback from constructive reviews so they can improve without hurting their online reputation. However, it presents a one-side public view of the business to potential new customers. If all I see as a potential customer is the glowing reviews, that doesn’t give me a realistic overview of the business.

One of the most important aspects of any small business is their customer service. Any reasonable consumer does not expect a small business to be perfect. However, they do expect that the small business care about the individual customer and do everything in their power to make them a satisfied customer. Isn’t that a major component of what we’re looking to understand when we research a company? That they do good work (or serve a quality product), and take care of their customers? This is a huge gap in the current review site methodology.

The bottom line: Local businesses should strive to portray an authentic view of their business. This includes making sure their website has some information about the owners and staff, and also making sure they are getting customers talking about them online and giving them feedback. It’s great for their business to learn from customers, and it’s also great for their Local SEO. But it needs to be authentic in order to be effective.

We have some strong thoughts on how to make online feedback more authentic. The large percentage of fake reviews in the 5-star system is deeply troubling and must be fixed. What do you think? Can 5-star reviews ever be authentic, and if so, how? If you own/run/work at a small business, let us know what you ideally want in order to authentically represent your company online.