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online review websites like Yelp Google or Facebook can make or break your business

Online Reviews Are Worthless

Feb 01, 2018

Let me be honest with you: this is a shameless clickbait title. There is no way I am going to argue that online reviews are worthless.

However, if the headline did get your attention, I’m going to feel slightly less bad about it.

To my credit, the title for this blog post is not random; it’s here to prove a point. 

At the end of 2017, I did a webinar for an audience of mostly small business owners about online reputation management.

You can watch a slightly edited and shortened version of the webinar below. 

Many Local Businesses Completely Depend on Online Reviews

The content of the webinar is based on my real life interactions with small business owners. I’ve learned that a lot of brick-and-mortar business owners tend to misunderstand the concept of online reputation and loathe online review platforms such as Yelp or Google Reviews. 

The goal of the webinar was to give a basic understanding of online reputation and provide some tips on what small businesses can do to manage their online reputation. 

Basically, if you are a location-based business, third-party review websites are the places where your online reputation "resides."

If your business is a restaurant, gym or yoga studio, Yelp, Google, and Facebook alone can kill your business or ensure its survival. 

In the webinar, I’ve provided plenty of facts proving the above.

At the same time, I have assured my webinar attendees that there is a way to put a handle on those reviews.

There are tools out there to track and respond to your reviews. There are techniques that can help you catch a potentially negative review before it goes live.

And sometimes, it’s OK to defend your business and your livelihood by hiring an attorney and getting a baseless review removed. 

Business Owners Are Not Exactly in Love With Online Reviews

Fast forward to February of 2018.

I was getting ready to post the video recording of the webinar right here on this blog. Before doing so, I search "online reputation" in Google just to see Google’s suggested search phrase.

This is what came up:


The results are somewhat expected. People want to know how to use reviews to grow their business ("online reviews marketing"), how to find a review site for doctors ("online reviews of doctors") and whether reviews can be bought and sold  ("online reviews for money"). 

One search result did surprise me and you can probably guess which one: "online reviews are worthless." 

I knew already that business owners (restaurateurs in particular) hate reviews sites, especially Yelp, with a passion. 

Anthony Bourdain had this to say about elite Yelpers: There’s really no worse, or lower human being than an elite Yelper. They’re universally loathed by chefs everywhere.”

So, the fact that business owners hate reviews didn’t surprise me. However, the fact that enough people search for "online reviews are worthless" did surprise me. 

Let me share this with you: 85% people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. It’s actually mind-blowing. 85% of people trust strangers’ opinion of a business as much as they would a personal recommendation  (presumably, a recommendation of someone they know). 

Here are a few more similarly revealing findings from a Local Consumer Survey:

The bottom line is this: While dealing with online reviews can be frustrating and you may hate the fact that you have to spend your time handling online reviews, they are the opposite of worthless. 

In fact, if you run a local brick-and-mortar business, you must understand that online reviews are a huge part of your online reputation. 

Basic online reputation management steps for small businesses

If you haven’t done it yet, make sure you do the following:

  • Claim your name/business profile on all relevant customer review sites, not just Yelp
  • Monitor your reviews
  • Respond to both positive and negative reviews
    Have a system that explicitly asks for positive reviews

Processes brick-and-mortar businesses must take to manage their online reputation:

  • Always collect your customer’s email address.
  • Have an email drip-campaign or text message follow up sequence.
  • Have a system that takes a potentially negative review offline and pushes positive reviews online.
  • Have a system that consistently adds fresh reviews and diversifies your reviews across various platforms.

If you are able to handle this in-house--kudos to you. If this is too much or if you think you could do better on the online reputation management front, check out our online reputation services.

No matter what you think of individual reviews or reviewers, online reviews are not worthless. In fact, you can put a price tag on them. Failure to monitor andmanagee your online reviews can be a very expensive mistake.