July 9, 2014 | Paul Jahn

Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor…

Local search industry veteran Greg Sterling found some interesting Nielsen survey results regarding Yelp being the best-quality, most trustworthy local review site.

Yelp was the clear winner in all categories followed by TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, CitySearch, and then Yellow Pages to bottom out the list.

Strangely enough, they either didn’t include Google in their list of survey results, or no one apparently leaves Google reviews. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

Personally, I do trust Yelp (and Google). As I mentioned while writing about their new direct messaging feature, they come up towards the top for branded searches all the time. With that said, I certainly don’t take every review word for word.

…And What About Negative Reviews?

If there’s a negative review about a business I potentially want to do business with, I’ll go over 3 things:

  1. Can I deal with an alleged inconvenience?
  2. Is the negative review objective or is someone just mad?
  3. Does the reviewer’s Yelp profile include a picture of them to help imply legitimacy?

So, let’s take a few looks at negative Yelp reviews:

Beach Plaza Hotel in Long Beach. I have stayed there. It’s cheap, on the beach, you wake up hearing the ocean, has wifi, bed and a shower. I wasn’t expecting much else and it fit my needs just fine. But, it seems, not everyone else would agree.

yelp review 1






yelp review 2







I did leave an honest and positive review for them on Google 3 years ago:

google review 1

Here are a couple other negative reviews. An attorney wasn’t making some people too happy:

yelp lawyer 2

Someone else didn’t like their Gino’s Pizza during a trip to Chicago:

genos 1

Personally, Chicago style pizza isn’t for everyone but this one I had at Gino’s was well worth my 45-minute wait for a pie a few years back:

genos pizza

Granted, I didn’t see the negative review until AFTER I’d eaten there — and loved my ‘za — but that one bad review wouldn’t have been enough to stop me from trying it out for myself.

Let’s look at TripAdvisor. I haven’t used it in quite a while, but just in looking at a simple search for “vacation rentals in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico” I have to wonder — why do all these rentals listed have such high ratings with so many reviewers? It almost looks fake:

tripadvisor screenshot

Whew! Lots of 100% — or very nearly so — response rates.

trip advisor screenshot

But is it? I clicked through into a few of the rentals and the reviews seemed legit. Maybe everyone is just THAT happy down in Mexico.

And Then: Fake Reviews

Let’s look at another example that looks like staged reviews: Renters’ Warehouse. At first glance it appears they have a good overall rating on Google:

renters warehouse google reviews are fake

But, when you click through to look at the actual reviews, you see ONLY 1-star reviews or 5-star reviews. Which is interesting — you’d think with 284 reviews there’d be a broader range.

The problem is — you don’t really know if you can trust strangers’ reviews. But, as I mentioned earlier, there are some things to look for that can help you decide whether or not to take reviews — positive or negative — into account.

In my opinion, the most important is to look at the reviewers’ profiles. If, for example, a reviewer’s profile only contains one review, are you very likely to trust it? Especially if the profile is incomplete — no picture, no other data. Example: “John” who left a glowing, 5-star review for Renter’s Warehouse:

fake reviewer for renters warehouse

Legit? Not in my opinion.

A reviewer with a full profile and many reviews, on the other hand, is probably pretty trustworthy, like Chris L. from Portland:

chris l from portland on yelp

With 240+ reviews, lots of friends, and a wide range of ratings, I’d trust his reviews over “John’s” above.

It really doesn’t matter which review site you’re using, because they can all have their good and bad reviewers. It’s up to you to decide: whom to trust?

Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google…

…any review site trusts that you will make your own decision with the reviews provided. Would you not hire a lawyer, book a hotel room, order a pizza, hire a company solely based on negative reviews you find there?

That being said, do you trust Yelp, Google or TripAdvisor more when seeking out reviews? And, what do YOU look for when judging whether or not to trust reviews you read?

Just let us know in the comments.





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