Reviewers Mostly Positive, 67% on Yelp Are Either 4 or 5 Stars

Yelp logoThere are lots of data about consumer reliance on reviews and the impact of reviews on purchase decisions. Surprisingly, however, there’s not a ton on review distribution or consumer motivations for writing reviews.

There’s an “anecdotal” perception in the market that most reviewers are motivated by anger or frustration and that the bulk of reviews accordingly are critical. Among the few studies I found on reviewer motivation, the bulk of research shows people are typically motivated to help others or by what might be called “constructive reasons.”

For example, a 2007 Bazaarvoice-sponsored survey of 1,300 online review writers found that 87% of reviews were positive and that reviewers were motivated to help others:

  • 90% said they write reviews to help others make better buying decisions
  • Roughly 70% want to help companies improve their products
  • 79% write reviews in order to reward a company
  • 87% of the reviews are generally positive

Yelp review distribution

Above is a comparison of the distribution of reviews on Yelp from 2009, 2012 and 2014. As you can see, there has been growth at the extremes: five star reviews have grown and, to a lesser degree, so have one-star reviews. Yet the majority of reviews on Yelp are positive: 67% are either four or five stars. Only 33% are 3 stars or fewer.

This should help remove some of the fear and trembling associated with embracing online reviews, which many small business owners continue to resist.

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7 Responses to “Reviewers Mostly Positive, 67% on Yelp Are Either 4 or 5 Stars”

  1. David Mihm says at

    Greg, the flipside is that the number of 1-star reviews has almost doubled, and a substantial number of businesses has received at least a 1-2-3 star review, all of which are taken as direct insults by their owners.

    IMO merchants’ fear of Yelp is still incredibly justified and easy to understand.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Yelp is an almost individual case. Was making a broader point and using Yelp to illustrate larger trend. But understand the SMB POV on Yelp. They still have considerable work to do there.

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  4. Dan Entin says at

    Greg what’s the data source for the Yelp review distribution?

  5. George Tsafonias says at

    Greg great info as always.. I think that most people leave reviews for the right reasons but some take it to extreams. Where I hear and see in many local markets and this is a place where I think Yelp is going wrong, is that Yelp is trying to control what is seen and what is not which makes SMB very very frustrated. Yelp is trying to act like Google does when it updates a search algorithm. However they should not dictate seemingly public posts and decide which is seen and which is not it only makes Yelp shady. Then the agressive sales tactics scare people from reviews in general but that’s for another day. Reviews are not going anywhere because everyone has an opinion and wants to be heard and technology makes us very connected. We will see what the future hold but for now let’s hope SMB become at least aware of what’s being said.

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  7. Scott Barnett says at

    David, I thought exactly the same thing. The other issue with increasing 1-star reviews is it then takes (3) 5-star reviews to “average” as a 4-star business. This is what creates the unnatural behavior on Yelp – where business owners focus more on gaming their average rating than actually looking at the feedback itself (assuming it’s indeed helpful and not just trolling, which is yet another problem).

  8. Greg Sterling says at

    Agree that they’ve got challenges in their SMB relations. I think there are ways for them to improve them however. Transactional services is one, with a follow-up soliciting feedback from the customer will help.

  9. Greg Sterling says at

    Yelp itself.

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