40% Don’t Trust Online Reviews

There have been a number of online review scandals. Most recently, there was a New York regulatory crackdown on fake reviews being generated by “reputation management” firms. It’s unclear whether the publicity surrounding any of these events has eroded consumer confidence in online reviews and their authenticity.

A recent Nielsen study indicated that online reviews were among the most trusted sources of information for consumers. And numerous consumer surveys have argued that Internet users routinely consult and rely on reviews to help make purchase decisions.

However, in a contradictory set of findings, new survey data from Maritz Research (written up by travel news site tnooz) suggest that large numbers of consumers don’t trust ratings and reviews they see on prominent sites, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. Even among the most trusted sites, as many as 40% indicated they didn’t trust “most or all” of the content as accurate.

Percent Who Trust Reviews

TripAdvisor is shown to be the most trusted among review sites, with 59 percent agreeing that “most or all” the review content and related traveler information on these sites is accurate. Note the trust difference between Google+ and Zagat (owned by Google). Also, OpenTable is more trusted than Yelp, according to this survey. I find that interesting.

A Growing Gap

In a separate finding, Maritz documented the gap between those who read and those who contributed reviews to the various sites. While this is not part of the “trust” discussion, I suspect one reason many people may be skeptical of the authenticity of online reviews is that they don’t contribute or write reviews themselves. It would be interesting (if possible) to see if there were a relationship between having written reviews and level of trust vs. those who had not contributed online reviews.

Maritz also found that men and younger users were more likely to be skeptical of the veracity of reviews on these sites than women or older users.

View Raw Data

The data cited above are contained in two reports, which can be found here and here.

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40% Don’t Trust Online Reviews
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About the Author

Greg Sterling
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About / Bio

Greg Sterling is the founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, focused on the Internet’s impact on offline consumer behavior. He is senior analyst for Opus Research’s Internet2Go, an advisory service tracking the evolution of the mobile Internet. Sterling is also a contributing editor for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, leading online blogs about search and digital marketing.

Until he left in 2006, Sterling ran BIA/Kelsey’s Interactive Local Media program. Before ILM he was a producer at TechTV. Prior to TechTV, Sterling was part of the editorial team at AllBusiness.com. And way back in the 1990s, Sterling was a practicing attorney. (Parents don’t let your kids go to law school.)

He is frequently cited and quoted in leading US publications regarding the search, local and mobile markets.

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