If you’ve ever browsed our blog, you know that we always advocate for businesses to monitor their reviews. Why? Because they’re an immensely powerful driver behind consumer behavior, with statistics showing that 98% of people read online reviews. Research also shows that 46% of consumers trust reviews as much as their friends or family, and 87% compare local businesses using Google.
Considering their power, influence, and ubiquity — more than 1 billion have been posted on Tripadvisor alone — it’s no surprise that businesses would want reviews to portray their products or services positively. There are obvious benefits to being reviewed favorably, while at the same time, a significant percentage of consumers shun brands that are reviewed poorly.
But what if we told you that it’s possible to be portrayed a little too positively? Or that, in an ironic twist, your business could actually be harmed as a result?
As the old saying goes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing — and that definitely applies to business reviews. In this week’s article, we’ll discuss how and why positive reviews can lead to negative consequences under the wrong set of circumstances. We’ll also talk about the optimal number of reviews to aim for, and share a few of our insights into handling poor ratings — and why they aren’t necessarily the catastrophe they appear to be.
How Many Reviews Should Your Business Aim For?
First, let’s establish our baseline: how many reviews, in general, is a good number for businesses to aim for?
The answer seems to vary depending on its source. Some assert that as few as five to 10 reviews every three months is adequate, while others advise businesses to strive for numbers closer to 20, 30, or 50. Some suggest acquiring at least 100 to 200 reviews, or numbers that are even higher. Some sources note that customers won’t trust businesses with fewer than 20 reviews, while others say the threshold is actually twice that amount. Local SEO Tactics frames the answer another way, suggesting, “Your goal is for… at least two times the number [of reviews] your competitors have.”
It’s easy to see how so much feedback could lead to confusion for business owners. We generally suggest that businesses aim for at least 10 reviews every month, with top prioritization for Google, Yelp, and Facebook: the largest (and, in Google’s case, most trusted) review platforms.
How is it Possible to Have “Too Many” Positive Reviews, and Why is it Such a Problem?
We’ve talked about the minimum number of reviews your business should aim for — but what about the opposite end of the scale? Is there a maximum number?
Well, yes and no: it all depends on the review’s authenticity.
As long as your ratings and reviews are legitimate, it’s helpful to acquire as many as possible, with one Yelp blog post mentioning that its “most talked about restaurants and eateries” have all been reviewed at least 6,000 times. The same post adds, “Yelp’s most reviewed business [has] a whopping 17,020 reviews (and counting).”
Clearly, quantity alone isn’t a problem — if anything, it’s an advantage that can help your business get more attention and buzz. After all, over two thirds of consumers (69%) say that they would “feel positive about using a business” based on a review that “describe[s] a positive experience” with that business. Meanwhile, more than one third (38%) are unwilling to use brands with ratings below 4 stars.
So if lots of reviews are better than a few, and positive reviews are better than negative ones, wouldn’t it make sense to obtain as many 5-star reviews as possible?
Under normal circumstances, the answer is yes. However, that all changes if your reviews are fake or distorted — and that’s when having too many 5-star ratings becomes a problem.
Far from benefiting your business, too many good reviews can get you into trouble with search engines, review platforms, and consumers alike. And if you think that readers can’t tell when reviews are false or “off,” think again: as we’ll see in just a few moments, there are plenty of red flags that make shoppers wary. Here are three ways that too many 5-star reviews can create issues for your business.
- It’s bad for search engine rankings. Google detects fake reviews by looking for details like multiple reviews with the same IP address, or numerous reviews that suddenly appear within a short timeframe. Fake reviews can lower your review score rank and make your business harder for people to find online.
- It makes consumers suspicious. It’s easy for consumers to detect fake reviews — and it’s happening more and more often as reviews become part of the business norm. According to data from BrightLocal, 42% say they’ve seen fake reviews on Facebook, 50% on Google, and 54% on Amazon. Consumers are most likely to be suspicious of reviews that consist of only a star rating (47%), shower excessive praise on the business (40%), or are one in a series of many similar reviews (31%).
- Review platforms could penalize you. Review manipulation violates the rules on platforms like Yelp and Google, whose policies say that they strive for transparency. Your account could be suspended and your reviews could be removed if you are found in violation of site rules, depending on the nature of the violation.
Why Your Bad Reviews Are Opportunities in Disguise
Negative reviews can be stressful, upsetting, and sometimes, outright puzzling. However, there’s no need to fear bad reviews, and there’s definitely no benefit to burying them in an avalanche of fake 5-star ratings (which, as you’ve hopefully learned from this post, is likely to cause you more harm than good).
As we’ve discussed throughout this post, too many 5-star reviews create the appearance of a product or service that’s too good to be true. That immediately creates suspicion and turns consumers off from your brand. Having a handful of mediocre or even negative reviews helps consumers trust that the rest of your feedback is authentic, making readers more receptive to your positive comments and ratings.
With consumer trust in companies now at such a low ebb, gaining shoppers’ confidence is vital — and honest, transparent dialogues are the perfect place to start. Negative reviews create a space where you can reach out and engage with the posters, showing the world that your company listens to feedback, respects its customers, and is committed to top-notch service.
Keep in mind, many consumers are willing to change negative reviews if they receive high-quality support for their initial problem. Ignoring bad reviews only alienates customers, while the simple act of replying to comments can actually help you retain them. That boosts your bottom line in two ways:
- Persuading unhappy customers to give your brand another chance
- Showing potential customers that your team is accessible and trustworthy
Need Help Managing Bad Reviews? Get Your Reputation Back on Track with Our Review Response Service
As we’ve explored throughout this post, reviews are a great way to boost your business — but only if they’re honest and authentic. Whether you need help getting more reviews, responding to negative reviews, or simply getting your business listings up to date and under control, our solutions give you the tools your brand or agency needs to thrive.
Supercharge your growth by taking control of your reputation and building better relationships with your customers. From automated review generation, to effortless cross-platform review monitoring, to our 24-hour review reply service, Shout About Us has all of your online reputation management needs covered. Book a demo with us today.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.