The growing importance of consumer reviews has been charted for some time now, with brands encouraged to build strong review profiles to aid in search engine rankings but, as we head into 2019 a new report has underlined that they are now even more critical.

The 2018 Annual Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal has just been published and reveals a few interesting new trends that brands will need to take note of in order to succeed in 2019.

Are fake reviews having an impact?

Now in its eighth year, the new survey shows that there has been a slight decline in the number of shoppers trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. At the same time, there has also been an increase in the number of reviews a consumer will read before they feel like they can trust a business. Despite this, 91% of the Millennial and Gen Z audience (18-34 years old) trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Older generations are less trusting.

Average star ratings rule

Average star ratings are very important trust signals, with this metric being the most important factor for shoppers judging a local business. 56% of shoppers say this is what they pay most attention to, up slightly from 54% last year. The quantity of reviews was the next most important factor – suggesting businesses need reviews consistently and of a consistently good standard to win over shoppers. Consumers also say they read an average of 10 reviews before they feel like they can trust a business.

More consumers want a minimum 4 star rating

Another finding which shows consumers are being a lot more discerning when reading online reviews is that a greater proportion now want to see a minimum of a four-star rating before they’ll use a business. 57% say they won’t use a business if it doesn’t have a four-star rating, which is an increase of almost 10% in the last year. 11% of shoppers need to see a five-star rating before they will use a business.

Interestingly if you’re targeting the younger demographic – considered to be a lot more tech savvy and well versed in social, branded content and marketing –they are much more accepting of one and two star ratings.

Review freshness is very important

The need to generate new reviews on a regular basis is known to be a ranking signal so it’s something that will likely have been on your radar already – but the latest Consumer Review Survey findings show a marked shift in attitudes with 40% of consumers now only taking into account reviews from the last 14 days. This has grown 18% in the last year. As a brand, this means there is even more pressure to generate new reviews each day.

What’s more, 85% of consumers say that reviews older than three months old are irrelevant and won’t impact on their decision to do business with you.

The good news here is that more and more consumers are willing to leave a review for a business they have used – you simply need to be proactive about asking!

Responding to reviews

Response to reviews is a known local SEO ranking factor but it’s now something that consumers also keep an eye on with 89% reading business responses to reviews. This highlights that it’s more important than ever to have a well defined review management process in place going in to the New Year.

If you need help creating a reputation management strategy or want to learn more about online reviews and how they impact on your SEO performance, contact us today.