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May 08

Online reviews: Here’s what’s behind all those 5 star ratings

A top rating used to mean a product or service was exceptional — think “five-star hotel.” But now, from Amazon to Yelp to Uber, five-star reviews are practically the norm.

How did we get here? This trend started with eBay in the late 1990s, says Paul A. Pavlou, Ph.D., professor of management information systems and marketing at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia. Review options then were “positive,” “neutral” or “negative,” and neutral ratings soon became perceived as negative. When reviews transitioned to the five-star system we now see across the Internet, consumers equated five stars with “positive,” using it for acceptable — not necessarily outstanding — services and products.

How businesses skew ratings and reviews

It’s bad enough you have to sort through ratings where, like the children of Lake Wobegon, everything is above average. But whether you’re finally ready to buy an Instant Pot or looking for ways to spruce up your home, you also have to watch for fake or misleading reviews that can bump star ratings up or down.

When reviews transitioned to the five-star system we now see across the Internet, consumers equated five stars with “positive,” using it for acceptable — not necessarily outstanding — services and products.

When reviews transitioned to the five-star system we now see across the Internet, consumers equated five stars with “positive,” using it for acceptable — not necessarily outstanding — services and products.

Ted Lappas, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, evaluated 2.3 million online reviews of nearly 5,000 US hotels and found that it’s surprisingly easy to influence rankings with fake reviews. He estimates that 15 to 30 percent of all online reviews may be falsified and says there are two main ways to fake them:

  • People write positive reviews to boost rankings, or negative reviews to lower rankings. While that might not make a big difference for a Fire TV Stick that has more than 160,000 reviews, a small mom-and-pop restaurant might only have a dozen reviews, so every review — real or fake — matters.
  • People find a negative review and repeatedly vote for it as “helpful” so it gets bumped up to top critical review status.

Businesses can also nudge ratings by requesting positive reviews. Say your car dealership emails you a survey after a service appointment. If you say that you were happy with their service, they might follow up and ask you to review them publicly. If your answers are negative you might not get that request, effectively filtering out your negative review.

The platforms can identify and eliminate out some fake and manipulated reviews by looking for:

  • the same text pasted over and over
  • a lot of reviews for the same product or place
  • a lot of reviews from the same reviewer

But fraudulent reviews are still a problem. “And if trust goes away, everybody loses,” says Collin Holmes, founder and CEO of Chatmeter, a brand management platform.

Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.net/internet-marketing/online-reviews-heres-whats-behind-all-those-5-star-ratings/

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