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Virtually all American adults (93%) read online reviews to determine if a business is good or bad, reveals BrightLocal in its latest annual Local Consumer Review Survey report. Reviews continue to be extremely important, as 94% of respondents use the internet multiple times a year to find local businesses, and the majority are more likely to use a business based on positive reviews.

In fact, Millennials now turn to review sites when researching leisure travel more than any other type of site, per comScore research.

Reviews are also critical to local SEO – and deemed the “new link alternative,” according to new research from LocalSEOGuide.

How Many Reviews Do People Read?

When judging a local business based on reviews, consumers are more likely to pay attention to its star rating than to the quantity or recency of its reviews, per BrightLocal’s survey. However, the quantity of reviews seems to be gaining in importance for respondents, as is the presence of a business’ response to them.

As for the quantity of reviews, two-thirds (68%) of respondents report needing to read at least 4 before they can trust a business. That includes a plurality 34% who would need to read 4-6. Interestingly, some need more convincing, as 1 in 8 profess to reading more than 10 reviews before trusting a business.

The recency of those reviews can have an influence, too. Two-thirds say that the review has to have been posted within the past 3 months for it to impact their decision, and half won’t consider reviews that have been posted earlier than 1 month prior.

Overall, roughly 1 in 5 always trust the reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations, compared to 16% who are often skeptical (13%) or don’t trust reviews at all (3%). Most generally trust them as much as personal recommendations, but base their comfort on perceived authenticity, the type of business, or the quantity of reviews.

A separate survey from Kyruus [download page] indicates that 9 in 10 patients at least somewhat trust online reviews of health providers.

Meanwhile, about 8 in 10 consumers responding to the BrightLocal survey purport to having read a fake review in the past year. Only 1 in 6 feel that it’s always easy to spot if a review is fake, though most (54%) feel that it’s sometimes easy.

Half Won’t Use A Business With Less Than A 4-Star Rating

While people are paying more attention this year to the quantity of reviews left for a business, they still focus most on the Average Star Rating when judging businesses.

For about half (48%) of respondents, a business needs to have a minimum of a 4-star rating for them to use it. That’s up from 28% in 2015, suggesting that people are having higher expectations of businesses’ reviews.

Still, many are more forgiving, as another 39% will use a business with a 3-star rating. Only 1 in 8 will use a business with a star rating less than 3, however.

Worth noting is that almost half (48%) of respondents won’t believe a business’ Average Star Rating if it has 10 or fewer reviews. On average, respondents want a business to have more than 30 reviews before they’ll trust the accuracy of its star rating.

2 in 3 Have Left A Review

People are more likely to read reviews than to leave one themselves: 1 in 3 have either not left a review but might in the future (26%) or not left one and would never do so (6%). Still, that leaves roughly two-thirds who have posted a review.

Separate research from TurnTo Networks and Ipsos indicates that the majority of online shoppers submit online product reviews and ratings.

Interestingly, respondents to BrightLocal’s survey are far more likely to leave a local business an online review for a good experience (63%) than for a bad one (35%). That follows from research released earlier this year indicating that consumers are now more likely to share good experiences than bad ones.

The full BrightLocal survey results can be accessed here.

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